NFL

Kiszla: As NHL playoffs begin, battle to see Avs on TV won. This score just in: Hockey Fans 1, Corporate Suits 0. – The Denver Post

All eyes in Colorado will be fixated on the Avalanche’s quest for the Stanley Cup, now that Kroenke Sports and Entertainment has fallen off its high horse, and after rubbing a sore bum, has generously agreed to let local fans view playoff hockey on local television outlets.

Do you believe in miracles? Yes!

Give yourself a hand, Avs fans. Instead of being blacked out, you get to watch playoff hockey on TV, in no small part because of public pressure. This score just in: Peeps 1, Corporate Suits 0. Congrats.

“I’m excited for our fan base and the people of Denver that haven’t necessarily been able to see us before,” Avalanche captain Gabe Landeskog said Tuesday. “They’re going to be able to watch it. I think it’s great news.”

As Colorado begins its championship quest under glass in the NHL’s bubble, a franchise that’s won only a single playoff series during the past 11 years has been established as the 5/1 favorite to win the Cup by BetOnLine oddsmakers.

Are the Avs ready for their close up?

They aren’t a scrappy little team any longer. The Avs are all grown up. Or so we hope.

Rather than playoff-crashers with nothing to lose, Colorado must skate with the extra weight of expectations to win it all. On the plus side: There’s a swagger to Nathan MacKinnon and his teammates. These Avs are good, don’t care who knows it and won’t blink. How much is that confidence worth in the playoffs?

“I think it’s worth a lot, because it’s something that our guys have earned. I think they’ve earned that reputation,” coach Jared Bednar said.

“We’ve been a process-oriented group for a couple years now, at least. We’re focusing on what we need to do to be successful and try to be as efficient and dangerous as we can be in the areas we feel are important. We’ve had great buy-in from our team. The leadership has bought in. We’ve gotten more consistent over the last couple years. I think the reputation is earned. So long as we view that we have to go out and earn what we get out of this first round and beyond, then we’ll be fine.”

Arizona, which lacks the speed or skill of Colorado skaters, might well prove to be tougher than how this matchup shapes up on paper. The Coyotes can not only be a pain at the blue line, Darcy Kuemper figures to be a more reliable goalie than whatever choice Bednar makes to man the cage, whether it’s Philipp Grubauer or Pavel Francouz.

Already practicing a little playoff gamesmanship, Bednar declined to name his starter on the eve of Game 1.

So will it be Grubauer or Francouz? Is the better choice Frankie or Grubi? When Bednar recently said he still considers Grubauer his No. 1 goalie, it sounded like a pretty strong hint to me.

“I think we’re very confident in both those guys,” Landeskog said. “To me, it doesn’t matter who plays. They’re both very competitive goaltenders.”

But let’s be honest. Neither Grubauer nor Francouz is Patrick Roy, the Hall of Famer between the pipes when Colorado won the Cup in 1996 and 2001.

This championship chase figures to be a wild ride, because it’s extremely likely Bednar will be forced to contemplate a switch after a loss attributed to soft goals. That’s a stressful fact of life in playoff hockey.

Although they’ve earned the support of teammates, the postseason resumes of Grubauer and Francouz are so short it’s understandable why Bednar has indicated the Avs will ride the goalie with a hot hand, which suggests the coach won’t let stubborn pride or concern for a net-minder’s ego get in the way of a change.

My humble suggestion: Make no doubt about the No. 1 and No. 1A relationship between Grubauer and Francouz.

To firmly establish a it-takes-two-goalies mindset in this team’s selfless pursuit of the Cup, Bednar should instruct whoever works Game 2 on Friday afternoon to take a seat on the bench and cheer on Goalie 1A when the Avs return in fewer than 24 hours, for Game 3 on Saturday.

“Either guy you can look to to play a big game in the playoffs,” said Avalanche center Nazem Kadri, complimenting both Grubauer and Francouz.

Colorado’s quest for the Cup starts at 3:30 p.m. Wednesday. Check your local TV listings.

What’s the best part of the office being closed during this pandemic?

Well, other than avoiding the wretched coffee in the break room, it’s how every Avs fan can scream at the TV without the boss knowing those employees wearing MacKinnon jerseys and burgundy sweats haven’t done a lick of work since the puck dropped.

Pro tip: Don’t forget to hit the mute button to avoid detection when MacKinnon scores during that afternoon Zoom call.

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