kiz: There are nights — heck, there are weeks — when this Avalanche team looks to be nearly unbeatable. And know what’s crazy to me? Colorado is steam-rolling through the league during a down season by center Nathan MacKinnon, who has not yet consistently played at his lofty standards. Defenseman Cale Makar, however, seems to be a lock to win the Norris Trophy. At age 23, has Makar leap-frogged MacKinnon as the most-dominant player in a Colorado sweater?
Chambers: Makar certainly has the personality that compliments his extraordinary skill set. He’s a very affable young man. Publicly, I see more Makar sweaters at games than any other. In fact, coming into TD Garden this morning for Monday’s big game against the Bruins, all I saw was Makar and his No. 8. As for the Avs’ best player, yes, I’m willing to suggest Makar is more important than MacKinnon , and the statistics support that. When MacKinnon has been out, the Avs really haven’t missed a beat.
kiz: During recent years, especially when the Avalanche hit a wall in the playoffs, I sometimes felt as if teammates depended too much on MacKinnon to carry them. During the various ailments and struggles MacK has endured this season, could it be the team’s dynamics have changed for the better? Not only could Makar finish the season with more goals than MacKinnon, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say Makar is now the MVP of the Colorado locker room. What say you?
Chambers: Coach Jared Bednar acknowledged that. When MacKinnon was injured last month in a home game against Boston, and defenseman Erik Johnson took that undisciplined cross-checking minor on Taylor Hall when the Bruins were on the power play, guess who got the “A” as alternate captain in MacKinnon’s absence? Bednar took it off Johnson’s chest and gave it to Makar. As MVP of this deep-and-talented team, you have to consider leading scorer Nazem Kadri, goal-scoring leader Mikko Rantanen, Devon Toews (Makar’s underrated D partner) and goalie Darcy Kuemper. See how I didn’t include MacKinnon? He’s not in the conversation.
kiz: Health is far from a guarantee in hockey, as the Avs can readily attest. If Makar and MacKinnon roll into the postseason hale and hearty, however, there’s not more formidable star power to be found on any roster in the league. But what makes the NHL so compelling is that no other pro sports league in North America can boast of playoff drama as unpredictable as the twists, turns and upsets we often see on the road to the Stanley Cup. Is there something different about this Colorado team that makes you believe this is the year the Avs win it all?
Chambers: There is, Kiz. These guys win in a lot of different ways. They storm back from deficits and aren’t afraid to win 6-5 games. However, they prefer to focus on defending first and winning 3-2 — the ones most common in the playoffs. As I wrote in Sunday’s NHL Journal, the Avs are extraordinarily confident in their chemistry and recipe for success. They believe in their process and they have been the league’s best team since early November. They’ve had bumps on the road, but they’ve still won during those times. I think they are supremely capable of handling those twists and turns in the postseason. Fact is, this is Colorado’s best team since 2001 when Joe Sakic handed the Stanley Cup to Ray Bourque after that memorable Game 7 in Denver. They are unquestionably the Western Conference favorite and, I’ll give you a prediction: Avs over the Florida Panthers in six for the privilege to host the Cup.
George is Digismak’s reported cum editor with 13 years of experience in Journalism