SAN JOSE – They’ve said it endlessly throughout this round, and you get the feeling they really mean it: The Colorado Avalanche believe they can not only win this series, but they see a path to the Stanley Cup.
They’re not being cocky or getting ahead of themselves. They just see it being a whole lot more possible than they could have imagined before all the league’s juggernauts starting falling.
With Carolina advancing to the Eastern Conference final and all three other wild-card teams still alive, a common sentiment in the room is, "Why not us?"
"It’s not necessarily the team that finishes with the most points, it’s who is playing the best going into the playoffs," said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar when asked about the stunning success of the teams previously known as underdogs.
"You’ve got teams that are ramping up their game the second half of the year, playing meaningful, high intensity games and they find out some things about themselves as a team and are able to advance. You can see Carolina, the way they are playing, they’re obviously a really good team right now."
Same with the Avalanche, who enter Game 5 Saturday night tied 2-2 in a series pitting their upstart club against a pre-season Stanley Cup favourite club here in San Jose full of depth, experience and expectations.
Nathan MacKinnon admitted earlier this week that his team knew they were going to lose to Nashville in the first round last year.
This year the club’s confidence got a major boost after beating Calgary.
"We believe we can win the Cup," said MacKinnon after winning Game 4.
He would have had a hard time believing those words a few weeks before the playoffs when the Avs needed a 8-1-2 finish to even make the post-season.
The Sharks? Well, they’ve believed they could win the Cup since opening the season with Erik Karlsson in their lineup.
Sharks winger Joonas Donskoi declared after Saturday morning’s skate he is ready to return to the lineup after missing five games due to injury.
Coach Pete DeBoer said the reinsertion of the Finnish forward would be a game-time decision. Lukas Radil will likely come out of the lineup, landing Donskoi on the third line with Tomas Hertl and Evander Kane.
DeBoer also said injured captain Joe Pavelski is "doing better, skating regularly, not in tonight."
Pavelski, who started skating Wednesday for the first time since his head injury in Game 7 against Vegas, skated with the black aces and some assistant coaches after the Sharks left the ice.
Bednar said he is toying with making changes to his lineup but wouldn’t elaborate.