Both the Avalanche and the Nuggets can choose their own adventure.
The fate of each team feels like it is on a similar path.
As the NHL and NBA regular seasons enter the home stretch — both with about two months left — Pepsi Center is going to be lit over the next 60 days.
Let’s see if that can turn into 90, or 120.
While people around Denver continue to panic about the Broncos, it’s time to wake up and remember this city isn’t just a good football town, it’s a good sports town.
The playoffs don’t have to wait for Rocktober to return to the Mile High City. In fact, April has the potential to be special — and I’m not talking about 4/20 at Civic Center Park.
Both teams are young. Both teams have loaded cores. Both teams can not only make the playoffs, but make some noise.
The similarities between the Nuggets and Avs are eerie.
At this very moment, the Nuggets sit as the No. 6 seed in the Western Conference. They’re just a game away from playing in the coveted No. 4 vs. No. 5 series — they’re also just a game away from being out of the dance entirely.
The Avalanche, meanwhile, sit at 62 points and the Wild Card Standings are fluid. Hell, the Central Division isn’t entirely out of reach — or at least finishing in the top-3 — but there’s a reason it’s regarded as the “division of death.” When the Blackhawks are the worst team in the division, you know it’s brutal.
So, while both teams could make the postseason, and the Nuggets should make the postseason, nothing is a given.
The good news: Reinforcements are on the way.
And that doesn’t mean I’m predicting a couple of crazy trades.
The Avalanche and the Nuggets are staying afloat without their two best players.
Nathan MacKinnon (upper-body injury) and Paul Millsap (wrist) should be back in the next few weeks. One’s an MVP candidate. The other is a four-time All-Star. An they can propel the Avs and the Nugs to the postseason and beyond.
No. 29 in burgundy has been a monster ever since the team ridded itself of the unwanted Matt Duchene. Mack has gone from “nice young player” to arguably the NHL’s best in the span of a few months. The team will instantly feel a spark whenever he returns. Getting any good guy back from injury is a boost; getting the possible Hart Trophy winner back will be enormous.
Meanwhile, we’ve barely seen a glimpse of Millsap in a Nuggets uniform. The team’s biggest free agent signing ever got hurt against the Lakers and has played just 16 games. Reports suggest Millsap could return while the calendar still says February, and that would give him and the squad just enough time to gel before potentially winning a playoff series in six or seven games as a middle-of-the-road seed in the West.
Can you imagine the maintenance crew at Pepsi Center going from hardwood to ice to hardwood to ice on a nightly basis in April and May? The Can hasn’t seen that kind of playoff action — with both teams participating — in nearly a decade.
It’s no secret the atmosphere at home has been excellent recently for the Avs and Nugs, but it’s hard to not start thinking what it could be like in late spring and early summer as well.
Now, each team must hold up its end of the bargain, continuing to fight like hell until MacKinnon and Millsap return — and then taking off once their stars returns to the ice and hardwood, respectively.
The Avalanche and Nuggets can both choose their own postseason adventures. The city of Denver can’t wait to go on a wild ride.