Who’d have bet? Avs-Golden Knights in Vegas has major implications

Mar 24, 2018; Denver, CO, USA; Vegas Golden Knights goaltender Marc-Andre Fleury (29) defends his net as defenseman Shea Theodore (27) blocks an attempt by Colorado Avalanche left wing J.T. Compher (37) in the first period at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

It’s late March in Denver, Colo.

The Broncos — relative to offseasons past — have been quiet. The loudest noise out of Dove Valley was the departure of Pro Bowl cornerback Aqib Talib. Yes, the team recently inked free agent quarterback Case Keenum. But, let’s be honest; it was a move that brought more of a golf clap than a rousing ovation. Outside of Keenum, the other free agent additions are just guys.

The Nuggets are hanging on by a thread. In a season that was supposed to mark Denver’s return to the postseason, heading into Monday’s game against the 76ers, a team that emerged victorious from Pepsi Center earlier in the season, Michael Malone and Co. find themselves on the outside looking in — ninth place in the Western Conference standings, one full game behind the Utah Jazz who hold the eighth spot. To completely count out the Nuggets, whose remaining schedule is “prohibitive,” would be irresponsible; to bet they’d get in might be more irresponsible.

While our neighbors to the east (that would be Kansas) just earned another trip to the Final Four, none of our home state schools got an invite to the Big Dance (although the Bears of Northern Colorado are playing in the CIT semifinal on Wednesday night).

The Denver Pioneers hockey team nearly did its part. If there’s Madness in March in our neck of the woods, it’s usually because the Pios make it so. Once again, they did their part by advancing all the way to the Elite Eight.

But the maddest development of all?

That Monday night’s Avalanche-Golden Knights game in Las Vegas means something. Actually, it means a lot.

One team didn’t exist a year ago. The other was nonexistent (figuratively speaking, of course). The Vegas Golden Knights have posted an incredible 101 points and sit in second place in the NHL’s Western Conference Standings. Colorado sits in sixth place with 90 points. It should be noted that the Avs only mustered 48 points – in total! – last season.

Not only does the game in Sin City mean a lot (mostly for the Avalanche, who only have a one-point lead over St. Louis, Anaheim and Los Angeles, but it almost feels like a rivalry already. On Saturday, the Avs beat Vegas in an overtime shootout thriller — probably the most exciting game played at Pepsi Center all season amongst all tenants — setting the stage for this home-and-home grudge match. Besides, any game the Avalanche play is worth watching; after all, there’s a Hart Trophy on the line for Nathan MacKinnon, who (rightfully) appears to the be the favorite.

There’s something else on the line, too – or, at least it should be.

Who should win the Jack Adams Award?

Is a coach who takes a bunch of misfits, decent players who for whatever reason weren’t protected by their previous clubs, and not only makes them a team but one that’s almost the best in the Western Conference, the best coach in the National Hockey League? Or, is a coach who engineers what will likely be the biggest point total turnaround from last season to this one worthy of the Jack Adams Award?

C) They both are.

Could Monday’s game play a role in whether Colorado’s Jared Bednar or Vegas’ Gerard Gallant ultimately takes home the hardware? One game isn’t representative of what either coach has accomplished this season, but what a treat to watch them go head to head.

In March.

With something on the line.

In Vegas.

Who’d have bet on that?

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