Looking ahead for the Avalanche: How to become the NHL's next superpower

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As each NHL team is eliminated from the postseason, we'll take a look at why its quest for the Stanley Cup fell short in 2018-19, three keys to its offseason, impact prospects for 2019-20 and a way-too-early prediction for what next season will hold.

What went wrong

Let's put it bluntly: This Colorado Avalanche season was a smashing success.

The Avalanche arrived ahead of schedule last season with a surprising playoff berth -- thanks in large part to an MVP runner-up season from Nathan MacKinnon -- but everyone in the NHL expected them to take a step back in 2018-19. They started off hot, endured some tough stretches, but they started putting together strong wins at the end of the season to make the playoffs yet again -- even while juggling injuries to top-line players like Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog.

What's more: Colorado amped it up to another gear in the first-round series against the Calgary Flames, the Western Conference's top seed. Aided by the arrival of super rookie defenseman Cale Makar, and strong performances from players like Tyson Barrie, the Avalanche exceed all expectations with a 4-1 series win that felt like even more of a blowout. We would be remiss to not mention that MacKinnon and Rantanen were absolutely sensational, combining for 27 points in their 12 games.

The San Jose Sharks simply had more urgency to win this season -- and by the end of the second-round series, had frustrated the Avalanche. Though it was a disappointing end, the future is brighter than ever in Colorado.