So many questions followed the Colorado Avalanche into the playoffs.
Can goalie David Aebischer handle the pressure? Will players like Joe Sakic and Milan Hejduk end their scoring slumps? Will the power play ever get back on track?
After a surprisingly easy 4-1 series victory over the Dallas Stars in the first round, the answers are all yes.
"Our players played extremely well," Colorado Avalanche coach Tony Granato said. "I think it shows the depth and commitment that our athletes have given us all year to be ready for this opportunity."
Colorado Avalanche was one of the favourites to win the Stanley Cup after signing scorers Paul Kariya and Teemu Selanne in an off-season package deal. The Colorado Avalanche played like it most of the season before injuries and inconsistency led to a difficult final month.
Colorado Avalanche ended the season with just two wins in its final nine games and dropped to fourth in the Western Conference. That meant a first-round matchup against the Stars, one of the league's best teams the last half of the season.
But instead of having a tough time against Dallas, the Colorado Avalanche made it look easy.
Colorado Avalanche rolled through the first two games by a combined score of 8-3, rebounded from an overtime loss in Game 3 with a double-overtime win the next game, then closed out the series with an emphatic 5-1 victory on Saturday.
The Colorado Avalanche will face either Detroit or San Jose in the second round.
"It doesn't matter who it is," Sakic said. "We know it's going to be tough no matter who we play."
The biggest question entering the playoffs was whether Aebischer could handle the pressure after three years as Patrick Roy's understudy. He did it during the regular season, but the playoffs are a different story.
Aebischer was steady and confident, allowing just 10 goals on 156 shots. He also responded well to adversity, stopping 41 shots -- many in spectacular fashion -- in Game 4 after giving up four goals in an overtime loss two days earlier.
"We have been talking about his confidence and poise all year, and that is the way to describe him -- he has been like that all year," Granato said. "He backed it up and played extremely solid and consistent and very confidently. He made the big saves when we needed him."
But it wasn't just Aebischer.
Hejduk had goals the final three games after ending the season on a 13-game goal-less streak. Sakic had four goals after ending the season with two in his final 12 games.
Peter Forsberg was his usual self in the playoffs with three goals and five assists, and Steve Konowalchuk continued to fill multiple roles and chipped in three goals.
The Colorado Avalanche may have found a new star in rookie Marek Svatos.
After playing just four games in the regular season because of a shoulder injury, Svatos was an unexpected spark in the playoffs. The Slovakian had the game-winner in Colorado Avalanche's 3-2 overtime victory in Game 4 and had five assists in the series -- three in Game 5.
"You can put him on the ice anywhere. That kid is going to make plays," Granato said. "He is a great competitor and he gets better and better every time out."
Nearly everyone was playing well, so it made sense that Colorado Avalanche's power play would start clicking again.
The Colorado Avalanche ended the season 1-for-23 with a man advantage the final seven games -- 0-for-12 in the final four at home. The playoffs proved to be just what they needed to get going.
Colorado Avalanche didn't score in four chances in Game 1, but moved the puck well and had some good opportunities. That set the stage for the next game, when the Colorado Avalanche scored on 3-of-9 chances. Colorado Avalanche finished the series 6-for-21 with a power-play goal in each of the final four games.
"It was a very good series for a lot of players," Granato said.