Josh Manson has taken game to higher altitude with Avalanche

First it was about the height.

When Josh Manson learned the Ducks were selling him to Colorado, his mind flashed through his eight seasons in Anaheim and the good moments he had there, including their trip to the 2017 West Finals. He thought it was going to be an era of initiate success. It turned out to be her last competition stand.

“I’ve put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this organization,” said Manson, who was dealt for defensive nominee Drew Helleson and a 2023 second-round draft pick. “So it was hard to leave when I heard the news that I had to go. Of course I wish I had won a trophy there. I wish I had won the trophy there every year I was there.”

Landing with the mighty Avalanche eased his distress. Then practicing with his new team in mile-high Denver, he recalled the dangers of playing in thin air.

“You get off, you get a little bit of an extended shift, and you get off and you start breathing because you think you’re going to recover, but recovery just isn’t coming. It’s almost like the air that comes in doesn’t really do anything for you,” he said.

“So my first week, the first week and a half here I would say after the trade it took a little bit. The exercises felt harder, everything just felt a little bit harder, but once you settle in and acclimatize it definitely makes a big difference.”

Now it’s all about attitude.

Determined to seize the moment, Manson has played a pivotal role in the Avalanche’s push to the Stanley Cup Finals, providing physicality and size without sacrificing the amazing mobility of a Defense Corps led by Cale Makar.

Manson’s performance in Colorado’s 4-3 overtime win over two-time champions Tampa Bay on Wednesday in Game 1 of the finals was typical: he was credited with four shots, four hammering hits and one blocked shot.

Manson, who usually plays alongside former King Jack Johnson, has averaged 17 minutes and nine seconds of ice time in the postseason and has two goals and six points in 15 games.

Colorado general manager Joe Sakic said a few days ago his defensive corps is probably the best the Avalanche has had since their 2001 Cup-winning team, which included future Hall of Famers Ray Bourque and Rob Blake and hardened Adam Foote .

That’s high praise.

Ducks defenseman Josh Manson reacts after scoring a goal.

Josh Manson began his career with the Anaheim Ducks.

(Adam Hunger/Associated Press)

Manson justifies his place in the group by bringing with him a keen appetite for victory, not just the ability to knock people down.

“I think every time you go to the playoffs you have to take on this mentality that you never know if you’re going to come back because maybe you won’t. You can, but you’re not allowed, and I think that helps you focus on the task at hand and really give everything you have because you don’t know,” he said on Friday after the teams before game 2 had practiced in the Ball Arena on Saturday.

“The Stanley Cup is so hard to win. You can’t take a moment for granted. Coming here, it was really exciting to get this opportunity again because after doing it early in my career in Anaheim and feeling that, I wasn’t sure if it would happen again. So I was really excited.”

The final step in reaching the cup final was emotional for Manson. Colorado’s opponents in the Western Conference Finals were the Edmonton Oilers, whose assistant coach is his father Dave, a feared defenseman in his day. They said little in the post-series handshake line, but later spoke as a family.

“It was bittersweet because one of us had to lose, but it was still special,” said the younger Manson, who was born in Hinsdale, Illinois while his father played for the Chicago Blackhawks.

Dave Manson played 1,103 NHL games and accumulated 2,792 penalty minutes, 13th in NHL history. Josh won’t catch him.

“I know how he played back then is a little bit different. Maybe you can’t get away with so many things today, but I’m trying to get as much out of his game as possible,” said Josh, who has 443 penalty minutes in 475 games in the regular season. “I think we’re built a little bit the same way we skate and things like that, how we move the puck. I think we’re both playing a pretty easy game I hear.”

That was good for him and the Avalanche, who only lost two games in this cup run. Tampa Bay has erased series deficits of 1-0, 2-1 and 3-2 against Toronto in the first round and 2-0 against the New York Rangers in the eastern finals, and Manson expects the Lightning to show similar resilience on Saturday .

“I think they just trust their system. They have confidence in what they are doing and how they have succeeded, and they know that when they do, results usually follow,” he said. “I think that’s the same mantra that we’ve embraced: if we play the way we want to, we will succeed.”

Height no longer matters to Manson. The attitude still does. Josh Manson has taken game to higher altitude with Avalanche

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