DENVER (KDVR) — It’s been 21 years since the Colorado Avalanche were in the Stanley Cup Final and general manager Joe Sakic remembers that winning team all too well since he was the captain.

There are a lot of similarities between the last Cup-winning team to this season’s group with depth being the most in common. But Sakic focused on the similarities of the teams’ defense.

“Our guys, especially this year, really competed, faced a lot of adversity and overcame it every single time. It’s a group that believes in each other and we believe in them,” Sakic said at a media conference at Ball Arena on Tuesday.

“In my mind, this year’s D-core is probably the best D-core since that D-core. A lot of similarities in that way.”

Coach Jared Bednar has not revealed if Darcy Kuemper will start Game 1 or if it will be Pavel Francouz. Sakic said Kuemper is 100% ready to go and he’s not worried about who is between the pipes as both netminders earned six wins each in the playoff run.

Chemistry makes all the difference

It’s been a long road in the making of this Stanley Cup-caliber team and Bednar has been with it all the way. In his seventh season as head coach, Bednar has sculpted and improved the foundation that Sakic has provided in Denver.

“I think going through what we’ve went through the last couple years has helped that resilience and mental toughness has helped us,” Bednar said. “I think helped me as a coach to be able to help raise the bar and our players really buy it, the buy-in that we’ve gotten from our group from day one of training camp to keep that sort of focus on what we needed to do to become successful come playoff time.”

The return of Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano is still in question after both underwent hand surgeries, but everyone else is rested and healthy.

Bednar said consistency has been one of the key factors to this team’s success and said the ability to experiment through the regular season by mixing up lines helped get the players comfortable with different linemates.