DENVER — If the Colorado Avalanche roar through the NHL playoffs and reach the Stanley Cup finals, it will be on the back of pink elephants.
"If someone tells you to think of a pink elephant, you're going to think of a pink elephant," forward/philosopher Ryan O'Reilly told me.
"It's just like any thoughts you have," O'Reilly continued with a gap-toothed smile. "If you think you're going to play bad that night, you're probably going to make more mistakes."
How did the Avs shock the hockey world and win the Central Division? They went mental. Patrick Roy didn't overhaul the roster. He overhauled its confidence.
Colorado hosts Minnesota in Game One on Thursday with the most important element a group of individuals can have: belief.
The School of Roy teaches the power of positive thinking. Upon returning to Colorado to rejuvenate a fallen franchise, he didn't tell a lemon it was lemonade. He swore it was wine.
"Am I nervous (for the playoffs)?" Roy said Wednesday. "I am saying no."
If someone mentions a pink elephant, you think of a pink elephant.
Roy told the Avs they were a contender. Guess what?
"I think you can look at the countless times we've been down going into the third (period). He doesn't come in and scream at us," defensive Erik Johnson said.
What does he say?
"He just says: 'Guys, I don't give a (bleep) what happened in the first and the second periods. I care what you're going to do in the third period. And that's win a hockey game,'" Johnson recalled.
Fired up yet?
"When you hear that, you trust yourself. You trust your teammates. You believe you are going to win," Johnson said.
It's possible Roy could convince a pink elephant to fly.
He convinced the Avs, who finished last in the Western Conference last season, they could finish first this season. He missed. They finished second.
This Avs' season is more than Semyon Varlamov standing on his head, Matt Duchene learning to lead after winning Olympic gold, Gabriel Landeskog becoming a captain for real or Nathan MacKinnon emerging as a future superstar.
This season was a lesson in the power of positive thinking.
"They want to win a Stanley Cup," top executive Joe Sakic said Wednesday.
Will they? Who knows?
But the Avs believe they will. That comes straight from the School of Roy.
"Honestly, he started telling us that in training camp," P.A. Parenteau said.
When the Avs lost three straight games in November, Roy responded: "I like our team." When asked if Varly is a goalie who can win a Stanley Cup, Roy said, "I am saying he is."
Belief isn't a powerful tool. It's the most powerful tool.
"This game is all about confidence," forward Cody McLeod said.
In Colorado, the fortunes of the Avalanche and Broncos have been flipped by a pair of sports heroes from the '90s. But Roy and John Elway share more than a half-dozen world championship rings. They share a belief they are the baddest dudes in the room.
Confidence is contagious.
At some point during the 82-game season, Roy had to erupt on the Avs. He had to toss a Gatorade cooler and swear their names in French. Right?
"He never did," Parenteau said. "He always stayed positive."
"Since Day One, he's been positive," McLeod said. "It's been awesome."
The happiest guy in the Avs dressing room is Erik Johnson. A former No. 1 pick criticized for not living up to his draft slot, Johnson found a home at the School of Roy.
"Coaching is probably half-psychology, half-coaching," Johnson told me.
After witnessing the transformation of the Avs, I believe Roy is half-coach, half-hockey hypnotist.
"It seems like everything this guy touches turns to gold," Parenteau said.
Think about pink elephants.
Think about winning.
See how that works?