The Colorado Avalanche are back atop hockey’s mountain following dethroning the two-time defending champions.
Guiding a target and an assist from Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche gained the Stanley Cup for the 3rd time in franchise record and to start with in extra than two many years by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Sport 6 of the closing Sunday evening.
It can be the initially title for this core team led by MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar and it follows a long time of playoff disappointment.
The Avalanche misplaced in the 2nd spherical every single of the previous three seasons after getting knocked out in the initial round in 2018.
With a mix of pace, significant-close expertise and the activities acquired from those defeats, Colorado broke through this time — earning just about every little bit of the championship by knocking off the group that hoisted the Cup the past two years. Like the Avalanche thoroughly expected, it was not simple.
Just after an early turnover by Makar primary to Steven Stamkos’ purpose that set them in a gap and various extra bumps and bruises, the Avalanche tied it when MacKinnon defeat 2021 playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy with a in close proximity to-excellent shot and went forward on yet another massive purpose by trade deadline acquisition Artturi Lehkonen.
They locked factors down by keeping on to the puck and not permitting Tampa Bay even shoot the puck on Darcy Kuemper in the 3rd interval.
When they did, he was there.
Introduced in from Arizona in a trade very last summer to shore up the sport’s most essential place, Kuemper was reliable once again and created his most crucial help you save with beneath seven minutes still left when he slid more than to deny competent winger Nikita Kucherov.
A lot like the Lightning went all in various instances by trading higher draft picks and prospective buyers to load up for the finest probability to gain the Cup, Avalanche typical manager Joe Sakic was not scared to ante up in March to get Lehkonen, defenseman Josh Manson and veteran forward Andrew Cogliano.
They became the perfect complement to Colorado’s core that had confirmed a good deal of playoff assure and until eventually now hadn’t produced a championship.
Sakic, who captained Colorado’s initially two title-winning teams in 1996 and 2001, employed a acquainted recipe to get his workforce more than the hump.
A lot like Pierre Lacroix, the architect of these Avalanche teams that had so considerably achievement soon after the group moved to Denver, Sakic prioritized skill, velocity and versatility.
That velocity overwhelmed each individual opponent together the way, from an opening sweep of Nashville by a tricky-fought, six-game collection in opposition to St. Louis, a different sweep of Edmonton and then Tampa Bay, which staved off elimination once but ended up two victories small of turning out to be the NHL’s to start with 3-peat champions considering the fact that the early 1980s New York Islanders dynasty.
“They’re a crew which is searching to turn out to be a dynasty,” Makar stated. “We are a crew that is searching to begin a legacy.”
That legacy finally involves a championship, thanks in large element to continual mentor Jared Bednar, who in his sixth year uncovered a way to concentrate his staff on the mission at hand from the commence of training camp.
That mentality aided the Avalanche get around the hump, and Bednar became the very first mentor to get the Stanley Cup, American Hockey League’s Calder Cup and ECHL’s Kelly Cup.
Bednar gained the chess match with Jon Cooper, also a Stanley and Calder Cup winner who is considered a single of the best tacticians in the NHL.
But factors began to stack up against the Lightning going through their stiffest competition due to the fact their run of good results began in 2020.
Accidents that sidelined leading centre Brayden Level and confined other key contributors proved also much towards a stacked opponent crafted to face up to just about something.
Depth allowed the Avalanche to triumph over getting rid of defenseman Samuel Girard to a broken sternum and complete off the Lightning without having Cup Ultimate Video game 1 extra time Andre Burakovsky sidelined by damage and with standout winger Valeri Nichushkin hobbling about on an wounded proper foot and center Nazem playing through a damaged suitable thumb.
The Avalanche conquer the Lightning prior to attrition could acquire much too considerably of a toll and just before the terrifying chance of dealing with elimination in Game 7.
Rather, they are going to return to Denver to rejoice with the Stanley Cup.
Even though not as psychological as the past two yrs when Commissioner Gary Bettman introduced the trophy to Stamkos, Colorado’s collection-ending victory marks another completion of an NHL time in the course of a pandemic — the to start with back to 82 video games with a usual playoff structure considering the fact that 2019.
It was not devoid of its stumbles, which includes suspending dozens of games and pulling out of the Olympics.
The Avalanche and Lightning dealt with at-instances rough ice conditions playing late into June, something that need to not happen transferring forward as the league gets back again to its regular plan.
When that happens, Colorado will get the likelihood to protect its crown and try to follow Tampa Bay in sustaining a perennial Cup contender.