The Colorado Avalanche are again atop hockey’s mountain after dethroning the two-time defending champions.
Behind a objective and an help from Nathan MacKinnon, the Avalanche gained the Stanley Cup for the third time in franchise historical past and first in additional than 20 years by beating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 in Recreation 6 of the ultimate Sunday night time.
It’s the primary title for this core group led by MacKinnon, captain Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Cale Makar and it follows years of playoff disappointment. The Avalanche misplaced within the second spherical every of the previous three seasons after getting knocked out within the first spherical in 2018.
With a mixture of pace, high-end expertise and the experiences gained from these defeats, Colorado broke via this time — incomes each little bit of the championship by knocking off the staff that hoisted the Cup the previous two years. Just like the Avalanche absolutely anticipated, it wasn’t straightforward.
After an early turnover by Makar resulting in Steven Stamkos’ objective that put them in a gap and a number of other extra bumps and bruises, the Avalanche tied it when MacKinnon beat 2021 playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy with a near-perfect shot and went forward on one other massive objective by commerce deadline acquisition Artturi Lehkonen. They locked issues down by holding on to the puck and never letting Tampa Bay even shoot the puck on Darcy Kuemper within the third interval.
After they did, he was there. Introduced in from Arizona in a commerce final summer season to shore up the game’s most necessary place, Kuemper was stable once more and made his most necessary save with underneath seven minutes left when he slid over to disclaim expert winger Nikita Kucherov.
Very like the Lightning went all in a number of occasions by buying and selling excessive draft picks and prospects to load up for the most effective probability to win the Cup, Avalanche common supervisor Joe Sakic was not afraid to ante up in March to amass Lehkonen, defenseman Josh Manson and veteran ahead Andrew Cogliano. They turned the right complement to Colorado’s core that had confirmed loads of playoff promise and till now hadn’t produced a championship.
Sakic, who captained Colorado’s first two title-winning groups in 1996 and 2001, used a well-known recipe to get his staff over the hump. Very like Pierre Lacroix, the architect of these Avalanche groups that had a lot success after the group moved to Denver, Sakic prioritized talent, pace and flexibility.
That pace overwhelmed each opponent alongside the best way, from a gap sweep of Nashville via a hard-fought, six-game collection towards St. Louis, one other sweep of Edmonton after which Tampa Bay, which staved off elimination as soon as however ended up two victories wanting changing into the NHL’s first three-peat champions because the early Eighties New York Islanders dynasty.
“They’re a staff that’s trying to turn out to be a dynasty,” Makar mentioned. “We’re a staff that’s trying to begin a legacy.”
That legacy lastly entails a championship, thanks largely to regular coach Jared Bednar, who in his sixth season discovered a method to focus his staff on the mission at hand from the beginning of coaching camp. That mentality helped the Avalanche recover from the hump, and Bednar turned the primary coach to win the Stanley Cup, American Hockey League’s Calder Cup and ECHL’s Kelly Cup.
Bednar gained the chess match with Jon Cooper, additionally a Stanley and Calder Cup champion who is taken into account among the finest tacticians within the NHL. However issues started to stack up towards the Lightning going through their stiffest competitors since their run of success started in 2020.
Accidents that sidelined prime heart Brayden Level and restricted different key contributors proved an excessive amount of towards a stacked opponent constructed to resist absolutely anything. Depth allowed the Avalanche to beat dropping defenseman Samuel Girard to a damaged sternum and end off the Lightning with out Cup Last Recreation 1 extra time scorer Andre Burakovsky sidelined by damage and with standout winger Valeri Nichushkin hobbling round on an injured proper foot and heart Nazem Kadri taking part in via a damaged proper thumb.
The Avalanche beat the Lightning earlier than attrition may take an excessive amount of of a toll and earlier than the scary chance of going through elimination in Recreation 7. As a substitute, they’ll return to Denver to have fun with the Stanley Cup.
Whereas not as emotional because the previous two years when Commissioner Gary Bettman offered the trophy to Stamkos, Colorado’s series-ending victory marks one other completion of an NHL season throughout a pandemic — the primary again to 82 video games with a standard playoff format since 2019. It was not with out its stumbles, together with suspending dozens of video games and pulling out of the Olympics.
The Avalanche and Lightning handled at-times tough ice circumstances taking part in late into June, one thing that ought to not occur transferring ahead because the league will get again to its common schedule. When that occurs, Colorado will get the prospect to defend its crown and try to comply with Tampa Bay in sustaining a perennial Cup contender.
Reporting by the Related Press
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