Avalanche-Lightning: much more than a historic date for the Stanley Cup Finals

DENVER — The Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Lightning have more than a tie in the Stanley Cup Finals. You have a date with history.

The Bolts are the first team since the Edmonton Oilers – from 1982-83 to 1984-85 – to reach the Grand Finals three straight years. If they sign four wins at the expense of the Avalanche, they will become the first to win the Stanley Cup three straight seasons since Mike Bossy’s four straight New York Islanders conquests from 1980-83.

“They want to start some kind of dynasty and we have every intention of preventing them from doing so,” Cale Makar said confidently.

With his Avalanche teammates, the young defenseman also wants to do much more than rob the Lightning to become one of the greatest clubs in NHL history.

“This final could allow us to start a very special streak,” added Makar, who leads his team with five goals and 22 points in just 14 games.

That’s a point fewer than Rangers defenseman Adam Fox, who has six more games in his game. One point behind the Lightning’s leading scorer, Nikita Kucherov, who has played three more games.

“Cale is the best defenseman in the world,” Nathan MacKinnon proclaimed loudly and clearly during media day when leaders and players from both teams marched in front of reporters in Denver on Tuesday.

No Cinderella, only the best

They now have the opportunity to act in the first game of this very tough finale on Wednesday evening – 8 p.m. Eastern Time. A first final game between the two best teams in the league since the duels between the Penguins and the Red Wings in 2008 – Detroit win and 2009 – Pittsburgh win.

“To be considered the best, you have to beat the best, and Tampa has been the best team in the league for years,” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog multiple times.

His linemate went even further in his approach to the challenge before him and his Avalanche teammates: “I’m glad there isn’t a Cinderella club in the Grand Finals while the top two teams in the league face off,” captioned the one who had the upper hand over Connor McDavid in the western finale.

Will MacKinnon now have the upper hand over Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos? Will he have the opportunity to cement his place in history with a first Stanley Cup win?

“I just have fun when I’m on the ice,” MacKinnon said, telling reporters he doesn’t care one bit about his place in history.

I want to take MacKinnon at his word. But to see the seriousness he’s shown since the first game of the first series – against Nashville – which he and his teammates swept in four small games, to see the seriousness he shows every time he’s between the Playing the point press comes after a win, and even more so after a loss, it’s clear MacKinnon is on a mission.

“He’s a special player, launched his big boss Joe Sakic. He can get you off your seat at any time in a game. Not only is he fast, he has a blast in his speed that puts him in a class of his own in the league. He’s a player who can change the course of a game with a single appearance,” added the Avalanche general manager, paying tribute to his former teammate and former head coach Patrick Roy, who played a leading role in picking MacKinnon as the 2013 overall winner Draft.

“Nathan loves the challenge of being the one to turn to when you need a big game,” added Gabriel Landeskog. The 18,000 fans hold their breath as the action kicks off because they sense something is about to happen,” concluded the Avalanche captain.

Memories of 2001

Twenty-one seasons after the Avalanche’s last Stanley Cup win, Joe Sakic’s second, which allowed Raymond Bourque to be the first to lift the precious trophy to crown his great career, the general manager drew comparisons between the both teams.

“We were very solid offensively and still are. We were very strong on the blue line and I think this year we have the best group of defenders since 2001. We added weight and strength on the blue line with the addition of Josh Manson. With the takeover of Artturi Lehkonen, we gained depth in advance. We had to solidify our club to maximize our chances in the playoffs. We did it and here we are back in the grand finals,” said Sakic.

While careful not to draw comparisons between his current goalies – Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz – and then-goalkeeper Patrick Roy, who contributed to the Avalanche’s two conquests, Sakic showed confidence in his current goalies despite not having the reputation Roy or even her Grand Final opponent Andrei Vasilevskiy.

“In my opinion, Patrick is the best goalkeeper in history,” Sakic began when I asked him to talk about his goalkeepers’ situation on the eve of the final.

“It’s not because he’s the best goalkeeper in history and he’s been a very solid source of confidence for us that we take risks on offense. We also played solid hockey in defense before him. Our players will do it in front of our goalies again this year as they have done since the playoffs began. I have faith in both of our goalkeepers and all of our players have faith in them. Darcy (Kuemper) got the green light and Pavel (Francouz) showed that he can do the job too. In addition, our goalkeepers have each had six wins since the start of the playoffs,” commented Sakic, who finds it harder to wait for the final to start as a general manager than as a player.

“As a CEO, you are limited to an observer role. As a player, I loved preparing for these big games. I’m nervous but at the same time I’m really happy for our players because I know what they’re going through. »

When I elbowed the other reporters crowded in front of Darcy Kuemper, the Avalanche goaltender simply said he was ready to take his place. It will be necessary to wait until the end of the Avalanche’s morning practice session before seeing if he or Pavel Francouz exit the ice first. A usually very reliable clue to the identity of the starting goalkeeper.

“All I can say is that I was really devastated to lose the western final. It was anything but obvious. But Pavel allowed me to handle the situation by playing solid games like him,” concluded Kuemper, who resigned to the bench in Game 1 against the Oilers in the third round.

He was also forced to retire on the first lap after being hit in the eye by the blade of Ryan Johansen’s cane, which slipped through one of the openings in his mask.

Of course, whether Kuemper or Francouz faces the Lightning shots in Game 1, it’s Vasilevskiy who will hold his own against the Avalanche.

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