Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen: The Avalanche have several good scorers. If you look at the winning goals column, however, they are not what indicate the top of the table.
Instead, it’s Artturi Lehkonen who stands out with three crucial goals, including the one that led the Avalanche to their first Stanley Cup Finals since 2001.
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Acquired by the Canadian at the close of trading, the Finn could hardly find a better way to make new friends.
“I didn’t know much about him. I didn’t know how good he was until I saw him play with us for the last six weeks of the season,” said Landeskog.
“He can contribute in all facets of the game. He’s persistent in forechecking, he’s always in the right spot, he’s got a good racquet and he has the finishing touches,” added the Swede. It’s the Swiss army knife that can be used anywhere in training without losing its effectiveness.
While his captain knew virtually nothing about the Canadian’s former number 62, the Avalanche’s general manager, Joe Sakic, knew quite the opposite. To be willing to give up a second-round pick (2024) and a young prospect (Justin Barron) you have to love what you get for it.
“He’s a versatile player who can play on every line. He was exactly the type of player we were looking for, Sakic said earlier this week. He’s a competitor, he’s fast. It’s also interesting that he fits perfectly into our Formation fits When you make a transaction, this is data that needs to be considered.
The other thing not to overlook is Lehkonen’s recent NHL Finals experience. Prior to Game 1 against the Lightning, the 26-year-old was one of only four Avalanche players with finals experience.
Darren Helm, twice with the Red Wings (2008 and 2009), Andre Burakovsky with the Capitals (2018) and Andrew Cogliano with the Stars (2020) were the other three.
Which is quite a contrast to the Lightning’s 16 color bearers who have played in at least one Finals, 12 of which have won the Stanley Cup in 2020 and 2021.
“He already took part in a final with Montreal last year. We are therefore pleased to have him with us, argued Cale Makar. He’s been so good to us so far. He’s such a determined player. He never stops working. This was an important acquisition for us at the time of the transaction deadline.”
Lehkonen started the Grand Final the same way he ended the Western Conference Finals by hitting the target. He also has seven points (three goals, four assists) in his last five games.
A great way to enter that other confrontation against the Flash that he wants a different conclusion to.
“This series is like a revenge for me. But this team is also quite a challenge, said Lehkonen. It’s going to be a tough confrontation. We have to take games one at a time to make sure we stay in the present moment.
It’s good. Right now, the present moment suggests the Avalanche lead this series 1-0.