Tampa Bay Lightning – Colorado Avalanche – 1:2
Series result: 2-4 (3:4 OT, 0:7, 6:2, 2:3 OT, 3:2, 1:2)
At the beginning of meeting No. 6, it might have seemed that Colorado was going to lose the second match point in order to decide everything in Denver. First, Cale Makar grabbed the removal, then it was Yuki’s mistake (and McKinnon lost the duel behind the goal) that led to Stamkos’s puck.
But “Tampa” was enough for literally half of the first period. Throughout the playoffs, this team proved that it seemed to have an unlimited supply of energy. No matter what the opponent did, Colorado was always able to respond with a stronger game. The pucks that McKinnon and Lehkonen scored in the second period were completely based on the logic of what was happening on the ice.
In the third period, “Tampa” was able to make only four shots. It was also Kucherov’s hit on the post.
The Conn Smythe Trophy was presented to Cale Makar. Yuki had a great playoff with 29 (8+21) points. Recall that Makar is a defender. Only Connor McDavid (10+23) and Leon Draisaitl (7+25) scored more than him in the current postseason, the stars of Edmonton, whom Cale stopped in the West final. At the same time, it cannot be said that Makar succeeded in an ideal final series. Yes, he again flashed in the attack and the majority – seven (3 + 4) and four points, respectively. But at the same time, the leader of the Colorado defense, whose average ice time in the series against Tampa was a monstrous 27 minutes, earned a utility indicator of -4 and actually made a lot of mistakes. And this is not nit-picking, because there is a special demand from the current owner of the Norris Trophy. But just check out how much Cale Makar has already achieved by the age of 23.
Joe Sakic led the Colorado to a third Stanley Cup – in fact, there are only three of them in the history of the franchise. In 1996 and 2001 he captained the Avalanche. Now he has riveted a championship team with the backbone of the aforementioned Makar, Nathan McKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and Gabriel Landeskog as general manager. Saki did a great job. The 16-4 balance that the Avalanche gave out in the playoffs does not even hint, but speaks loudly about the dominance of this team. The finishing touches to the championship look were the deadline trades of defenseman Josh Manson and forward Artturi Lehkonen. Finn, who lost the final to Tampa a year ago with Montreal, just scored the golden puck. And how the almost never smiling Sakik guessed with Valery Nichushkin (four goals in the final series) in the 2019 off-season – then he signed a forward on ridiculous conditions who could bring his series without goals to a three-digit number. But this summer, the Colorado general manager will have to work hard – in the face of a harsh salary cap, the team will change a lot.
The Avalanche proved that it was possible to win the Stanley Cup with an average team of goaltenders. Darcy Kemper even made a lot of mistakes in the final episode. Only the second match did without his blunders – the same one that was 7-0, when Tampa was so destroyed that it was honored by as many as 16 shots. The problem of Lightning was that Vasilevsky, although he brought his colleagues less often, but as for himself, he was often mistaken. And this was the main trump card of the twice reigning champion in the final.
If Tampa, which had been wandering near the top for many years, was able to climb it, finding a balance in the game and learning to win in the most pragmatic, unspectacular manner, then Colorado, who had been eliminated in the second round as a contender for three years in a row, pressed the maximum on their the best qualities. This is an unrestrained attack, irrepressible avalanche-like energy and cosmic speeds. The third period of the sixth match in this regard was very characteristic. Colorado didn’t play to keep the score. Colorado forced Tampa to defend a lot and minimized the pressure on Kemper, who could have let him down.
Four matches of the final series were “close”. Three of them were won by Colorado, twice in overtime. And it has always been on point. We can say that the Avalanche showed a champion handwriting. Their balance in overtime (5-1) and away matches (9-1) turned out to be close to ideal.
Do you still remember that Colorado in the 2016/2017 season finished last in the league, 21 points behind? At the same time, in 2017, the Avs lost the draft lottery and were chosen fourth, but still hit the jackpot in the person of Cale Makar. It is here that you can think that one of the main managerial decisions of Joe Sakic is to throw Matt Duchen out of the team, who was depressed and spoiled the atmosphere in the team.