TAMPA, Florida (AP) – in the wannabe league known for following Stanley Cup ChampionsColorado Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog paused when asked what other teams could do to replicate their success.
Landeskog replied with a smirk, “Find Cale Makar somewhere.”
Playoff MVP Cale Makar was a big part of Colorado’s win from the blue line, but more than anything, the Avalanche demonstrated the value of speed and skill in the NHL as hockey moves dramatically towards prioritizing these elements in the name of scoring. The Avalanche and the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning, who were two wins to three short, also demonstrated that it was worth taking risks at the trade deadline to find the right options.
The Colorado traded two of their prospects and a pair of second-round picks for forward Arturi Lehkonen and defenseman Josh Manson, as well as Andrew Cogliano and Niko Sturm, who helped the Avalanche win their first league title since 2001. Captain Gabriel Landeskog had a lot of praise for general manager Joe Sakic and assistant Chris McFarland in the moments following the Cup win.
“Joe and C-Mac did a great job picking up some stuff along the way that was very, very difficult for us to play against,” Landeskog said. “Look at Cogs, look at Homer (Darren Helm), look at Sturm – look at all these guys, all these pieces that they want to win so badly that they want to do whatever it takes. It just adds up to the fact that it’s difficult to play against a team.”
Perhaps the best lesson of this postseason is what a team looks like when it’s difficult to play against.
A fast Avalanche swept through the playoffs in the Western Conference, which for years was known for big, heavy teams pushing each other. They needed the strength and endurance provided by Manson, center Nazem Kadri and others to take the Lightning out.
With sixth-year coach Jared Bednar focusing his team’s attention after several playoff setbacks, Colorado was mentally prepared for Tampa Bay’s push. important people even in difficult times.
That Stanley Cup Final ended with this moment after the Lightning averted elimination and sent the series back to Tampa. Even after falling behind in Game 6, the Avalanche were once again champions.
“They came up to us, we packed up and were ready,” said owner Stan Kroenke. “This team will beat you if you’re not ready.”
And Lightning could do that with more teams next year. While the Avalanche have struggled as Manson, Kadri and goalie Darcy Kemper campaign for free will, Tampa Bay has some wiggle room for the first time in several years without destroying its core.
Punch winger Ondřej Palat and defenseman Jan Rutta are free agents, as is signing Nick Paul on time, but Lightning general manager Julien Brisebois has worked wonders before getting under the cap, and with him up by 1 next season million dollars, there’s a little bit of respite. room.
Don’t bet that the Lightning will reach their fourth consecutive Finals and win their third championship in four years. They are 10-1 favorites according to the bookmaker FanDuel, just behind Colorado (5-1) and Toronto (9-1).
Who said we’re done, right? Captain Stephen Stamkos said. “It’s the core here and we’ve fought and gone through everything you can imagine and for the most part we’ve found a way to come out on top.”
Except this year, when the depth and talent of Avalanche was simply unbearable. This was the result of Sakic adding three players at the deadline, which came in handy when injuries threatened to derail the organization’s latest attempt to overcome the hump with a shot led by Landeskog. nathan McKinnon, Mikko Rantanen and, of course, Makar.
“We found a way,” Rantanen said.
Follow AP hockey writer Steven Wyno on Twitter: https://twitter.com/SWhyno.
More AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports