Colorado Avalanche star Nathan McKinnon missed the net in the first three games of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
His slump finally ended on Wednesday when he scored a powerplay goal in the second period. Going into Game 4, McKinnon recorded just two assists in the final series and felt pressured to score a few goals.
To recover, McKinnon turned to Pittsburgh Penguins captain Sidney Crosby for advice. The two star forwards, originally from Nova Scotia, usually train together during the off-season and are known to keep in touch.
Although Crosby would most likely have preferred to play against his buddy in the Stanley Cup Final, he still watches the action and picks up when McKinnon calls.
“Nathan McKinnon is on the phone with Sidney Crosby between games and Sid tells him not to push himself too hard,” NHL insider Kevin Wicks told The Pat McAfee Show ahead of Game 4.
“He tells him to keep doing what he’s doing, use his strengths. Elite players who are high performers demand too much of themselves and sometimes put too much pressure on themselves. So maybe just simplify the game.”
McKinnon would be wise to listen to his friend, who knows a thing or two about what it takes to win this time of year. Crosby is a three-time Stanley Cup winner, having lifted the prestigious trophy in 2009 and then back-to-back in 2016 and 2017.
McKinnon showed no outward signs of frustration during the slump, showing his maturity as a player. It’s easy to see Crosby’s influence on the 26-year-old as he takes on the biggest challenge of his career.
The Avalanche now has a series lead, returning to Colorado with a chance to win their first Stanley Cup in 21 years on home ice in Game 5 on Friday. McKinnon may turn to Crosby again after seeing him at the center of a controversial overtime goal that gave the Avalanche a 3-2 win.
In the storybook finale, Nazem Qadri scored the game-winning goal on a partial breakaway on his debut in the Stanley Cup Finals. However, while Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kemper was putting the puck on the ice, one of the Avalanche players, McKinnon, did not complete the substitution. Kadri’s score could easily have been canceled due to too many penalties.
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