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Trophy Winners Learning From Lightning and Avalanche

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TAMPA. Last night, the NHL Awards took place in Tampa, where the big names were honored and the vote for Norris was incredibly close: Colorado’s Cale Makar defeated Nashville’s Roman Josie. Makar, of course, is trying to win the Stanley Cup with the Avalanche over Tampa Bay’s Norris third-runner-up Victor Hedman. But most of the winners of the evening watched the final on TV, having been eliminated earlier. They looked? (don’t laugh – some players are so competitive that they don’t want to see who takes the title they’re chasing) And if so, did they learn anything from Lightning and Avalanche? I asked three trophy winners a question.

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Igor Shesterkin

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The New York Rangers stopper took home his first Vezina trophy and almost certainly not his last. His Rangers lost to the Lightning in the Conference Finals after winning their first two games.

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“It’s so difficult because it’s a very good team and we deserve to play in the final too,” he said. “When the conference final is 2-0, we may have lost ourselves a little. It was a really good experience for us and we will come back stronger next season.”

“I watch every game right now — I have time (that line he said with the perfect comical moment, for the record). They play so well and it’s nice to see these goalkeepers, Vasilevsky and Kemper. Wasilewski can win three Stanley Cups in a row, which is unbelievable.”

The last New York goaltender to win the Vezina was Henrik Lundqvist, and ironically, “Hank” was Shesterkin’s childhood hero. He even wanted the same gear as Lundqvist.

“I asked my dad to buy me TPS pads, a blocker and a glove,” Shesterkin said. “He told me, ‘No, we don’t have the money for that.’ I say OK, next time I will buy them for myself.

As it turns out, TPS was bought by Sherwood and Shesterkin actually wears Brian’s NHL kit, but it seems to have worked out great for him. And immediately, when the Russian networker arrived in New York, he had his supporters.

“I didn’t play in the first preseason game against the Islanders,” Shesterkin recalled. “One kid in the stands showed me my photo on a sign that said ‘future Vezina Trophy winner’ and I thought, ‘Why not? We have a good team for this.” Everyone on the team helped me a lot.”

Auston Matthews

The Toronto Maple Leafs sharpshooter won the Hart Trophy and the Ted Lindsey Award, meaning he was voted the best in the league by the media and his fellow footballers. His Leafs fought the Lightning well in the first round, but again failed to shut down the opposition and ended up losing to the Bolts in seven games. Has he picked up any landmarks this postseason?

“I was watching,” Matthews said. “It’s hard to say – I’ve been watching for six or seven years at this time of the year. Everyone understands how hard it is, and much needs to be done to go your own way. We played a very good team in Tampa and there’s a reason they’re in the Finals again for the third year in a row. It’s been a long journey of ups and downs and tribulations, but I definitely look forward to it when I live to see the end.”

And hey – Matthews knows his team’s clock is ticking to push through and make the playoffs in earnest.

“I think three times we played a team in the first round that went to the finals,” he said (Tampa Bay, Montreal last year, Boston in 2019). “Right now, there’s nothing you can do about it other than do your best.”

Moritz Seider

Winner of the Calder Trophy as Rookie of the Year, Zayder was a terrific sight in the Detroit Red Wings’ blue line (just ask some of the opponents he destroyed with hard shots or beautiful goals). His team is being rebuilt under CEO Steve Yzerman, and Zaider is one of the cornerstones.

“It’s still a long way to go and you’re just entering the highway,” Zayder said. “I look forward to (growth) not only from myself, but from the entire Detroit organization. We have a very bright future and I’m just excited.”

Zyder watched the Stanley Cup and took notes.

“It’s just ruthless,” he said. “They go out night after night and compete and play the best hockey in the summer. This is what everyone is trying to do and what we are looking forward to.”

Colorado’s Makar was obviously the deciding factor for the Avs during their run, and Zayder was asked how much of the Norris winner’s game he would like to have.

“Definitely his lateral movement on the blue line, he just beat the opposition every time he touched the puck,” said Zayder. “It’s phenomenal to see what he brings to the table.”

The Red Wings are approaching the point where they should start becoming competitive as early as next season, depending on how the summer goes with trades, free agents and more. They play in the Atlantic Division, where Tampa Bay, Florida and Toronto are virtual locks for playoff berths, but the Bruins’ future hangs in the air right now. Ottawa and Buffalo are improving, so it could be an interesting race for fourth (assuming the Met doesn’t claim both wilds).

“We want to aim for this place 100 percent,” Zaider said. “You always have to be realistic and not look too far ahead, but beyond that, it all comes down to proving people wrong. A lot of people doubt us and that keeps us motivated.”


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