August 17, 2022

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The Colorado Avalanche knocked Tampa Bay out of its seat to win the Stanley Cup

The Colorado Avalanche knocked Tampa Bay out of its seat to win the Stanley Cup

Tampa, Florida – Ten teams over the past three years have attempted to eliminate the Tampa Bay Lightning in the post-season as they pursue a dynasty. Tried in Bubble 2020, Tried in Canada, across Florida and on the islands of New York, but they all failed.

Since 2019, no one has found a way to dismiss a team that had made its way to the top, until Sunday, when the Colorado Avalanche discovered the right mix of skill, speed and determination needed to take out the champ.

For the first time since the outbreak of the pandemic, the NHL has a new champion. High-flying Avalanche defeated Brave Lightning, 2-1, in Game Six of the Finals, to capture the Stanley Cup, one of the sport’s most elusive and enduring trophies.

“I grew up with a picture hanging on the wall of the Stanley Cup team, the Colorado Avalanche in 2001,” said Colorado captain Gabriel Landskog. “My dream was one day to be in that picture wearing this shirt. We did it.”

One by one in a post-game celebration, the avalanche players, led by Landeskog, lifted the gleaming trophy high, and kissed it as they floated it around the ice of the Amalie Arena, just as lightning did on the same ice, their home rink, a year earlier.

This is the third title for the Colorado franchise, and the first since the 2001 team that Landeskog has admired, with Joe Sakic as the team captain. Sakic, who also played seven seasons with the organization before relocating from Quebec, was once again on hand to take part in the latest celebration, this time as general manager and club architect so deeply talented that Tampa Bay finally had it. match met.

“It’s very special any time you can win the Stanley Cup,” said Sakic. “The only difference is that it is more stressful when you have to watch rather than play. I am very proud of what these players have accomplished.”

When asked during a TV interview what other teams could learn from the avalanche, Landeskog said, “Go out and find Cale Makar somewhere.”

But other great players, such as Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon, winger Mikko Rantanen, brave forward Nazem Kadri and even goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper, all played a role in snatching the Stanley Cup away from Tampa Bay’s stubborn grip.

Upon entering the series, Avalanche enjoyed the opportunity to display their special abilities Against the best in the league.

“You want to beat the best,” said Sakic. “Hopefully we’ll start something the way Tampa did. Three Stanley Cup finals in a row, what an organization. That’s what we want to become, to try to keep it just like they did.”

But Lightning wanted more. They sought to become the first team to win three Stanley Cups in a row since the Islanders won four consecutive titles from 1980 to 1983.

“It feels terrible,” said Stephen Stamkos, captain of Tampa Bay. “Sometimes you have to step back and realize that this is a great team out there. Congratulations to them. But it is tough.”

Stamkos, who scored the first goal of the match, is the leader of a core of Lightning players including superb goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy and star skaters such as defender Victor Hedman, winger Nikita Kucherov and defensive man Mikhail Sergechev, most of whom were playing at a height of 68. After the season that begins with the 2020 qualifiers, which were played in so-called bubbles in Canada due to the pandemic.

The Lightning team has won 11 playoff series in a row, but in doing so they have played more games than any other team over the past three years, and have avoided elimination in four games during that time. After all the mental and physical beating, they finally made way for a new hero.

“We just ran out of gas,” Tampa Bay coach John Cooper said.

Nowhere was that more evident than in the third period on Sunday, when a younger avalanche kept the disc at the end of lightning and only allowed four shots at the net, providing evidence that it was time to crown a new champion.

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Of course, there was a mandatory stampede in the final minutes after Tampa Bay pulled Vasilievsky for an extra skater. Landeskog blocked a shot with a skateboard and flew off his blade, rendering him unable to skate. As he crawled on all fours to get to the bench, McKinnon grabbed him by the jersey to help him, leaving two players in gear.

“I was freaked out because I saw they were coming down and Nate was pushing me,” Landeskog said. “I didn’t want to lie on the ice in the middle of our area when they came down to score. I didn’t know how to do it. I had never done it before.”

Landeskog, one of the team’s longest-serving members with defender Eric Johnson, paid tribute to Sakic, who proved nearly as adept at creating a winner from the front office as he wore skates on his feet and a cane in his palm. As general manager, Sakic is responsible for building a team widely recognized for several years as one of the emerging forces in the league. But that only happened after Colorado missed the playoffs six times in seven years, from 2011 to 2017.

Those were bleak years for Denver’s NHL hockey, but Sakic, who has served as general manager since 2013, has added talented players every year, many of whom come across high draft picks, thanks to all those lost seasons. Landeskog was taken with the second overall pick in 2011. MacKinnon was named first pick two years later and picked Colorado Rantanen with the 10th pick in 2015. In 2017, they had a good sense of taking Makar fourth and second after years they added defender Bowen Byram, Also with the choice of number 4.

With these local players, as well as major additions over the years like Kadri defenseman Devon Toews and winger Andre Burakovsky through deals, and winger Valeri Nichushkin through free agency, Colorado has risen up the competition. Last year, Avalanche received the President’s Cup, which was awarded to the team with the best record in the regular season. But so far, the group hasn’t been able to turn regular season success into playoff glory, having fallen in the second round in each of the previous three years.

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This season, with Makar poised to win the Norris Cup as the best defender in the league, and the 31-year-old Kadry setting a career high with 87 points, Avalanche set records in wins (56), points (119) and most importantly, carried that dominance to the playoffs. With a score of 16-4.

From training camp, the question of avalanche surrounded the team’s ability to overcome past failures and eventually win the title. This was tested in the Finals, where they lost their fifth game at home and faced the prospect of becoming only the second of 37 teams to lose the Finals after leading 3-1.

But in Game 6, the avalanche showed some tournament determination of its own.

Lightning maintained their 1-0 lead until McKinnon equalized with a one-time shot to Vasilevskiy’s right just one minute and 54 seconds into the second half, stifling the cheers of the crowd.

Minutes later, Artturi Lehkonen, who joined Avalanche in a March deal Sakic made with Montreal, scored to give Colorado its first lead in the game, bringing the team closer to its first Stanley Cup celebration since Sakic held the trophy high as a player. , 21 years ago.

This time, he went to Landeskog first, then transferred to Johnson, who has been with Colorado since the mid-season trade in 2010-11. This included the agonizing 2016-2017 season, when Avs finished with the worst record in the league. But even then, Johnson never doubted that he and Landskog would one day win one of the sport’s greatest awards.

“It’s heavier than you think,” Johnson said. “Something amazing. Gabe has told me for the last couple of years, ‘You get it first.’ It just feels great and satisfying.”