Good things tend to happen in threes, but in this year’s Stanley Cup Final, the Colorado Avalanche were having none of it. The Avs rudely interrupted Tampa Bay’s quest for a threepeat, winning the 2022 Stanley Cup Sunday night with a 2-1, Game 6 victory over the Lightning. Nathan Mackinnon had a goal and an assist for the Avalanche. Darcy Kuemper made 22 saves, including just four in the third period, as the Lightning finally ran out of energy.
The “power of three” wasn’t overlooked, though. As we glance at some of the numbers and storylines behind the win, it’s the third Stanley Cup title in Avalanche history (1996, 2001).
Colorado defenceman Cale Makar had his own trifecta, winning the Cup, the Conn Smythe Trophy (playoff MVP), and the Norris Trophy (NHL’s top defenceman) all in the past week. They’ll go on the mantel with his Hobey Baker award (top US College player) and his Calder Trophy (NHL’s top rookie). No one else has ever won all five of those prestigious trophies. No one. And Makar is all of 23 years of age.
Makar finished number three in the NHL with 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 20 games this postseason. Connor McDavid, who hasn’t played hockey in three weeks, won the league playoff title with 33 points.
Lightning winger Corey Perry now has the dubious distinction of being the first player in NHL history to lose in the Stanley Cup Final in three straight years with three different teams. He lost to Tampa Bay with the Dallas Stars and then the Montreal Canadiens. So, he signed with the Lightning this season and lost again.
On the other side of the coin, Pat Maroon’s personal championship run ends at three. Maroon won the past two Cups with Tampa and the one before that with St. Louis.
Only three men have captained their current teams longer than Gabriel Landeskog (Sidney Crosby, Jonathan Toews and Alex Ovechkin). Landeskog still holds the distinction of being the youngest captain in NHL history. He was 19 (and 286 days) when Colorado handed him the captaincy, 11 days younger than when Sidney Crosby was named captain of the Pittsburgh Penguins.
When NHL deputy commissioner Bill Daly presented the Stanley Cup (Gary Bettman missed the presentation due to COVID), the first person Landeskog handed it off to was Erik Johnson, the elder statesman in Colorado’s dressing room, the one who’s been waiting longest in Denver. He delivered a memorable interview after the game, happily interrupted by his family.
The Avalanche posted the NHL’s second best record this season at 56-19-7. They were even better in the playoffs, going 16-4 for a smooth .800 winning percentage. Only three other Cup winners have plowed through four best-of-sevens and never once trail in a series.
In an evening of firsts, Nazem Kadri became the first Muslim to win a Stanley Cup. Kadri had 15 points in 16 playoff games, and during the celebrations, also had an invitation for his detractors, believed to be the first of its kind.
Avs forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel set the record for fastest damage to the Stanley Cup. While joining the team photo, Aube-Kubel tripped and fell, denting the base.
Avalanche owner Stan Kroenke is assembling a fine trophy room. Kroenke moonlights as the LA Rams owner. Not many owners in sports have ever won a Stanley Cup ring and a Super Bowl ring in the same year.
Colorado head coach Jared Bednar might not be a Stanley Cup champion today if not for the volatility Hall of Famer Patrick Roy. In August of 2016, Roy quit as Avalanche head coach and vice president of hockey operations because he didn’t feel like the Avs shared his vision, nor did he have enough say in hockey decisions.
With the coach hiring season long over, that left the Avalanche scrambling in the middle of summer. Two weeks later, they called on Bednar who had just coached Columbus’s minor league team to an AHL title. The Avs finished dead last that season but they’ve been excellent ever since. Perhaps due to that stunt, Patrick Roy hasn’t worked in the league since.
Teams rarely win championships without bottoming out at some point and securing truly elite talent. Colorado is no exception and made the most of their first-round draft picks over the years. Five picks, in particular, have been game changers in Denver: Landeskog (2011, 2nd overall), Mackinnon (2013 1stoverall), Mikko Rantanen (2015, 10th overall), Cale Makar (2017, 4th overall), and Bo Byrum (2019, 4th overall).
The Obligatory Local Connection
Byrum was born four days after the Avs last Cup win. He was selected with the pick that originally belonged to Ottawa. When you examine those two teams, there’s been a compelling reversal of fortunes, like one of those bad movies where the two main actors switch bodies.
Five years ago, as the Senators soared to the Conference Final, Colorado was the absolute worst team in the NHL. In fact, the Avs finished 21 points behind the entire league that year. A few months later, the Avs and Sens pulled off the Matt Duchene trade and immediately went in completely different directions. For the next five years, the Avs made the playoffs then won this year’s Cup. Meanwhile, the Sens plummeted, taking their spot in the basement, missing the playoffs in each of the past five years.
After stockpiling so many of their own first round draft picks, perhaps the Sens are ready for their own dramatic turnaround.
So that’s it for another NHL season. And it only took 1,312 regular season games and 89 playoff games to decide on a winner. If you’re already missing NHL hockey, don’t worry. The numbers are in your favour. In just over three months, they’ll be back with 1400 more games, ready to do it all again.
By Steve Warne | Faces Magazine