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Sports >  NHL

Colorado has a bright future. But Cale Makar is loving the present, too.

UPDATED: Mon., June 27, 2022

TAMPA - Taylor Makar sat next to his brother, Cale, late Sunday night in Amalie Arena, giddy smiles on their faces. The Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the MVP of the Stanley Cup playoffs, was on a podium beside them. This was a moment Taylor and Cale had dreamed about - the moment when Cale was a Stanley Cup champion and a breakout star, with his family was right by his side."It's insane for me to watch," said Taylor, a college player whom the Avalanche selected in the seventh round of the 2021 NHL draft. " … It's so funny seeing us grow up together, having those sibling fights, battles, playing for fake Stanley Cups in mini-sticks. To see him finally be able to lift that, I know he's always wanted that and something I've always wanted to watch too. Just so proud of him and our family."Makar was an integral part of the Avalanche team that won the Stanley Cup on Sunday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. It was the franchise's first Stanley Cup title since 2001.Makar, 23, became the youngest defenseman in 52 years to win the Conn Smythe, and was also the third defenseman to ever win the Norris Trophy and the Conn Smythe in the same season. Bobby Orr managed the feat in 1970 while Nicklas Lidstrom did it in 2002."It's surreal," Makar said of the pair of awards. "But I'm not too worried about the individual stuff, just celebrating the main thing with the boys."His teammates have been complimentary of the young defenseman - and for good reason. They've described him as forever humble, staying the course while the heaps of praise for Makar only intensified as he reached hockey's biggest stage.After the Cup-clinching Game 6 victory in Tampa, Colorado captain Gabriel Landeskog was asked what other NHL teams should borrow from the Avalanche's journey to the top. His answer was direct: "Find a Cale Makar somewhere."Makar scored eight goals and recorded 21 assists in the postseason. His 29 points were the most points by a defenseman in one postseason in 28 years.Known for his electric speed on the ice and smooth puck-handling skills, Makar showed off his plethora of talents in the Stanley Cup playoffs this year, the fourth postseason of his career. He's shown tremendous growth since his first, developing into a two-way player who demands attention when he steps on the ice."We've seen him play this way from Day 1 of the season," Colorado Coach Jared Bednar said. "This guy is elite, and with him, the job he does for us offensively and defensively, watching him play, how dynamic he is, he's just the best defenseman in the game right now."Makar is a generational NHL talent, and one Colorado hopes will lead it to multiple Stanley Cup titles. He signed a six-year, $54 million contract extension in July 2021, sealing the blue-liner's immediate future in Colorado. His relentless attack and sound defense mindset works seamlessly with Colorado's core leaders in Landeskog, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen.Next season, the 26-year-old MacKinnon will enter the final year of his seven-year, $44.1 million deal and set to earn a well-deserved pay bump. Landeskog, 29, is signed with Colorado through the 2028-29 season with an average annual value of $7 million. The 25-year-old Rantanen still has three years remaining on a six-year, $55.5 million deal he signed in 2019."It's so exciting to be on a team with so many good guys and just to be able to experience that … There were so many great things throughout the year," Makar said. "Obviously we picked up some key guys at the trade deadline and guys that I hope will be sticking around. A lot of work to do on that front but it's awesome to see the core group be able to experience this."For now, Makar will relish in the present, unwilling to get too ahead of himself when looking at Colorado's bright future. He started the celebration Sunday night with his family, tears in their eyes as they embraced and took photos with the Stanley Cup on the ice. It was hug after hug, the excitement uncontainable."I'm just honored to be a part of this success and to help guys who have been through all of the ups and downs succeed, it's surreal," Makar said.
Sports >  NHL

Colorado Avalanche beat Tampa Bay to clinch Stanley Cup

UPDATED: Sun., June 26, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. — The NHL’s worst team only five years ago, the Avalanche completed its journey to the top of the hockey world Sunday night, defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1 to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in 21 years. The Avalanche, which won the series in six games and dethroned the two-time defending champion Lighting, completed a tour de force postseason. It never trailed in any ...
Sports >  NHL

Lightning never trail, nab road win in Game 5 vs. Avalanche

UPDATED: Fri., June 24, 2022

DENVER — Ondrej Palat raised his stick high, calling for the puck as he found himself alone between the hashmarks. Palat always seems to find himself in the right spots, and with Tampa Bay facing elimination Friday night in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning forward came through in the clutch. Palat broke a 2-all tie with his 11th goal of the postseason with 6:22 remaining in the ...
Sports >  NHL

Commentary: The Lightning have run into a better version of themselves in Stanley Cup Final

UPDATED: Thu., June 23, 2022

DENVER — Barring a minor miracle, there will be no Stanley Cup in Tampa Bay this summer. No historic three-peat. No boat parade. Also, it should be said, there will be no shame. If the first four games of the Stanley Cup Final have taught us anything, it is this: The better team is winning. It’s been a long time since anyone has had to say that in Tampa. And there’s no disgrace, no ...
Sports >  NHL

Lightning bounce back, claim first win vs. Avalanche in Cup final

UPDATED: Mon., June 20, 2022

TAMPA, Fla. — From the looks of Game 3, the Lightning have their mojo back. And the team couldn’t have better timing. Tampa Bay secured its first win in the Stanley Cup final series against the Avalanche on Monday, defeating Colorado 6-2. The Avalanche maintain the series lead at 2-1. The Lightning’s pace and speed matched what Colorado showed in the first two games. Tampa Bay found some ...
Sports >  NHL

Stanley Cup Final: Avalanche star Valeri Nichushkin is ‘built for this time of year’

UPDATED: Sun., June 19, 2022

DENVER - Colorado Avalanche forward Valeri Nichushkin can be described in many ways. Some of his teammates liken him to a train, a truck or a horse, while others stick with the physical attributes: big, long, strong and fast.The descriptors can go on and on, but no matter how one wants to characterize the 27-year-old Russian, it all leads back to a couple common thoughts: His skill set is unlike any other; and on a team full of superstars, Nichushkin has emerged as one of Colorado's most important players.Nichushkin has eight goals in the postseason thus far, scoring twice in Colorado's 7-0 blowout win in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. He was inches away from a hat trick in the second period of Game 2, if not for Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who made a dazzling glove save to rob Nichushkin."Val some nights - most nights - is our best player, to be honest," Colorado forward Andrew Cogliano said.The series now shifts to Tampa Bay, with Monday's Game 3 at Amalie Arena.Nichushkin is a pending unrestricted free agent and is expected to sign a significant contract after his impressive season. He has been one of the best players - if not the best - in these Stanley Cup finals. Nichushkin has three goals and one assist in the series."He's been a horse for us all playoffs," said Colorado center Alex Newhook. "It's been fun to watch. He goes out there and does everything right, he does everything well. He plays in every situation and he's a truck for us. He's been doing everything right."Colorado Coach Jared Bednar said Nichushkin was simply "built for this time of year." Nichushkin has been paired on Colorado's top line with center Nathan MacKinnon and winger Gabriel Landeskog."He's such a hard-working guy and shows on ice," Colorado defenseman Cale Makar said. "He's so valuable for us in every single zone ... you see his offensive talent that he's shown lately. He's the full package. He's been incredible for us. He's such a driven human being."And while Nichushkin has thrived in his role with Colorado this season, that wasn't always the case.Nichushkin was once a heralded prospect, selected 10th overall in the 2013 NHL draft by the Dallas Stars. Nichushkin had a promising start, recording 14 goals and 20 assists as a rookie during the 2013-14 season.But in his second season, things took a turn. He had hip surgery and played in only eight games. He had a subpar 2015-16 season in Dallas before he returned to Russia to play in the Kontinental Hockey League for two seasons. He then returned to Dallas for the 2018-19 season, a year he failed to record a single goal and had only 10 assists."In Dallas, it was maybe just a different scenario," said Cogliano, who played with Nichushkin in Dallas in 2018-19. "I don't think he was comfortable there. I think there were different things going on ... since coming here, I haven't seen a level of play from a guy consistently - a 200-foot game offensively and defensively - like I've been seeing in Val."Nichushkin was bought out by the Stars during the 2019 offseason and the Avalanche signed him to a one-year, one-way $850,000 contract in August 2019. He recorded 13 goals and 27 points in 57 games. He re-signed for two years in October 2020 and has been a needed force in the Colorado room.This year, Nichushkin scored 25 goals in the regular season for the first time in his career. He finished with 52 points."It feels like he's way more consistent now," said Josh Manson, one of Colorado's key trade deadline acquisitions in March. "He fits in the structure so well, he forechecks so hard. He's such a big, strong guy. He's lanky and he just constantly puts you under pressure and he's strong enough to turn the puck over. He's been amazing ever since I got here."Nichushkin's development has been a product of his work ethic and internal motivation since he arrived in Colorado. Bednar said most nights, whenever he is looking at video after a game, he'll think he's the last one there. But, when he turns the corner to leave, he'll often see Nichushkin walk out of the room, just getting done with a weight room session after the game.The next morning? Nichushkin's the first one in the room."This is a guy that is highly dedicated, highly motivated ... he's found his place here," Bednar said.
Sports >  NHL

Lightning advance to third straight Stanley Cup final

UPDATED: Sun., June 12, 2022

TAMPA – When Steven Stamkos emerged from the penalty box following the Rangers’ tying goal with 6:53 left in the third period, he wasn’t frustrated or rattled, as he typically might be in a similar situation.

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