Nathan McKinnon scored the most impressive goal of this year’s NHL playoffs – an all-out rush to complete a hat-trick and put his team ahead late against the Blues, a goal that showed his impressive skill and speed to the fullest.
The avalanche dropped Game 5 of the second-round series in overtime, making what should have been the highlight of a footnote in a losing bid.
This has been the case for a lot of McKinnon’s nine seasons in Colorado, and the legitimate star rarely receives the national spotlight because his team hasn’t had much success after the season.
All of those changes begin Wednesday night at Denver’s Paul Arena, where raging defender Cal McCarron and the rest of Avalanche will host the first game of the Stanley Cup Final against Lightning, the two-times champions who have ousted Rangers in six games to once again represent the conference. Eastern in the championship role.
“That’s all Nathan wanted, this chance to win the Stanley Cup for his franchise,” Peter McNab, a longtime television analyst at Avalanche TV, told The Post in a phone interview. “He’s had success after the season personally before, and I think that was the most frustrating part for him. He wants this team to win.
“He wanted to take those next steps, with his team, because he’s really a tough guy and he was killing him. You can see what they’re going to do this year it was coming, they were on the cusp, but it would be their target, it would be an injury here or there, always something stopping them from getting there. to this place.”
McKinnon, the first overall pick in the 2013 draft from Nova Scotia, won the Calder Cup as the league’s best rookie at the age of 18. Now 26, he’s later a three-time Hart Cup finalist, and a two-time runner-up. Even in the MVP vote.
In the previous five playoffs during his career, McKinnon also scored 28 goals and 69 points in 50 games. His 1.38 points per game in the post-season was just above the best one-season mark during his career of 1.35 points.
However, Avalanche never made it to a final conference during that time, with eliminations in the previous three years in the second round.
“It was great watching his career and how it went,” McNab said of McKinnon. “The first four years you could feel he would get there, and in the last five years he’s been an absolute star in this game.
“I honestly don’t think there’s anything different about Nathan or his game, he’s playing at a level that’s really hard to explain.”
After back-to-back victories over Nashville, St. Louis and Edmonton – the last being a four-game sweep against the Oilers and their star center, Conor McDavid – the Avs are playing in the cup for the first time since winning their second franchise title in a six-year span in 2001. McKinnon scored 11 goals Along with 7 assists in 14 matches.
“It’s not that Nathan wants to show anyone that he’s Nathan McKinnon. He wants to show everyone that he’s the captain of the ice hockey club. What he’s doing to this team is unreal,” McNab said. Interesting to see his and the team’s reaction.
“Because this is different. Tampa Bay, whatever you don’t know about the Finals, they know. Will Avalanche and all the things they do well with their speed and skill be able to beat them?”
In fact, John Cooper’s Lightning was four wins away from becoming the first NHL team to win three consecutive Cups since the four-peat Islanders dynasty in the 1980s.
Much of McNab’s quests will depend on MacKinnon’s co-stars and supporting cast assembled by GM Joe Sakic, Hall of Fame center and captain of previous Avalanche Cup winning teams. Led by captain Gabriel Landskog and McCar, this group is a Norris Cup final for the second time in its first three seasons in the National Hockey League.
The 23-year-old McCar – who regularly featured with former Isles defender Devon Toews – went on to have a regular 86-point season with the team’s 22 best playoff points, including a five-point game in a 6-5 win. In extra time against the Oilers.
“For me, McCarre really got to the point where he’s now three players in the league who are absolutely enjoying whatever he is, whatever it is,” McNab said. “There are a lot of great players in the game, stars, but for me, they are McDavid, Nathan McKinnon, and McCar.
“There’s something so special about them that you always want to know what they’re going to do.”
With eight days of rest entering the first game, the avalanche had time to recover after goalkeeper Darcy Comber, and key forwards Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano had hand injuries against Edmonton. Colorado coach Jared Bednar hasn’t revealed whether Comber or back-up Pavel Francoz, who has played in the past three games, will start the opener. Kadri and Cogliano could return later in the series. Forward Brayden Point (upper body) is still in question for Lightning.