Colorado Avalanche, Stanley Cup champion. He entered the avalanche at the flaming Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida, for Game 6 and left with a 2-1 victory—and a very large piece of equipment.
Colorado ended Tampa Bay’s streak of back-to-back Stanley Cups and took his third title in franchise history.
Lightning jumped to an early lead 1-0, thanks to a goal from captain Stephen Stamkos. However, the avalanche took over the game from there. Colorado dominated the second half and were rewarded with goals by Nathan McKinnon and Arturi Likonen. The Avs advanced 2-1 into the locker room and shut down Lightning from there.
Colorado completely extinguished Tampa Bay in the third period. The Lightning didn’t get a shot at Darcy Kuemper until there were about 10 minutes left in regulation. Not content with just sitting around and waiting for the time to pass, Avs has been pretty aggressive in the last 20 minutes, making life very difficult for Lightning. Even on the empty net, Tampa Bay failed to get good shots on Darcy Comber.
After finishing at the bottom of the NHL standings just five years ago, the avalanche lifted the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001, and they did so against one of the greatest teams in the salary cap era.
Avalanche complete renovation
In the 2016-2017 season, the avalanche went 22-56-4, the worst mark in the NHL. Just five years later, the team is skating the Stanley Cup around the Amalie Arena after the Tampa Bay Lightning was fired.
General Manager Joe Sakic had a plan for this avalanche team, and he executed it to perfection. Since that terrible year in 2016-2017, only Colorado has climbed, starting with the draft that summer. In fact, the Avs slipped to the No. 4 overall pick in the draft lottery, but succeeded because the team drafted Cale Makar, who had just won the Conn Smythe award as the best post-season player. That leap began rebuilding Colorado, and the franchise never looked back from there. It’s been several years since the Stanley Cup Avalanche was made, and it probably wasn’t nearly finished.
Nathan McKinnon gets it
The first five games of the Stanley Cup Final were bound to be frustrating for McKinnon. Entering Game 6, he only had one goal with 28 shots, but he kept slipping away and was the biggest team-maker in the avalanche in their back-to-back win.
McKinnon was the heart and soul of Avalanche throughout its rebuilding, and he developed into a top-five player in the league. Despite his bad luck in the Stanley Cup Final, McKinnon maintained his poise and refused to be discouraged. In Game 6, McKinnon scored the equalizer and assisted in the winning goal by Laconon. Given how much McKinnon meant for the avalanche, it was only fitting that he was the one who introduced in this game.
Impressive race finish in Tampa
The Tampa Bay Lightning has fallen by only two wins after winning three consecutive Stanley Cups, something that has only been done five times in NHL history. While that loss would be painful, Lightning still managed one of the most impressive courses in the salary cap era.
The Lightning has won 11 consecutive playoffs, which is a massive achievement when you consider the limitations that salary cap, free agency, expansion draft and the pandemic have imposed on teams in recent years. Everyone from general manager Julian Presboa to coach John Cooper to the players deserve all the praise in the world for consistently delivering in a three-year period. I doubt Tampa Bay is going anywhere soon, and it would probably be a mistake to think otherwise. The team is still full of talent, but we can still appreciate the greatness he has shown in each of the last three seasons.
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