Biggest lingering Stanley Cup Final questions: Lightning’s power-play woes, Kadri’s comeback, Game 5 predictions


TAMPA, Fla. — The Stanley Cup Final hits in another way when hockey’s Holy Grail is within the constructing.

After 4 video games, the Colorado Avalanche lead the Tampa Bay Lightning, 3-1. The Stanley Cup can be in the home in Denver on Friday night time with its white-gloved handlers.

“They seem to be a crew that is seeking to develop into a dynasty. We’re a crew that is seeking to begin a legacy,” Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar mentioned.

Listed below are six questions on the remainder of the Stanley Cup Closing, from how the Lightning may rally to who the playoff MVP could possibly be if the collection closes out this week.

Can the Avalanche shut this out in 5?

On Every day Wager earlier than the collection, I famous that the Avalanche successful in 5 video games had the bottom odds of any state of affairs on the sportsbooks. This struck me as curious, because the Lightning have been the picks of many pundits.

Because the saying goes: Comply with the cash.

However bringing a crew to the brink of elimination is completely different from eliminating it. No disrespect to the groups that the Avalanche swept, however the Tampa Bay Lightning aren’t the Nashville Predators minus Juuse Saros, nor are they the Edmonton Oilers minus considered one of Leon Draisaitl‘s functioning legs. Closing out the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions can be troublesome.

What the Lightning hope is that the immensity of the second makes it much more troublesome for Colorado.

“Clearly, they’re in all probability preaching ‘They’ve by no means been right here, they will be tight,’ and that is honest. However we’ll be able to go,” Avalanche star Nathan MacKinnon mentioned.

He is proper. Steven Stamkos: “The sensation sucks now clearly, however the collection wasn’t received tonight. We all know what it feels prefer to be of their footwear, to have an opportunity, clearly, to win at house. It is not a straightforward factor to do. It is a fairly nerve-wracking day.”

That it’s. Game 5. Sequence on the road on house ice. An opponent on the ropes.

If this sounds acquainted, it is as a result of the Avalanche have been simply right here within the second spherical towards the St. Louis Blues and so they blew it, shedding 5-4 in time beyond regulation. They ended up flying again to St. Louis and successful Recreation 6 on a purpose by Darren Helm within the last seconds.

The Avalanche have not confronted a lot in the way in which of adversity on this postseason. They did towards the Blues in that spot. Erik Johnson mentioned earlier than the Stanley Cup Closing that they do not intend to self-inflict adversity once more.

“That was a heartbreaker in Recreation 5 towards St. Louis,” Johnson mentioned. “We have been up and so they got here again. We did not really feel too good about that one. I feel previously we might be just a little rattled from that. However we went into St. Louis and received Recreation 6.

“Mentally, we have come a good distance from the place we have been. Generally you need to be taught from these losses and people defeats. For us, it has been about staying on the gasoline and never being content material.”

How will the Lightning course of their anger?

The Lightning have been on the incorrect finish of a missed name on Nazem Kadri‘s successful purpose in Recreation 4. We knew it the second the NHL was compelled to put out a statement that mentioned the Hockey Operations division confirmed with all 4 on-ice officers that they did not see a violation, and that it is a non-reviewable judgment name.

We knew it after we noticed the clip after the sport:

I had somebody who noticed the play within the area inform me that “Kadri hits the ice with MacKinnon greater than 40 ft away from the bench” and that “Kadri adjustments for actually nobody.” This clip actually helps that.

The Lightning, to a person, do not get offended. “You do not wish to let frustration seep into the room,” Nick Paul advised me after Recreation 2.

It is one thing their opponents have seen, too. “This can be a championship-caliber crew, and I do not suppose they get pissed off,” Colorado defenseman Josh Manson mentioned. “I feel they’re affected person. And so they’ll alter and so they sort of let issues go. I feel that is what’s made them so profitable.”

But if there was ever a second to embrace their internal Sith and let anger gas their energy, it will be now. It will be realizing that Recreation 4 ended on a missed name that would have delivered them an time beyond regulation energy play.

(Not that they might have executed something with it, having failed on 13 of 14 alternatives towards Colorado, however it will have been enjoyable to attempt.)

The second Lightning coach Jon Cooper walked out of his news conference after one question, quietly seething concerning the forces of the NHL — from the wage cap to the blown name — as obstacles for his crew, I believed two issues: that it was an opportunity to alter the postgame narrative, and that his authentic fury may gentle a fuse for his gamers after the emotional letdown of Recreation 4.

As a result of, once more, they’ve each proper to be offended after this:

It is not even shut.

Will particular groups determine the Stanley Cup?

Two video games on this collection have been absolute laughers. The opposite two have been time beyond regulation thrillers, as one purpose both method may have swung the collection. The Avalanche received each of these time beyond regulation video games. One of many main causes they went to the additional session? Particular groups.

There is not a extra lopsided benefit within the Stanley Cup Closing than the one which Colorado has on particular groups. After Recreation 4, Colorado is now 6-for-13 with the person benefit, having scored no less than as soon as in each sport.

“The ability play has been a key distinction for us getting well timed objectives and preserving us in video games, and guys, when they’re on the market snapping it round like that, they really feel assured and so they really feel assured of their sport,” Avs ahead Andrew Cogliano mentioned.

It could possibly be argued that their energy play modified the course of Recreation 4: The puck bounced off MacKinnon’s skate for a purpose that tied the sport 1-1. The Lightning had a first-period energy play with an opportunity to construct a two-goal lead and go for an early knockout. They failed. That they had one other energy play after MacKinnon’s purpose to retake the lead. Additionally they failed. They’ve failed on 13 of 14 alternatives on this collection towards the Colorado penalty kill.

The purpose differential within the collection is 5. The purpose differential on particular groups is six, together with a Cale Makar short-handed purpose. Do the mathematics.

“It is easy to level to that now,” defenseman Victor Hedman mentioned. “They scored a bunch of power-play objectives. We wish to preserve it 5-on-5; that is the place we’re our greatest. Our energy play is struggling, not scoring objectives, however I really feel we’re creating momentum.”

Ethical victories do not rely on the scoreboard. Energy-play objectives do. Like the ten objectives that the Lightning have given up on house ice throughout this playoff run on the penalty kill (66.7%). That is not getting it executed. That may price them the Cup.

Is Nazem Kadri one of many playoffs’ biggest redemption arcs ever?

“That is what I have been ready for my entire life just about.”

That was Kadri after Recreation 4, speaking about taking part in within the Stanley Cup Closing for the primary time in his 13-year NHL profession. The identical phrases may apply to his successful time beyond regulation purpose to maneuver the Avalanche one win from the Cup, as he returned from thumb surgical procedure to contribute to his crew.

The identical phrases may apply to Kadri being an asset slightly than a legal responsibility this postseason.

When I interviewed Kadri back in January, I may inform he was making an attempt to be a distinct man. He was bored with being the man who was suspended six instances, together with 3 times in Stanley Cup playoff collection. It price him video games in playoff collection losses to the Boston Bruins in 2018 and 2019 with the Toronto Maple Leafs. It price him final postseason with the Avalanche, when he was banned for eight video games for hitting Justin Faulk within the head.

“I feel I’ve grown from that a part of my life. I’ve grown as a participant and an individual,” he advised me.

To observe him within the playoffs is to see somebody backing up his phrases. He has 15 factors in 14 video games, together with two successful objectives. He has simply six penalty minutes. He did not earn any on that notorious play the place he went to the online onerous, collided with Blues goalie Jordan Binnington, put him out of the collection with an harm and compelled Binnington to throw a water bottle at Kadri after the game.

Take into consideration the place Kadri was after Recreation 4, getting mobbed by his teammates after scoring an time beyond regulation purpose within the Stanley Cup Closing. Now take into consideration the place he was on Could 24, scoring a hat trick against the Blues after being the topic of racist threats over social media, to the purpose the place there was elevated police presence each on the Avalanche’s crew resort in St. Louis and across the gamers’ entrance to the ice. Keep in mind what he mentioned after that sport?

“For those who hate, that one’s for them.”

That belongs on a banner on the Stanley Cup parade. Assuming there’s one.

So is that this over?

The Lightning hit all of the acquainted defiant notes after Recreation 4.

“There’s nothing to lose now,” Stamkos mentioned. “We have got to exit and have the sport of our season subsequent sport. We all know it should be troublesome. We all know they seem to be a heck of a crew over there. However we’re not going to stop. We have gone too far. Guys have sacrificed a lot to get to this place.”

However just a few of the Lightning gamers acknowledged that fatigue was an element when the sport flipped to time beyond regulation. They’ve performed 21 playoff video games this yr, and are on their third straight four-round postseason. The Avalanche have performed 18 video games however had an eight-day layoff earlier than going through the Lightning for the Cup. They tilted the ice as the sport went on, decreasing the Lightning to a counterpunch crew once more. The Avalanche have been a plus-10 in shot makes an attempt and a plus-6 in scoring probabilities in time beyond regulation.

Now they return to Denver, the place the Avalanche skated them out of the constructing for 2 video games. Again to the place coach Jared Bednar can roll out the MacKinnon line to crater the Stamkos line. Again to the place the Lightning did not seem like the Lightning.

“The mindset is to only win one sport; we do not care what occurred earlier than,” Stamkos mentioned. “There is not any level in reliving these video games. They’re executed and over with, we bought to go win one sport. That is our mindset.”

I recognize the mindset. However I would be stunned if we’re again in Tampa this weekend.

If it is over, who wins the Conn Smythe?

Do not inform MacKinnon he ended a scoring drought in Recreation 4. “What drought? I had a drought? Three video games is a drought?” he mentioned.

Whenever you rating with the frequency of Nathan MacKinnon, yeah, it’s. He has 21 factors in 18 video games, together with 12 objectives. He isn’t the main scorer on the Avalanche. That might be Cale Makar, with 27 factors in 18 playoff video games — as a defenseman.

I am not a Conn Smythe voter this yr, but when I needed to rank the candidates now, they might be:

1. Makar
2. MacKinnon
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy

I feel Vasy has been extra helpful than Nikita Kucherov or Steven Stamkos, who’re the opposite Lightning potentialities. As for the M&M boys, Makar’s record-setting offense mixed together with his valiant shutdown position towards Connor McDavid was extraordinary.

Is MacKinnon the soul of this crew? Sure. Did Makar do extra throughout for them? I feel so.

Are they each going to be ingesting from the Cup this week? Most likely.

Jersey Foul of the week

From the Stanley Cup Closing, really some of the baffling Jersey Fouls of the season:

That may be a Patrick Roy Colorado Avalanche sweater mashed up with an Andrei Vasilevskiy Tampa Bay Lightning sweater right into a No. 38 “Royvskiy” FrankenJersey. We’ve … questions.

Was this an try and honor two of the NHL’s biggest postseason goalies? Did they buy it earlier than the Stanley Cup Closing? In the event that they bought it after the matchup was set, was it meant to bridge the hole of animosity towards opponents? This was taken in Denver so we’ll assume this individual is an Avs fan — what occurs to the jersey if the Lightning win? Does it organically rip into two separate halves once more?

The Conn Smythe of preposterous playoff Fouls.

Vote of the week

I am proud to say that the final NHL Awards Watch correctly forecasted all the winners, together with Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar winning the Norris Trophy — though nobody may have predicted how slender that margin of victory would find yourself being.

The ultimate margin was 25 factors within the voting. It was the slimmest margin since P.K. Subban received the Norris in 2013 over Ryan Suter by a margin of 36 factors. It was shut, however not precisely razor-thin: Please recall Nicklas Lidstrom edging Shea Weber for the Norris by 9 factors in 2011. (Geez Nick, you could possibly have a selection the wealth just a little, trophy hog.) The Makar-Josi factor solely felt so shut as a result of Josi (98) had extra first-place votes than Makar (92).

My poll for the Norris was:

  1. Cale Makar, Colorado Avalanche

  2. Victor Hedman, Tampa Bay Lightning

  3. Roman Josi, Nashville Predators

  4. Charlie McAvoy, Boston Bruins

  5. Adam Fox, New York Rangers

I believed Fox was superior this season, however there was no method he was getting back-to-back Norris wins. He ended up fifth within the precise voting and McAvoy ended up fourth. Charlie Mac obtained one first-place vote. I do not suppose he fairly had the offensive chops because the gamers forward of him.

I advised all of the Nashville followers in my mentions that I might clarify Makar and Hedman being forward of Josi, regardless of the Predators defenseman having an absurd 96 factors in 80 video games. Let’s begin with the trophy’s standards: “To the protection participant who demonstrates all through the season the best all-round means within the place.” Let’s proceed with the operative phrase “all-round.”

Josi’s even-strength defensive metrics this season have been frankly underwhelming for an elite defenseman. He was the worst defenseman on the Predators in even-strength defensive anticipated objectives above common, per Evolving Hockey (minus-1.3). Makar was second on the Avs (5.2) and Hedman was third on the Lightning (3.8), each very a lot on the optimistic aspect of that metric.

Let’s dive just a little deeper. High Down Hockey had Josi within the twenty fourth percentile amongst defensemen at even-strength effectiveness. Makar was within the ninety fifth percentile whereas Hedman was within the 71st percentile.

Each drew more durable defensive assignments than Josi. Each performed on the penalty kill with regularity whereas Josi performed 0:43 on common per sport on the penalty kill. You do not all the time wish to penalize gamers for the coach’s utilization of them. For instance, I voted Matthew Tkachuk fifth for the Selke Trophy regardless of him not getting used on the penalty kill. However John Hynes’ resolution to preserve Josi’s vitality by preserving him off the kill — the place he averaged 2:07 per sport from 2014-15 by way of 2020-21 — and placing him in offensively advantageous conditions towards opponents impacted his Norris case. Though it is also in all probability the explanation he was sixth for the Hart.

In the long run, a 0.08 points-per-game hole between Josi and Makar wasn’t broad sufficient to place him over a D-man that had the higher “all-round” season.

Hail Makar, however nice job, Josi.

Winners and losers of the week

Winner: Auston Matthews

The Maple Leafs star was named MVP by the writers, probably the most excellent participant by the gamers and the NHL Award winner more than likely to undo shirt buttons to fight Floridian humidity.

Loser: MVP goalies

I gave critical consideration to Igor Shesterkin within the Hart Trophy vote. He was the explanation why the Rangers made the playoffs, not to mention earned 110 factors. My situation was his slight down-tick within the final quarter of the season and the very fact he performed solely 56 video games. These are cheap critiques. Much less cheap: “Goalies have their very own award!” and “You would vote a goalie MVP yearly then!” I heard each of those from voters, by the way in which.

Winner: Paul Maurice

Maurice stepped down because the Winnipeg Jets coach throughout the season, clearly burnt out and sensing there wasn’t any extra he may squeeze out of them. So now he takes over the Florida Panthers, a a lot completely different local weather (from temps to media), and takes over the defending President’s Trophy winners, whose bar is about at “advance previous the second spherical.” Slam that improve button, dude.

Loser: New faces

Let’s welcome the recent faces which have earned head-coaching jobs this offseason: Paul Maurice (1,685 regular-season NHL video games), John Tortorella (1,383), Peter DeBoer (1,015) and Bruce Cassidy (509 video games)! Up subsequent, a beginner named Barry Trotz who’s in search of an NHL head-coaching gig for a twenty fourth season.

Winner: Loudness

The Stanley Cup Closing is not simply blessed with two nice convention champions with a galaxy of stars. It is blessed with two unimaginable area experiences. From the “All The Small Issues” singalongs in Denver to the sheer quantity of the Bolts followers in Tampa who’re something however content material with two straight Cups, they’ve elevated an already epic last spherical. Particularly when you think about each of those groups have been taking part in inside empty buildings in summer season 2020. You do not know what you bought ’til it is again.

Loser: Sweetness

The Panthers are eradicating “Sweetness” by Jimmy Eat World because the crew’s purpose tune for the 2022-23 season. The band was listening (“WHOA-OH-OH-OHOHOH!”) and handed the Panthers one other postseason defeat.

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