Follow our live coverage of Avalanche vs. Lightning Game 4 in the Stanley Cup Final.
TAMPA, Fla. – Wearing a gray suit and sitting between his parents and general manager Joe Sakic at the NHL Awards ceremony, Cale Makar did all the right things. He sipped water, clapped at the proper times and laughed at host Kenan Thompson’s jokes. He never showed too much emotion: He’s humble to begin with and, with the Avalanche playing against the Lightning for the Stanley Cup, had bigger goals in mind than an individual honor. He made that clear when accepting the Norris Trophy, awarded annually to the league’s top defenseman. His focus wasn’t straying from his bigger goal.
“We’ve got some important things to do tomorrow,” he said on the eve of Game 4 while thanking his teammates in his speech.
Makar’s win leads off 20 observations – one for every Nathan MacKinnon point this postseason – heading into Wednesday’s Avalanche-Lightning contest:
2. Here’s how Makar’s mom, Laura, described her emotions shortly after watching her son win the Norris: “Enormous pride and gratitude for everyone who has helped him with every step of the way. And all the players. He couldn’t do this on his own. ”
3. Makar is the first player in franchise history to win the Norris, but former Avalanche defenseman Ray Bourque won five times with the Bruins and finished second in his only full season with Colorado. The Hall of Famer called Makar and Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman “the two best” defensemen in the league.
“Hedman has been there for quite a while now and has made his mark,” he said ahead of the Stanley Cup. “Cale is going to make his mark. I think he’s going to be running with the Norris Trophy: Once he wins it once, he’s going to be holding onto that thing for a little while. ”
From a family chicken soup recipe to Norris Trophy winner.@Peter_Baugh has more on the rise of Cale Makar: https: //t.co/Sn7tZIz81s https://t.co/vBJxBEzhGk
– The Athletic NHL (@TheAthleticNHL) June 22, 2022
4. Here’s Paul Coffey, a three-time Norris winner, to The Athletic ‘s Joe Smith: “Makar has it all, does it all, has a pretty incredible IQ, thinks the game, knows the game, knows who he’s playing against. I just think he’s one of those guys who knows where everyone is on the ice at all times. ”
5. Avalanche owners Stan and Josh Kroenke were both in Tampa for the award ceremony. They sat at a table with NHL commissioner Gary Bettman, and all clapped along when Makar was announced as the winner.
Gary Bettman and the Kroenkes say congratulations to Cale Makar. pic.twitter.com/4540Y8IxxD
– Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 22, 2022
6. Flames assistant general manager Chris Snow, who is battling ALS, presented the Norris with his family. Before the event, Makar chatted with Snow’s two kids. Here’s a photo from Chris’ wife, Kelsie:
Just three Calgary kids… ❤️ pic.twitter.com/UoncJLzzBd
– Kelsie Snow (@kelsieswrites) June 22, 2022
7. Thompson, known for his long run on “Saturday Night Live,” had multiple lines that drew laughs, the best of which was reminding the audience that, although there were hockey players in attendance, there was to be “no fighting. This is the NHL Awards, not the Oscars. ”
8. Makar barely won the Norris. He finished with 1,631 points, compared to 1,606 for Nashville’s Roman Josi. Josi actually had more first-place votes (98 to 92) but Makar had the big edge in second-place tallies (98-76). Hedman and Boston’s Charlie McAvoy also received first- and second-place votes.
An incredibly close race. Roman Josi finishes with more first place votes, but Cale Makar wins his first career Norris Trophy. https://t.co/ERqlKLQjmI
– Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 21, 2022
Makar made sure to acknowledge both Josi and Hedman, who finished second and third, respectively, in his acceptance speech.
“You guys pushed me very hard along the way,” he said.
9. Trevor Zegras, up for the Calder, was the best-dressed attendee. He donned a green patterned suit and snazzy brown shoes.
– Anaheim Ducks (@AnaheimDucks) June 21, 2022
10. Josi made a point of wishing Sakic luck before leaving the ceremony.
11. Lost in the Makar hype: Devon Toews finished with his second-consecutive top-11 Norris Trophy finish. He was 11th in 2021 and eighth this season.
12. Other Avalanche awards notes:
• Defenseman Bowen Byram received one vote for the All-Rookie team. He almost certainly would have finished higher if healthier for the entire season.
• Sakic is one of three finalists for GM of the year, which will be announced at a later date.
• Makar made the first All-Star team.
• MacKinnon had the sixth-most voting points of any center on All-Star ballots. Mikko Rantanen had the third-most voting points of any right wing, so he missed the second All-Star team by one place. Darcy Kuemper was seventh in goalie All-Star voting, and Toews was eighth for defensemen.
• Makar finished eighth in Hart Trophy voting and ranked as high as second on one ballot. Josi, interestingly, finished higher despite coming in second in Norris balloting. He was sixth.
13. Here’s my awards ballot:
In honor of transparency, here’s my awards ballot. pic.twitter.com/uiqrifGsjw
– Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 22, 2022
14. Colorado lost Game 3 for many reasons, and Valeri Nichuhshkin’s overturned goal likely wasn’t the main one. But the amount of time Tampa Bay had to decide whether or not to challenge irked Bednar and some players, including MacKinnon, who assisted the would-have-been goal.
“They were about to drop the puck and everyone started screaming again,” he said. “I don’t know the rule and how much time they had to look at it, but I don’t think it’s three minutes. … I think the ref’s got to drop it. I don’t know what they’re waiting for. They had their chance. ”
Added Bednar: “I don’t know what else to tell you. It was probably three times the length we normally get. ”
15. That frustration isn’t to suggest Colorado failed to take accountability for the loss.
“I thought we did some good things tonight,” Bednar said. “Wasn’t consistent enough. (There were) the execution and some of the turnovers. … They executed quickly on our mistakes. ”
16. Jared Bednar gave no hints in regards to his starting goaltender for Game 4. Asked if he’d go back to Darcy Kuemper after pulling him in Game 3, Bednar replied, “That’s one possibility.”
17. Nazem Kadri skated with the group at the team’s optional skate Tuesday, and Bednar seems encouraged with his progress.
“He seems to be getting better every day,” Bednar said. “I believe he is an option for us at some point. I’m not sure how soon. ”
Just because of his participation at practice, it seems like he could even be an option for Game 4. He still isn’t shooting as hard as normal, but he appears closer and closer to ready. Forward Nicolas Aube-Kubel logged fewer than seven minutes of playing time in Game 3. If Kadri can play more than that at a level close to his normal abilities, he’ll be a valid option for Bednar.
Bednar did not have as positive an update on Andre Burakovsky. The winger has not yet traveled to Tampa Bay and is receiving treatment. Bednar said, though, that he’ll resume skating soon.
“I believe if he doesn’t skate today he’ll skate tomorrow,” Bednar said Tuesday.
18. Slot. Slot. Slot, slot, slot, slot. Did I get the LMFAO song lyrics correct? Regardless, the slot is going to need to be the focus for Colorado in Game 4. As written about in the aftermath of Game 3, the Lightning dominated in slot chances, especially in the early portion of the game. Here’s what the final heat map looked like:
Heat map of shot attempts from last game. pic.twitter.com/rZw9eEsucS
– Peter Baugh (@Peter_Baugh) June 21, 2022
“I think a lot of it is our own puck touches, cleaning it up, trying to get out of our zone a little cleaner,” Jack Johnson said. “Give them credit. They played well (Monday). it was definitely their night. There were a lot of things we can clean up in our end, and we’ll eliminate some of those scoring chances against. ”
19. MacKinnon was the first Avalanche player on the ice for an optional skate Tuesday. He went through a variety of types of shots, including backhands from the circle and normal wrist shots. He and JT Compher also rotated a drill in which one player held their stick like a defender on the ice and the other player attempted to shoot past it.
MacKinnon is still looking for his first goal of the series. He’s been a quality playmaker, though, and Bednar doesn’t believe he’s pressing.
“Everyone is going to look at the stats and just the stats of goals and assists and points,” the coach said. “But there’s more to the game than that for me. It’s a group of five on the ice, and I think that line has been doing a real nice job through the series. … They’re playing really well. ”
“I like the looks,” MacKinnon said. “Obviously, I’ve got to find the back of the net. That’s my job. ”
20. Mikhail Maltsev is now up with the main group. He previously wore No. 11, but Andrew Cogliano took the number after the trade deadline. Maltsev now appears to be No. 98 with the Avalanche.
(Top photo: Geoff Burke / USA Today)