The Stanley Cup being back in Denver brings back a flood of memories
It was like 21 years had never happened. I was hanging out at Blake Street Tavern for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final and it was deja vu all over again.
The energy. The anticipation. The coming together of friends and strangers all rooting for a common goal. It was awesome. It is special. Nights like Wednesday don’t come around often and they need to be cherished.
This felt just like 2001 when the Avs were last winning the Cup. It felt like 2007 during Rocktober. The city was alive. The streets were packed. The weather was warm. It’s like a switch was flipped and suddenly everyone has gone Avs Crazy. I love it.
Thoughts and observations from Game 1:
• Of course Andre Burakovsky was the hero. Naturally, the guy who has been in and out of the lineup for injury and poor play is the player who steps up at the most crucial time to drill home the game winner. This Avs’ playoff run has featured a “who’s going to be the hero tonight?” kind of feel. When it’s Burakovsky who delivers, it just reaffirms what a special team this is.
• I know playoff overtime hockey is supposed to be the most-stressful thing ever, but try as I might to summon up that anxiety for OT, I just didn’t feel it. I am shocked at how confident I am in this team going into overtime. I just know someone is going to step up and it won’t take long. Judging by their 4-1 OT record I guess, it’s easier to be relaxed heading into OT.
• Darcy Kuemper was back between the pipes and I remain unconvinced he can carry this team to the Cup. Then again, it might not matter if he can’t. Kuemper is on pace to have the worst save percentage of any of the playoff qualifying goaltenders. Darcy’s playoff save percentage is .895. For comparisons sake, red-hot goalies post about a .940. Good goalies are around .920. Average is .900. Darcy has been average to below average. In fact, add in Pavel Francouz’ .906 save percentage and the two goalies have a combined .899 save percentage. That should get you beat. Instead the Avs are a ridiculous 13-2 in these playoffs. That tells you how great this team has been.
• Avs players and coach Bednar continue to talk about this team’s mindset whenever they deal with adversity or a stretch of poor play. They talk about staying in the moment. Not letting poor play linger. This goes hand in hand with them being so open about talking about the painful lessons they learned last year against Vegas. This team is so mentally tough and focused. Add in their undeniable hunger to win and you see what makes them so formidable.
• Loved the Avs’ physicality in Game 1. They matched the Lightning hit for hit. Special shutout to Darren Helm who had 10 hits. What a pickup by Joe Sakic. Cheap money for a guy who doesn’t tend to stand out during the regular season, but in the playoffs, when all the little things become magnified, a guy like Helm can really shine. And man has he.
• Looking ahead to Game 2, it comes down to what does Tampa Bay have left in the tank? For all this talk about Tampa’s experience and being unfazed because they’ve been in situations like this before, most recently in their last series against the Rangers, Game 2 will tell the tale. If the Lightning have any hopes of winning this series they have to win Saturday. Yeah, they dropped the first two on the road in New York, but the Avs aren’t the Rangers. Avs win on Saturday? I’d start prepping for a parade.