With a 12-2 record, the Avalanche have won two rounds, lost just two games, and are making their first Stanley Cup Final appearance in 21 years.
In 2016, AHL champion’s coach Jared Bednar replaced Avalanche head coach Patrick Roy, who unexpectedly resigned a year earlier. Following the Avalanche’s lousy 48-point season, most if not all people in the hockey world agreed that Joe Sakic should be fired.
Yet, the Avalanche remained patient at a time when Sakic could have been terminated. Sakic could have relieved Bednar of his duties as well and traded away several key players.
Colorado’s resilience resulted in Sakic and Bednar taking the lead as Colorado plays for the Stanley Cup five years later, taking on the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
“It’s a belief. It’s a belief in your core,” said Sakic during Media Day on Tuesday. “You have to learn, you have to grow and over time we kept getting a little bit better.”
Many questioned Bednar’s ability to coach this team through the big moments after the six-game series loss to Vegas last year. Sakic, though, stuck with his coach in a summer marked by changing depths and a new starting goalie position. The lessons Bednar learned over the past three years are evident in what the 2022 Avalanche have achieved so far. Check out the best bookmakers for betting on the NHL!
“We had to focus on what it would take to win come playoff time right from Day 1 of training camp,” Bednar said. “It’s really helped our group in its consistency.”
As of Tuesday, it’s still unknown whether Avalanche center Nazem Kadri will play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. Kadri suffered a thumb injury in the Western Conference Finals Game 3 and had to undergo surgery. The centerman has been practicing in front of the team since then but without a stick.
Kadri has not taken part in any team practices so far. Without any practice today with teammates, it would be hard to put him into the Cup Final without any preparation.
Kadri and Andrew Cogliano were not on Tuesday’s skate. Among those who practiced on Tuesday were goaltender Darcy Kuemper, defenceman Jack Johnson and Ryan Murray.
Lightning’s winger Pierre-Edouard Bellemare still has a soft spot for Avalanche fans. Particularly since Front Range fans embraced Kadri after Jordan Binnington threw a water bottle at him last month, and St. Louis fans did worse.
“I think that was cool for him that everybody here [in Denver] embraced him,” Bellemare told Denver Post’s Sean Keeler during Stanley Cup Media Day. “I think you need that … I think it’s good to know that somebody has your back.”
During the 2019-21 seasons, Bellemare played with Kadri and the Avalanche. He agreed to a two-year, one-way deal with the Lightning late last July after scoring 18 goals and 33 points in 122 games with the Avalanche. He said it was one of the toughest calls of his career, but he couldn’t pass up the chance to join a two-time Stanley Cup champion.
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