We’re two video games into the 2022 Stanley Cup Last, and it has been something however even. The Colorado Avalanche have a commanding 2-0 sequence lead over the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. The Avalanche seems sooner, smarter, and hungrier than Tampa Bay, however no staff is in actual hassle till they lose on dwelling ice. The Lightning look to regain some momentum within the sequence on Monday evening, nevertheless it would not look good for the defending champs.
The Conn Smythe race is beginning to spherical into its last kind as Sport 3 looms over the horizon. Presently, the race, in my thoughts, has 4 gamers realistically within the operating. Nonetheless, it is extra of a two-horse race with the latter two barely holding on, but when the Lightning claws their means again into the sequence after Video games 3 and 4, then issues would possibly develop into actually fascinating.
Listed here are my rankings for the Conn Smythe after two video games within the Stanley Cup Last:
1. Cale Makar
Makar is arguably the most important game-breaker between each groups (and these groups have some large game-breakers on their rosters), impacting the sport in all three zones. Actually, the hole between Makar and the following participant on this record is huge in my eyes—and the second participant on this record has been unreal in his personal proper. His offensive brilliance is blatantly clear, however his defensive play has been close to immaculate via the sequence’ first two video games. He’s tied for the lead in factors (24 with Nikita Kucherov) of energetic gamers left within the playoffs; he holds the Avalanche’s document for many factors by a defenseman in a postseason—thoughts you, he is executed this in solely 16 video games to this point.
Makar is unbelievable to look at—the dynamism he brings on each shift can alter a recreation in a blink. He is shortly incomes the title of most full defenseman within the NHL, and he is doing it in opposition to a staff with Victor Hedman. Take a look at this shorthanded aim in Sport 2; it is a factor of magnificence from begin to end.
2. Nathan MacKinnon
MacKinnon is one of the best ahead on arguably one of the best staff within the league and the probably new champion. He embodies all the pieces Colorado desires to do offensively; quick, aggressive, tenacious, and has the ending capacity that rivals anybody on the high echelon of the NHL. Certain, he’ll be talked about in passing as one of many higher forwards within the league, however these playoffs, he is been unreal for Colorado. 20 factors via 16 video games, 11 of these being objectives (essentially the most of any participant left within the playoffs) and the de facto chief on the ice. It looks like he’s criminally underrated by many within the league.
MacKinnon has ascended to a unique aircraft of existence these playoffs. Nonetheless, he is elevated himself much more within the Last. By the primary two video games, the Avalanche have out-attempted (34-12), outshot (12-4), generated extra scoring possibilities (15-5) and excessive hazard possibilities (7-2), and have generated an anticipated objectives price of 82 p.c with MacKinnon on the ice. These are online game numbers, people.
What else are you able to ask of MacKinnon? He is enjoying like a person possessed by one aim—to hoist the Stanley Cup. The one knock in opposition to him? He performs on a staff with Makar, who has been flat-out higher in all facets.
There’s a large chasm between the highest two and the underside two for this rating given how the sequence has progressed to this point.
3. Andrei Vasilevskiy
One of the best goaltender on the planet has been something however that via the primary two video games of the Last. He is appeared rattled, one thing we have not seen since his rookie season, and the sheer quantity of questionable objectives he is allowed has some questioning if the entire high-pressure playoff video games he is been previously three years have lastly caught as much as him.
The staff in entrance of him hasn’t helped him, however make no mistake, Vasilevskiy has not been good to begin this sequence. He managed decently sufficient after letting in three objectives in Sport 1, however Sport 2 was an absolute slaughter, and the Massive Cat was soundly overwhelmed each which means from Sunday by the Avalanche.
The numbers bear this out, Vasilevskiy, the reigning Conn Smythe winner, is sporting a .838 save proportion and a 5.5 goals-against common via two video games.
If there’s any goaltender who has clearly proven their capacity to bounce again and dominate a sequence, it is Vasilevskiy. He’s the catalyst for Tampa Bay’s three-peat bid, and even after two ugly video games, he’s nonetheless sporting a .918 save proportion total—greater than ok to win a sequence. If Vasilevskiy bounces again, as his historical past has proven, the Avalanche is perhaps gripping their sticks somewhat tighter.
4. Nikita Kucherov
He is Tampa Bay’s most dynamic ahead and is tied for the lead in factors with Makar (24) amongst energetic gamers within the playoffs. He is proven flashes of brilliance within the early going of this sequence, particularly, his lovely play on Ondrej Palat’s aim in Sport 1.
Nonetheless, the Lightning goes as Kucherov goes, which was abundantly clear in Sport 2 as Colorado waxed Kucherov and Tampa Bay in a drubbing we have not seen for the reason that Nineties.
Simply as Vasilevskiy will probably bounce again and provides his staff an opportunity to win, Kucherov has to raise his recreation as soon as once more to maintain his staff’s hopes alive. With a clearly ailing Brayden Level and Steven Stamkos extra in a secondary scoring position at this level in his profession, Kucherov would be the driving power that would deliver Tampa Bay again into the sequence.
His previous postseasons showcase how dominant of a participant he’s and the way he may’ve gained both Conn Smythe the previous two playoffs, and that is what retains him on this record. You do not rely out gamers like him till they’re eradicated.