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Stanley Cup Final Game Four: Hail to the Kuemperor

by Clyde E. Dawkins 2 months ago in hockey · updated 2 months ago
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Darcy Kuemper's bounce back and Nazem Kadri's OT winner result in the Colorado Avalanche moving one win away from the Stanley Cup

There was a bit of unrest in the Colorado Avalanche fanbase after Game Three. Let's get one thing straight: the Avalanche were not sweeping the Tampa Bay Lightning. Fans knew (or had to have known) that the Lightning would try to strike back big time in Game Three, especially after the shellacking they received in Game Two. The Bolts won 6-2 to get on the board in this year's Stanley Cup Final, and Game Four became pivotal for both teams. A Tampa Bay win means that the series would be deadlocked entering Game Five in Denver. A Colorado win means that they could go home with a chance to win the whole thing on home ice.

The centerpiece of the unrest was Avalanche goaltender Darcy Kuemper, who--despite getting a shutout in Game Two--wasn't being treated like a star goalie. Even though four of the five goals he gave up in Game Three could easily be blamed on miscues made by the defensemen, Kuemper still seems to get all of the scrutiny and blame. Game Four was Kuemper's chance to silence all of the doubters, but it was a bad start for him right at the get-go.

Anthony Cirelli scored just 36 seconds into the game, and all I could say was, "Where's the whistle?!" The reason was simple: Kuemper's helmet came off, but despite this, play continued--even though play is supposed to be stopped when the goaltender loses his helmet. As a result, the Lightning led 1-0, and it would begin an absolutely disastrous period for Colorado. The Bolts outshot the Avs 17-4, with the ironic added bonus that two of Colorado's four shots were on Tampa Bay's power play. Despite this, the score remained 1-0 in Tampa Bay's favor, thanks to Kuemper stopping the next 16 shots that he faced.

In the 2nd period, the Avalanche began to get the shots, then a power play was awarded for the road team. The Avs were rewarded, as Nathan MacKinnon finally picked up his first Stanley Cup Final goal of his career to tie the game. So Colorado had some momentum, but just over five minutes later, Victor Hedman's backhand shot went in past Kuemper, and Tampa Bay regained their lead. Colorado had another power play, but nothing came of that, and after 40 minutes, the Lightning led 2-1.

The 3rd period was Colorado's moment of truth, and they struck early. Nearly three minutes into regulation's final frame, Andrew Cogliano (who was on the Dallas Stars team who reached the Final in the bubble) tied it up at 2--with Nico Sturm and Bowen Byram getting the assists. The rest of the 3rd period saw chances from both teams, as well as both teams getting away with a lot, as the refs decided to have a "let them play" attitude for the rest of the way. Kuemper and Andrei Vasilevskiy got key stops the rest of the way, and as a result, 60 minutes would not be enough to settle things.

Game Four went to overtime, the second OT game in this year's Final. The Avs had their chances, but Vasilevskiy stopped them throughout the first few minutes. By the time OT went past the halfway mark, the Avalanche pressed hard; they were all over Vasi until the puck was cleared. Kuemper retrieved the puck and passed it to Artturi Lehkonen, who later passed it to Nazem Kadri, who was playing his first game since Game Three of the Western Conference Final. Kadri shoots it, and it's believed to be saved by Vasilevskiy...except it wasn't. The puck was lodged inside the top of the net, and Byram pointed this out before the team started celebrating! The replay showed that Kadri clearly shot the puck right in the back of the net and it stayed up there, and as a result, it was officially a good goal, and the Avalanche won in overtime!

Nazem Kadri's goal was his seventh of this year's playoffs, and his first career Stanley Cup Final goal, as well as his first career playoff OT winner. This was a hard road back for Kadri; he had been sidelined ever since the end of the Western Conference Final, missing Game Four and missing the first three games of the Cup Final. There was some concern that Kadri may have returned too early. With this goal, it looks like he returned right on time.

Can we please treat Darcy Kuemper with the respect he deserves? Is he Vasilevskiy or Shesterkin? No. But is he an amazing goaltender who can pull out big wins when needed? Yes. Kuemper needed a bounce back game after Game Three blew up in his face, and he definitely delivered. Not only did he hold the fort down and pick up 37 saves in the victory, he had an assist--an assist--on Kadri's overtime winner! I'd say that's more than enough to show that Kuemper has proved his worth to this team.

The Colorado Avalanche are one win away. Let me repeat that: the Colorado Avalanche are one win away. The Avs never led in this game; they had two one-goal deficits that they tied up, but they never had an in-game lead. Colorado is now 5-1 in OT games in the 2022 playoffs, with two of their five wins coming in this year's Final. As for the Tampa Bay Lightning, their backs are really to the wall. They have never been down 3-1 in any of their past four Stanley Cup Final appearances--even in the one they lost in 2015. Also, this is the first time they've faced elimination in the 2022 playoffs since the opening round against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

2022 Norris Trophy winner Cale Makar

Game Five is Friday in Denver. The Avalanche will be there. The Lightning will be there. So many screaming fans will be there. But most importantly, the Stanley Cup will be there. One day before Game Four took place in Tampa Bay, the NHL Awards took place. One of the core awards given out was the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league's best defensemen, and this year, that award went to Cale Makar, who beat out Victor Hedman and Roman Josi this year. Makar scored 28 goals this regular season, leading defensemen in that category. He had an assist in Game Four, giving him 27 points in this year's playoffs. With all of that, Makar might add not one, but two more trophies on Friday: the Stanley Cup and the Conn Smythe Trophy.

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About the author

Clyde E. Dawkins

Born on March 18, 1985. I am an avid fan of sports and wrestling, and I've been a fan of female villains since the age of eight. Also love movies--especially comedy and horror--and among my favorite TV shows are The Simpsons and Family Guy

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  • Babs Iverson2 months ago

    Fantastic!!!đź’–đź’•

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