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WESTERN CONFERENCE CHAMPS! Avalanche Going To Stanley Cup Final

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Colorado Avalanche, Clarence Campbell Trophy

EDMONTON, ALBERTA – Artturi Lehkonen with the game-winning goal. Pavel Francouz with the win in goal. Darren Helm with the faceoff win leading to the overtime winner by Lehkonen. Isn’t this how we all drew it up for the Colorado Avalanche in a scenario that would put them into the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time in 21 years?

Sure we did.

But that’s what happened tonight here at Rogers Place. Two years ago, this team lost a second-round Western Conference series in this building with no fans in the stands. Tonight, every seat was taken, most of them dressed in the burnt orange and blue colors of the Oilers.

It was almost as quiet as the last time the Avalanche finished a series here.

The Avalanche, which won the Western regular-season points title just like two years ago, got it done this time. They are going to the Stanley Cup Finals to play either the Tampa Bay Lightning or the New York Rangers in a best-of-seven series that Colorado will have home ice for.

The Colorado Avalanche Comeback

Lehkonen’s goal, early in overtime after the Avalanche fought back from a 4-2 third-period deficit, then lost a 5-4 lead, won the game. It was close to a high-stick violation, but because that’s not primarily how the goal was scored – Mike Smith let out a big rebound – Lehkonen’s goal counted on his rebound putback.

Lehkonen, acquired at the NHL trade deadline by Joe Sakic for prospect defenseman Justin Barron, has made the Avalanche general manager look very, very good. Not only is he a future Frank J. Selke candidate, he is a pretty consistent point producer too.

It is the Avs’ much-vaunted depth that is continuing to pay off. Nazem Kadri is now lost to the team to injury, but it’s the next-man-up attitude that keeps propelling this team forward.

Here’s the thing about Lehkonen: His goal put the Montreal Canadiens into the Stanley Cup Finals last year, in a game against Vegas. He’s done it AGAIN a year later, for a different team.

No biggie.

“I just got a good bounce,” the soft-spoken Finn said.

Modesty is a prime Finnish trait.

This game went back and forth all night, but the Avalanche fought back in the third to get the game tied, then got a 5-4 lead on a Mikko Rantanen goal. Zach Kassian tied it 5-5, so to OT it went. The Avalanche, maybe feeling like they were playing with some house money by that point, seemed like the looser team in OT. After Helm won a faceoff back to Cale Makar, who put a shot on net, Lehkonen got his stick on it. Smith made the save, but as was his custom all series long, allowed a big, juicy rebound. Lehkonen was only too happy to put it back in the net.

I checked in with former NHL referee Dave Jackson, who lives in Colorado now, and he told Colorado Hockey Now this about why the Lehkonen goal counted:

“The play they reviewed, the puck was determined to be below the height of his shoulders, and not a high stick. Otherwise, it would have been disallowed because Edmonton did not gain possession,” Jackson said.

Superstreak Bonus!

Jackson added: “The actual procedure is anytime in the last 60 seconds of regulation and in OT.”

Jared Bednar is now one series win away from winning a Stanley Cup along with a Calder Cup as a coach. His team has morphed better into his actual demeanor, which is: not too high, not too long. That’s exactly the demeanor Joe Sakic had as a player, and now as a GM too. (Remember how Sakic showed little emotion after Helm won Game 6 in the second round?).

 

But that’s how the Colorado Avalanche really seem to be now: focused, not getting too ahead of themselves, not whining about tough breaks of the past.

“I’m proud of the guys. We didn’t play great, especially in the second period. We talked about the importance of just coming out and playing hard in the third, and we did it. It was guys stepping up at key times and making plays,” Bednar said.

“I think this team now has shown a lot of growth,” Bednar said.

Indeed, it has. Only one more thing to prove, to grow along with: the Stanley Cup Finals. Game 1 is either June 15 or 18.

In an interview with TV after the game, Gabe Landeskog said why some people put their hands on the Western Conference trophy – which some view as a jinx: “Some guys wanted to touch it, some didn’t. Who cares?”

No such thing as jinxes.

Your game video highlights. Enjoy:

Kelsey Hammond contributed to this story

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Adrian Dater - Kiss and Larry Bird fan. Writer with @Gambling and @Bookies, Avs Insider with 104.3 The Fan. Denver Post, SI, Bleacher Report alum, author of seven books.

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sjavsfan

Great article AD and what an amazing comeback. It would have been nice to preserve the 5-4 advantage in the 3rd, but the momentum was there going into OT and they took advantage. What a great face-off win by Helm and tip by Lehkonen for the win. It’s the outcome I expected, but not even close to how I anticipated it would happen. Let’s not celebrate too much and keep this Avalanche going!!

Jeremy Barton

Duchene = eliminated, O’Reilly = eliminated, Barrie = eliminated!! HA!!

Luke Waggoner

Next up, either PEB or Nemeth!!!

aaherter

Trying to get tickets to a home finals game and damn are they stupidly pricy, been waiting 21 years for this moment again…

Last edited 5 months ago by aaherter
Donald Victory

Well how much?

aaherter

cheapest I’ve seen is $900 for game one so far.

Bob Neal

They are pretty darn expensive.

co14ers54

Use the GameTime app. I used it to see the Avs v Kraken in Seattle in November and got good tickets for a reasonable price. Sure beats Ticketbater, StubBub or any other ticketing app I’ve seen.

ricoflashback

Lehky has been one of Sakic’s absolute trade heists along with Toews. And Cogliano’s grit has really shown in the playoffs. Don’t forget the acquisition of Manson and the signing of JJ for depth. A healthy EJ makes a difference, too. Rest will help the Avs gear up for the Stanley Cup Final. Sounds sweet, doesn’t it? Rooting for the Rangers/Lightening series to go seven games with the last game a triple overtime to decide the winner.

Matt Briggle

Right now Lehky is a good trade. As an arbitration eligible RFA after this run, if Joe signs him to a reasonable contract for 4+ years then I will consider it a heist.

Fritz Kerr

Thank you so much for your prompt postings on CHN. I watch every minute of every Avs game…went to the Ball Arena tonight. Great environment, but impossible to hear any commentary, which I mostly enjoy.
I was always taught that the “line” for high sticking was the cross bar, not the players shoulder, since there’s too much variation, say EJ’s shoulder vs., Sammy G’s shoulder.

Luke Waggoner

It’s only the crossbar if it goes straight into the net. Knocking down with a high stick to the ice then shooting it in is the shoulders of the player.

Donald Victory

Exactly. Lehk’s tip was parallel anyway, and the rebound shot was toe high!

Matt Briggle

Lets not forget that Bednar also won a Kelly Cup in the ECHL as both a player and coach. I know some folks scoff at the ECHL, but it is no joke of a league and winning there speaks a lot about a coach. In the NHL you have your pick of all the players in the organization – especially in the playoffs. In the AHL, you may get your roster poached upon by the parent NHL club, but you have the ECHL affiliate to call upon for reinforcements. In the ECHL, if your roster gets poached by the parent… Read more »

Donald Victory

Bednar has evolved, finally! It takes 23 plus good coaching!

dk

If Lehkonen and Nichushkin are not Avalanche players by 12:00 noon EDT, July 13, 2022, it will be travesty and failure of an offseason.

Donald Victory

And possible standing in the way is Rantanen and his $9.25M. Frankly, I would trade Miakko for future picks since we traded away to top prospects. Oskar Olausson is in the wings and can replace Miakko. Or a more reasonable priced free agent.

John Klingenstein

Avs have 26+ million in cap room going into next year and almost another 20 million more the year after with EJ coming off the books. They are in great shape capwise. Lekhonen is restricted. Nichkushkin is going nowhere. NAK is restricted. I wouldn’t be surprised if even Kadri is back (Id give him 30 for 4 or 37 for 5). That’s less than Kadri and Burky combined now. I think Nate takes a team friendly deal like his boy Crosby did to kee0 winning for around 10 mil. So after next year you put 4 of EJs 6 into… Read more »

The_Last_Ray_Gun

Imagine thinking Oskar Olausson can replace Mikko Rantanen next year… jfc.

GWood

Comeback wins, OT wins, overcoming injuries, 7 and Oh on the road, the Avs are demonstrating all of the different traits of a championship team. Great win last night, the train is still on the track and humming along. 4 more wins to go! Great work so far fellas!

Karl Keen

WE DID IT! Four more to go! Lehkonen such a valuable pick up. So much heart to come back!

Nurse couldn’t wait one minute to state he was injured in the series. Guy is a joke.

Good riddance to the TNT telecast! Now we will get Rangers homer Messier and Chelios, lol

dp10

The Avs had a sloppy second period, but somehow you could just sense the calmness and resolve among our guys. You could sense that they were never out of the game – not at 1-3, not at 2-4! But that’s also because frankly the Oilers don’t have a very competitive defense. They have conceded 4 goals in every game, which is a bit crazy for a team that deep into the playoffs.

Karl Keen

Wanted to add it was fun seeing Landy talk with Sakic on whether or not to touch the trophy.

Also fun to hear the Avs in the background celebrating while McDavid and Leon had to talk to the press. They are amazing players.

Donald Victory

He touched it and soon will put the superstition to rest.

Bob Neal

Let’s give these guys some credit. That was a fantastic win! They look like a such a different team than in previous years with most of the same players. Joe worked some real magic with the trading deadline pickups to fix the missing pieces. Mack played fantastic two way hockey doing a great job keeping McDavid in check. Makar is now being compared to Bobby Orr. What a fun team to watch play when they bring it. I thought that was great seeing Landy ask Joe if he should touch the trophy. I think that the TNT analysts were great… Read more »

Christopher Borger

Lehkonen raised his stick over his shoulde, even the point of contact of the puck on his stick was over the shoulder. It should of been whistled down as a high stick and No goal. The Avs 3rd goal was achieved by spearing the Goalie Mike Smith in the groin irst. The Derek Ryan penalty was not a penalty making the ensuing pig a farce. This was simply a case of Classic NHL game management, they get the outcomes the league wants with timely calls. It is a shame as Colorado is a better team on paper, and probably would… Read more »

The_Last_Ray_Gun

Imagine thinking the NHL didn’t want Connor McDavid in the finals…

Jeffrey Anderson

Butt sore much?

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