The final series of the Stanley Cup of the 2021/2022 season is taking place with a clear advantage for Colorado. However, let’s not forget that earlier in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Rangers also led Tampa 2-0, and then lost four times in a row and were eliminated from the tournament.
It is unlikely that the “avalanches” will step on the same rake, but there is definitely no hatred mood in Jared Bednar’s team. Colorado played consistently in the regular season, and added more in the playoffs and reached a whole new level of play. It’s nice that among the main stars of the Avalanche in the person of Makar, Rantanen, Lehkonen, McKinnon and Landeskog there is also a Russian hockey player – an overall striker Valery Nichushkin.
“He’s special and made for the playoffs.” Nichushkin ruins Tampa by entering the finals MVP
A native of Chelyabinsk has always been considered a ramming and power attacker, but in the current playoffs, Valery proved that he can score points and be creative in attack. To date, the Russian has already eight goals and five assists, Nichushkin is the third sniper for Colorado in the playoffs.
Could anyone imagine such a thing at a time when the Chelyabinsk citizen clung with all his might to his last chance in the NHL and signed up for the Avalanche for ridiculous money by hockey standards? Nichushkin can be safely nominated for the Breakthrough of the Year award, and in a successful scenario, the striker is able to take a swing at the MVP title. Let’s see how the final confrontation will develop further.
“He was so useless.” The sharp rise of Nichushkin – happiness and the problem of “Colorado”
There is another twist to this whole story. In total, Colorado has won two Stanley Cups – this is the 1995/1996 season (immediately after changing the name from the Quebec Nordiques and moving from Quebec to Denver) and the 2000/2001 season. In the second case, none of the Russian hockey players raised the coveted bowl over their heads, but for the first time two Russians won the trophy at once – defender Alexei Gusarov and forward Valery Kamensky.
Both are members of the Triple Golden Club and famous Russian hockey players. By the way, the Latvian defender Sandis Ozoliņš, who recently worked in the coaching staff of Torpedo, also played in that championship team, and Joe Sakic, the current general manager of Colorado, was recognized as the MVP of the playoffs.
The team was led by Mark Crawford. It is a pity that striker Andrei Kovalenko, who spent 26 matches in the 1995/1996 season, did not get to the title, but was then exchanged to Montreal.
“In the 1996 final we won 4-0, but the series was tough, especially the goalless last match, which went into the third overtime. At the same time, the current Colorado is somewhat similar to ours, but it still lacks the main thing – the best goaltender in the league, which was then Patrick Roy. Now this best goalkeeper is in the opponent’s squad.
What do my “Colorado” and the current one have in common? Both teams are supporters of the attacking style, both have pronounced shock units. At one time, Peter Forsberg, Claude Lemieux, and I received almost the entire majority, our captain Joe Sakic always came out to reinforce. We felt each other with our eyes closed.
I am very glad that in the group of leaders – next to McKinnon, Rantanen, Landeskog – our Valery Nichushkin. Someone reveals himself at the age of 20, and someone closer to 30, when Nichushkin nevertheless won the chance to be a team leader and confirmed his talent, ”said the famous master Valery Kamensky.
Valery Kamensky and Sandis Ozoliņš with the Stanley Cup
Photo: Getty Images
Of course, Nichushkin is still far from the legends, but Valery is still able to go down in history, as he may well become only the third Russian champion in Colorado in 26 years.
For this, it is important for the forward not to slow down and continue to stick to his game, but Nichushkin has already played enough for a new, much fatter contract in the NHL. The question is which club. Colorado has a lot of players whose contracts expire at the end of this season, so management has enough headaches. But so far, all the thoughts of the “avalanches” are exclusively about the further matches of the final.
By the way, in the Colorado system there is another Russian striker – Mikhail Maltsev, he has 18 matches in the regular season. If he makes at least one match in the playoffs, he will also become a champion, as was the case with Alexander Volkov when he played for Tampa.