With a new Stanley Cup champion getting crowned on Sunday, it's time to look back at a few moments that will stand the test of time:
5. Spicy Pork and Broccoli
This feels like years ago, considering it occurred on the second night of the playoffs. The Pittsburgh Penguins beat the New York Rangers in a wild triple-overtime affair, easily the longest game of the post-season. Despite the thrilling 4-3 contest, it was actually something that happened off the ice that resonated the most.
When starter Casey DeSmith was injured in the second overtime, backup Louis Domingue came in cold, and with a full stomach. Only 10 minutes earlier during the intermission, Domingue, not assuming he’d enter the game, ate a meal of spicy pork and broccoli, the meal provided in the visitor's dressing room at New York’s Madison Square Garden. Dominque went on to make 17 saves before Evgeni Malkin ended the game, with Dominique putting on the best performance of his career. That meal became a running joke and social media trend throughout the series, but the Penguins ultimately lost in seven games.
4. McDavid’s Furious Pace
Connor McDavid plays the game at a pace unrivaled by any player in the NHL, and he took that to another level this year. McDavid averaged 2.06 points per game in the post-season, leading the playoffs in scoring with 33 points despite playing only 16 games after the Oilers were swept in the Western Conference final. He scored three or more points six times in the playoffs, highlighted by a four-point night in Game 1 in the Battle of Alberta. The chaotic series was appropriately ended by McDavid in overtime of game five.
3. Too Many Men?
When Nazem Kadri of the Colorado Avalanche crossed the blueline to score the overtime winner in Game 4 of the Cup final, both teams had too many players on the ice. It was the Avalanche’s situation, though, that caused controversy. Kadri jumped on the ice and took a pass, split through the defenders, and scored the winner. While he did, Nathan MacKinnon, the player he was replacing, slowly left the ice. Kadri entered the playing field with MacKinnon outside the five-foot window, and then touched the puck before MacKinnon exited the ice.
Too many men isn't a reviewable call, and the speed at which it happened was so quick. Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper said his “heart breaks for the players” during a brief postgame appearance, without it being clear at the time what the situation was about. Adding to the moment was the fact almost no one in the arena knew Kadri even scored. In the end, it was called a good goal, and the Avalanche ultimately went on to win the Cup.
2. Nazem Kadri’s Hat-Trick Performance
In the face of racism, xenophobia, and threats, Kadri stepped onto the ice and had a performance for the ages during game four of the Western Conference semifinal. Kadri faced a barrage of bigotry following an incidental collision with St. Louis Blues netminder Jordan Binnington in Game 3 of that series, only to score three two nights later. You could see the emotion on Kadri’s face after each goal, and as he raised his hand to his ear to listen to the St. Louis crowd. It was a momentum shift for the Avalanche, and one of the most memorable single-game performances of the playoffs.
1. Avs Win Cup for First Time Since 2001
The last time the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup in 2001, the Avs roster featured five Hall of Famers - Joe Sakic, Ray Bourque, Patrick Roy, Peter Forsberg, and Rob Blake. It was a memorable team, but this group might be even more memorable for the absolute beating it put on the competition throughout the playoffs.
Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, Mikko Rantanen, Kadri, and Gabriel Landeskog all scored at a point-per-game pace or better throughout the playoffs. Makar hoisted the Conn Smythe as the playoff MVP only days after being awarded his first Norris Trophy, while veterans like Erik and Jack Johnson finally got their time with the hardest championship hardware to win in sports.