TAMPA – The driver of this bus stumbles upon several potholes and does his best to get around them and eventually pass through them.
McKinnon did not remain neutral, nor was he forced to leave the road to choose an alternative path.
But one night in which Tampa Bay Lightning the stars shone brightly, it is impossible to ignore the fact that McKinnon has not scored a goal so far in the fourth and final round.
This is not a small amount for his presentation, far from it.
McKinnon faces one of the NHL’s best defenses in Anthony Sirelli, a man who will make it a habit to take part in the Selke debate for years to come.
When you’re two wins, winning the first Stanley Cup of your career should be difficult.
And what we do know about MacKinnon is that it’s fully on, even if it doesn’t produce at its usual ridiculous speed.
Perhaps the most important thing for MacKinnon after Avalanche lost Game 3 6-2 was how he handled the issues of his mini dry period.
He was completely calm and showed no outward signs of disappointment, another sign of progress for someone who cared so much that he occasionally pulled him off the track in past playoffs.
The intensity was obvious, but it wasn’t the kind of player beating himself from the inside out.
“I like the look. “Obviously I have to find the back of the net,” said McKinnon, who had six shots on goal and 13 attempts on Monday night. – This is my job.
Scoring goals is definitely part of his job and he has more than lasted until the end of the deal through 17 games, scoring 11 goals and 20 points in 17 games – all the while managing aplomb in the toughest defensive matches.
The thing about McKinnon is that he may be less interested in how much he produces, as long as his team is successful.
The other part of the equation is that the Avalanche are not a one-line team to be worn by MacKinnon, although he remains an incredibly important player in this regard.
Earlier in the playoffs, Avalanche winger Miko Rantanen went through a period where he had trouble finding the back of the net, scoring just one goal with an empty net in the first two rounds.
Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar was quick to praise Rantanen for the look he gets, and Rantanen himself said in the morning of match 1 of the Western Conference final that he was pleased with his game.
In case you forgot how Rantanen responded, it was by scoring a goal in every game of the Oilers series and he transferred that momentum to this series with Lightning.
With that in mind, Rantanen was asked if he could give McKinnon advice, given that he endured such a time.
“I do not think I should say (anything). He is a good enough player. He knows what to do, “Rantanen said. “He plays well and creates chances for other boys, and he also had some chances in all three games. We’ve all been there. At this point in the year, you’re trying to do everything you can to help the team win. He plays well. Everyone just has to stay with him. You can’t be disappointed at this time of year.
Bednar didn’t sound the least bit worried about McKinnon when asked about him on the podium, noting that he was much better prepared to deal with the lull in production.
“The last thing you want to do is be disappointed, especially if you get opportunities. Eventually they come. You have no choice as a player but to stick to him, “said the coach. “You know you’re doing the right thing, you’re creating chances, you’re helping your teammates create situations. You just have to stick to it and keep going. In the end, you will break through. “
One of the things that stood out in Avalanche’s team game on Monday was that they didn’t spend nearly as much time playing at hyper speed.
Stubborn preliminary testing was not as effective and did not generate almost as much speed as in the first two games.
In terms of defense, Avalanche were also not so clean and for the first time in the Lightning series they reached the net and created a lot of Class A opportunities, scoring three of the six goals from the slot.
Avalanche are already 14-3 in these playoffs and after the two previous losses, they responded with great effort, winning both games.
This is a trend that they would like to continue and they understand the necessary adjustments to make this happen.
“Nothing we haven’t done all year,” said the Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. “When you win, you don’t celebrate too much, and if you lose, you don’t fuss too much. You stay steady. We’ll be back and we’ll be fine. I trust our group. We will come back and have a good match 4. ”
“They played with a little more despair,” said the Avalanche defender Josh Manson. “I thought we had a pretty good start, but you need to be able to clean up some of the things we haven’t done well. We gave them life.
“You can’t be disappointed with that. They lost 7-0 (in Game 2). You erase the cleanliness. You go out the next night. That’s how the championship teams play and we will do that.”
The other development of the game was Lightning, who scored five goals in 22 shots on goal past the goalkeeper of Avalanche Darcy Kumperwhich led to an early hook at 11:15 on the second period.
It wasn’t a real mercy, but no one was pointing a finger at Kuemper as the reason Avalanche was outplayed in this game as well.
There are no disputes about the goalkeepers and you can expect Kuemper again in the door for match 4.
“Listen, he’s allowed to have bad nights, too. That’s right, “Landeskog said. “I wouldn’t hang it to dry on any of them. As I said, defensively as a squad of five people there, we need better. Somehow we left it alone for some of them and we would like to change that. “
As Avalanche still leads the series 2-1 in Wednesday’s 4 match at the Amalie Arena, every player who speaks speaks to the importance of short memory.
It was not just tracking messages, although showing confidence in this situation against two-time defending champions is always important.
For a team that has suffered so much emotional damage in the last three Stanley Cup playoffs, you can be sure that they would be happy to register to be in that position when the series begins.
Weekends are happening, but they certainly do not guarantee that this confident and determined group is about to get off track with a single loss.
“This is the final for the Stanley Cup. We do not expect a scale,” McKinnon said. “It’s fun. It’s great. For better or worse, we’re not going to trade places with anyone. We’ve been waiting a long time for that.
“We are playing the best right now. We play with the best team, they have won next to each other. We knew they were too proud to leave. We still feel good. We feel good for our team, from top to bottom. ”