This is where the puck stops: leaving the West can stop at the goalkeepers

DENVER (AP) – In addition to the tent match involving Conar McDavid and Nathan McKinnon, there is another no less intriguing – the goalkeepers responsible for stopping the two best scorers in the world.

Each is also accepting the challenge, as the Western Conference finals begin Tuesday night in Denver.

Colorado goalkeeper Darcy Kumper called the prospect of confronting McDavid, who is hard to contain, a “fun challenge.” At 40, Edmonton setmaster Mike Smith is just taking this chance.

“You gain experience as you get older and older,” Smith said Monday ahead of the first game in a series of the best of seven. “They can only help you in such situations.”

Every week, in practice, confrontations with people like McKinnon, Mika Rontanen and defender Cale Makar, prepared Kumper before McDavid & Co. rushed to him.

The same goes for Smith’s preparation for McKinnon. Smith saw it all – all sorts of evil shots – from McDavid and Leon Dreiseit.

“He brings so much energy and passion to the game,” McDavid said of his goalkeeper. “It makes you want to play hard in front of him.”

Smith enjoys every step on the way to the Stanley Cup. He also plays well, stopping 381 of 411 shots in the playoffs.

“Your chances of reaching the final of the conference are not every day,” Smith said. “That’s what you want to take advantage of when you come here and get ready to try to get to the final place, and that’s the final.”

It was a difficult path to the West final for Kumper, a 32-year veteran who was acquired from Arizona last summer. He set a career high with 37 wins in the regular season, but was knocked down in 3 games of the Nashville series after catching a stick near the eye between the bars of the mask (swelling slept).

He is now drawing McDavid.

“Obviously he’s an electric, dynamic player,” said Kumper, who has an average of 2.44 goals against the playoffs. “It’s a hilarious challenge. You want to meet the best players in the world and look forward to it. “

MACKINON VS. MKDAVID

McDavid and McKinnon weren’t particularly interested in talking too much about their upcoming meeting.

“There’s a good team,” McDavid said when asked about McKinnon. “They have some real special players and they’re deep around.”

McKinnon repeated this thought, reflecting on McDavid.

“They’re deeper than teams give them credit,” McKinnon said. “They wouldn’t be where they are without full teamwork.”

A HUGE THANK YOU

Edmonton’s front-line executive Ken Holland appreciates his fellow general manager in this series, Joe Sakic, and the work he has done to assemble this Avalanche team.

“One of the best in business,” Holland said.

Mutual respect. Hollande was the general manager of Detroit during Sakic’s career in the Hall of Fame in the game with Avalanche.

“It’s been a long time,” Sakic said. “He did a great job.”

PAST STORY

Here is how much time has passed since the meeting of Colorado and Edmonton in the postseason: Makar and defender Bowen Bayram have not even been born.

Colorado and Edmonton have met twice before, and Avalanche won the semifinals of the 1997 conference series 4-1. The following postseason, the Oilers won the 7th game of the quarterfinals.

“Avs had some really good teams that day, won cups, conference championships – everything,” Bayram said. “It seems to me that everyone knows about these series.”

HISTORY OF TRADE

In 2019, Avalanche transferred to Toronto longtime defender Tyson Barry as part of a deal that brought Nazem Kadri. It was a business decision, and Makar was going to arrive on the scene.

Now with the Oilers Barry has become an integral part of their success.

“It’s pretty well documented how (Barry) was loved in this city and in the locker room – and the same with (Staff),” said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landescag. “He (Barai) had great success here. We look forward to playing with him – or against him, I have to say. “

Overcoming the woes

Avalanche lost in the second round in three consecutive games in the playoffs before making their way this season against St. Louis.

The Oilers lost last season in the first round – and the previous season – in the qualifying round – before beating the Los Angeles Kings in seven games in the first round and Calgary in five.

“You have to go through some scars to achieve growth,” Oilers coach Jay Woodcroft said. “It’s not always fun, but at some point your team’s fabric is being tested. One of the messages we convey to our team is the old adage that the road to success is paved with mistakes that fit well. ”

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