Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar does hockey like nobody else. At age 23, his skating, vision, passing, and shooting are beyond elite. They are supernatural.
Take it from the Great One, Wayne Gretzky.
“The closest player we’ve ever seen offensively and defensively that can make an impact on the game that much — probably Bobby Orr,” Gretzky said of Makar on TNT. “We’ve got to go all the way back to Bobby Orr.”
History is the best way to realize what Makar is to the Avalanche, and why he gives his team the best chance to win the upcoming Stanley Cup Finals.
Orr, the legendary defenseman, ranks No. 1 in all-time NHL postseason points-per-game among blueliners at 1.24. Makar, who tied an Avalanche record, regardless of position, with five points in Game 4 against Edmonton in the Western Conference Finals, is second at 1.08.
“No. 8 was the best player on the ice in all games,” Gretzky said of Makar during the Western Conference Finals.
Orr was, and Makar is, a generational defenseman. Orr was “it” in the late 1960s and throughout the 1970s. Makar, according to Gretzky — the best player there ever was — is the new it.
And make no mistake, Makar is now equally viewed as extra special in the defensive zone. He went head-to-head with Oilers star center Connor McDavid — the most gifted active offensive player in the game — and won that matchup in a best-of-seven series that Colorado swept.
Both players produced seven points in the four games. Since Makar is a defenseman and McDavid is a forward, that’s a big win over a player who had an NHL-leading 26 points in his first 14 playoff games (1.86 points per game) before the WCF began.
Make no mistake, Makar is the biggest reason his team has the edge in the Stanley Cup Finals — with Game 1 scheduled for Wednesday or Saturday, June 18, at Ball Arena.
Makar should win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenseman. Take it from his top-pair partner Devon Toews.
“He’s the best D-man in the game right now, just dynamic-wise, and his ability to break pucks out on his own is something not a lot of guys can do,” Toews said of Makar on Friday. “And then obviously his offense speaks for itself. He gets to play offense because he helps get the puck out of our zone.
“Yeah, I think he’s the best in the game right now.”
Practice buzz. The Avs practiced on consecutive days since taking two days off after sweeping Edmonton. A litany of burgundy-and-blue clad fans watched from the Family Sports Center bleachers on Thursday and Friday as if it were the first two days of training camp following a long off-season.
“We’re really thankful that some people find a way to go to the hockey rink. I mean, you can be playing by the pool in this weather, so yeah, we really appreciate that,” goalie Pavel Francouz said on Friday. “It’s fun. We always work hard on the practice but I feel like with so many some people in the stands, you want to make sure you don’t get lazy or anything.”
“It’s pretty cool,” forward Logan O’Connor said of the large contingent of supporters at practices. “The fans this year for us have been phenomenal — home-ice advantage has been huge. There’s definitely a buzz around the city and the rink … so it’s sort of surreal to think about. It’s been awesome to have that support.”