TAMPA, Fla. — Understandably, Avalanche coach Jared Bednar didn’t devote much time to discussing individual awards while preparing for Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final on Wednesday morning at Amalie Arena.
Only two victories from hoisting the Cup, it’s all about the team.
Make no mistake, Bednar is proud of Cale Makar, who became Colorado’s first Norris Trophy winner as the NHL’s best defenseman on Tuesday night. But the coach only offered this about Makar winning the prestigious award: “For me, he’s having a spectacular season. Well deserving of that.”
Avalanche winger Andrew Cogliano, who is in his 15th NHL season, took those sentiments to a higher level.
“It’s impressive what he’s been able to do in such a short time in his career and there is not enough you can say about him,” Cogliano, 35, said of Makar, 23. “I don’t think I’ve seen a focus in a younger player like him in my whole career, how he approaches the game, how he prepares. With him, it’s the habits that make him special. The first day I got here, just how he passes the puck, how he moves on the ice, everything he does is with such purpose that he is just unbelievable.
“It really, really makes him such a dominant player. His focus and how he approaches the game and how he goes about his business, I’ve never seen it before so that is why I think he is able to do what he has been doing. There is just an energy to him and a focus that makes players, and obviously guys like him, some of the best to ever play the game. He is one of those players that is going to just continue to get better and scarier as he goes on.”
Makar edged out Nashville’s Roman Josi to win the Norris, despite Josi getting more first-place votes. He had 98 — six more than Makar. But Makar had 98 second-place votes to Josi’s 76.
Makar finished with 1,631 points and Josi had 1,606. Tampa Bay’s Victor Hedman was third with 940.
Makar is the first player to win the Norris by not receiving the most first-place votes since Erik Karlsson in 2014-15.
“They’re such incredible players,” Makar said of Josi and Hedman, the 2020 and 2018 Norris winners, respectively. “They pushed me so hard throughout the season, just as an individual on ice. It’s amazing to go up against those guys. There’s a lot of credit that goes to them in terms of the success that I had personally this year.”
Makar is in his third full NHL season but fourth in the postseason. He joined the Avs after winning the 2019 Hobey Baker Award as college hockey’s best player and leading Massachusetts to the NCAA championship game.
Makar leads Colorado in scoring this postseason with 26 points (seven) goals in 17 games. He has 57 points (14 goals) in 52 career NHL playoff games and his 1.096 points average is second-highest all-time among defensemen behind Bobby Orr (1.243).
“I’m still pretty young, so having this playoff experience at an early age is very exciting for me,” Makar said. “You try to kind of take it all in. At the end of the day, it’s step by step. Being able to experience what we have right now as a team, it’s only going to make us stronger in the future regardless of what happens. But we’re focused on obviously winning right now.”
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