The Avalanche-Predators series was hailed as a matchup featuring two of the best defensemen in the NHL.
It just so happened that both of them were playing for the same team.
Avs defensemen — A+
Yes, the Grading the Week staff saw the news Friday:
Predators defenseman Roman Josi was named one of three finalists for the Ted Lindsay Award, given to the league’s most outstanding player as voted on by the NHL players.
The 31-year-old veteran certainly had the regular-season production — 96 points, 73 assists and an average ice time of 25:33 — to make a strong case.
Except that anyone who watched the recent playoff series between Colorado and Nashville knows the truth: rosy-cheeked Avalanche assassin Cale Makar was easily the best player on the ice. And his defensive partner Devon Toews was No. 2 on the blueline.
Makar’s spectacular flip shot off the roof of the Predators’ goal in Game 1 was artistry on ice. His Game 3 overtime winner (on his 12th shot of the night) paid homage to his relentless activity. And that Game 4? Well, that was the full Makar car wash, complete with flashes of brilliant skating, pinpoint accuracy from the point and a handful of Skittles from some Smashville admirers.
All Toews did was notch at least one point in all four playoff victories, including a laser beam from the blueline that Artturi Lehkonen deflected for the first goal of Game 2 while posting a plus/minus rating (plus-five) that was tied for 12th among all skaters entering Friday night’s collection of Game 6s.
Of course, neither is up for the Lindsay Award — although Makar did join Josi as a Norris Trophy finalist.
Rather than delve too deep into an appeal for Toews to join his teammate on that list — and trust us, he has an argument — we’ll just let the first-round playoff numbers speak for themselves.
Despite playing just four games after a sweep of the Predators, Makar and Toews led all defensemen with three goals apiece going into Friday night.
Makar was No. 3 in playoff scoring (10 points) among all players, and two points better than the next closest defenseman, while Toews was tied for sixth (five points) among blueliners.
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Demoted winger Andre Burakovsky comes through for Avalanche in Game 4
The final tally for Josi: One goal, one assist and a plus/minus (minus-3) that would be a great score at Castle Pines Golf Club, but isn’t so swell in a Stanley Cup playoff series.
Jokic’s MVP ceremony — A
As MVP ceremonies go, we’d be hard-pressed to recall one quite as unique as the presentation held outside Nikola Jokic’s Serbian horse barn on Wednesday.
The sight of the 7-foot Jokic splayed across a harness racing sulky would’ve been enough on its own.
But throw in the location, the accordion music trumpeting his emotional arrival, and the tiny dog choking off-camera during his TNT interview, and it hit all the notes befitting the singular NBA superstar it honored.
Had the TNT crew not spent the succeeding five minutes immediately questioning the voting, it might have been perfect. Maybe that can serve as motivation for MVP No. 3.