September 26, 2022

Happy Monday, everyone! Hope you had a lovely weekend.

Let’s get right to it.

Good morning to everyone but especially to…

THE COLORADO AVALANCHE

The Colorado Avalanche‘s offense is what carried them much of the way to a 3-2 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final. Their defense is what made them champions.

In a tense Game 6, the Avalanche smothered the Lightning’s star-studded offense and got just enough from their own in a 2-1 Cup-clinching win. Steven Stamkos opened the scoring under four minutes in, but Nathan MacKinnon and Artturi Lehkonen both found the back of the net in the second period, and that was all Colorado needed.

  • It’s the Avalanche’s third Stanley Cup, along with 2001 and 1996.
  • The Avalanche came from behind to win 10 times this postseason, tying the 2009 Penguins for most in a single postseason.
  • Cale Makar won the Conn Smythe Trophy, given to the most valuable player in the playoffs. He’s the youngest defenseman to win it since Bobby Orr in 1970.

The Avalanche had plenty of impressive stretches this postseason, but none was more important than last night’s third period. The Lightning — two-time defending champs, playing at home with their season on the line — managed just four shots on goal in the final period. Goaltender Darcy Kuemper was outstanding, and seemingly every Avalanche player — even offensive stars like MacKinnon — made extra efforts to block shots.

It was an all-around performance from the league’s best team, led by one of the league’s best players, writes our hockey expert Austin Nivison.

  • Nivison: “MacKinnon has been the heart and soul of the Avalanche throughout their rebuild, and he developed into a top-five player in the league. Despite his poor luck in this Stanley Cup Final, MacKinnon kept his poise and refused to get frustrated. In Game 6, MacKinnon scored the game-tying goal and assisted on the game-winning goal by Lehkonen. Considering how much MacKinnon has meant to the Avalanche, it was only fitting that he was the one who delivered in this game.”

Honorable mentions

And not such a good morning for…


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THE TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING

For the last three years, the Lightning had all the answers. All the goals when they needed them most, all the clutch saves from Andrei Vasilevskiy, all the elimination games won and all the series dominated… until last night.

Tampa Bay’s dream of being the sport’s first three-peat champion since the Islanders won four straight from 1980-83 came to an end, but what a run it was. The Lightning won 11 straight series before falling to Colorado. Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov and Victor Hedman, among others, shined on the biggest stage.

The NHL instituted a salary cap in 2005 to increase parity in the league. Since then, the Lightning experienced some rough years, some exhilarating titles, and, like this year, some heartbreaking ends, but their run over the past three seasons — given the era it came in — won’t soon be forgotten. The Lightning won’t enter this offseason as champions, but it’s been an incredibly impressive ride. I wouldn’t count them out from continuing it in the future, either.

Not so honorable mentions

Deshaun Watson disciplinary hearing set to open tomorrow 🏈


USATSI

Browns quarterback Deshaun Watson faces another key week in determining his future: His NFL disciplinary hearing will start tomorrow.

Here are the key details:

  • Per reports, the NFL is pushing for an indefinite suspension of at least one year.
  • The NFL and NFLPA’s jointly appointed disciplinary officer Sue L. Robinson will conduct the hearing.
  • After the ruling, both the NFL and NFLPA have the option to appeal. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell can rule on the appeal or call in an independent ruler.

Reminder: Watson does not have to be charged or indicted to be suspended. A potential suspension would likely come if the league determines Watson violated the NFL’s code of conduct policy. After Watson settled 20 of 24 civil lawsuits against him last week, NFL spokesperson Brian McCarthy released a statement saying, “Today’s development has no impact on the collectively bargained disciplinary process.”

Xander Schauffele ends drought with Travelers Championship victory ⛳

Relief for Xander Schauffele. Heartbreak for Sahith Theegala.

Thanks to a dramatic 72nd hole at the Travelers Championship, Schauffele finally ended his drought, claiming an individual PGA Tour victory for the first time since the 2019 Sentry Tournament of Champions.

  • After a terrific birdie on 17, Theegala got to 19-under on the tournament, one shot ahead of Schauffele.
  • But Theegala pulled his drive on 18 into a fairway bunker and, pressed against the lip of the bunker, took two shots to get out. He eventually made double-bogey.
  • Schauffele, playing in the final group behind Theegala, only needed par to win but ended up hitting a masterful approach shot to just a few feet, making birdie and winning by two strokes over Theegala and J.T. Poston.
  • It’s Schauffele’s second PGA Tour win this year — he won the Zurich Classic alongside Patrick Cantlay in April — and the sixth of his career.

Schauffele entered the day with a three-stroke lead, but he had been 0-for-4 converting 54-hole leads into victories in his individual career before yesterday, and it looked like it might become 0-for-5 before Theegala’s gut-wrenching final-hole collapse. For Schauffele, it was a well-earned win for someone who has had more than his fair share of heartbreaking finishes writes golf expert Patrick McDonald.

  • McDonald: “Unfortunately for Schauffele, steadiness is not often rewarded in terms of trophies on the PGA Tour. … Schauffele’s career may be the perfect encapsulation of this. He has always been labeled as the bridesmaid, never the bride, yet on this very week, his steadiness was enough to allow him to walk down the aisle and add win No. 6 to his PGA Tour résumé. Grade: A+

Bryce Harper fractures left thumb, timeline for return unknown ⚾


USATSI

Bryce Harper suffered a fractured left thumb Saturday night after getting hit by a 97-mph fastball from Padres lefty Blake Snell. The Phillies placed Harper on the 10-day injured list, but the severity of — and timeline to return from — the injury will be determined by forthcoming tests.

Harper has been battling through a small UCL tear this season, forcing him to appear almost exclusively as a designated hitter; his last start in right field was April 15. Still, Harper has been terrific this year:

  • .318 batting average (4th in NL)
  • .599 slugging percentage (2nd in NL)
  • 37 extra-base hits (3rd in NL)

How much time Harper misses will have big ramifications for Philadelphia. The Phillies have rallied from a slow start and sit 1.5 games out of a playoff spot. While likely DH replacements Nick Castellanos and Kyle Schwarber are plenty capable, the Aug. 2 trade deadline and the team’s performance between now and then loom large.

What we’re watching Monday 📺

🏀 Aces at Sparks, 10:30 p.m. on NBA TV

2022 Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup championship gear now available

The Avalanche have won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2001. Celebrate with Avalanche championship shirts, hats, hoodies, socks, and more. See the entire collection here.

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