COVID has just opened a 2-0 lead over Avs. It’s early. Better to rust in October than to melt in May.
“So when I watch Darcy Kuemper, I watched him a lot when he was in Minnesota, when he was a substitute,” former NHL goaltender and Turner Sports analyst Darren Pang told The Post when asked him about the new Avs No. 1 goalie. ahead of Colorado’s season opener against Chicago on Wednesday night.
“And I wondered why he wasn’t more than a replacement. And I kind of came to the conclusion that he doesn’t have this makeup to be a replacement. He’s not one of those energetic, high-octane, flashy guys who might come back after being on the bench for two weeks and playing.
Pang leaned a hand forward, like a shadow swan, and flattened his palm, making the gesture your uncle made whenever he decided he had it so far with the broken furnace.
“He’s very flat, a very balanced person and athlete,” Pang continued. “So the more he plays, the more he gets in his element.”
The road to the Stanley Cup passes through the huge 6ft 5in Kuemper’s shoulder blades, then veers north via a series of switchbacks between the man’s ears. Aside from Broncos quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, no athlete in town has more eyeballs – or more fascination / curiosity / worry from their fans – than No.35 right now.
While Dove Valley is still looking for the quarterback who makes no deficit unassailable, Chopper Circle is still chasing a goalie who puts the lead and momentum in stone.
The goalkeeper who closes doors and crushes souls. Especially during a playoff series.
“There is no guarantee that an athlete will just blend in and be able to handle (that pressure),” Pang said. “I think the expectations (here) are very high. He seems to have the balance to be able to maintain himself in this type of environment.
On the one hand, Team Canada loves it and Team Canada isn’t kidding. When ESPN last April polled anonymous players, coaches and executives to name the game’s top 10 goalies, our man Darcy, acquired in a trade with the Coyotes over the summer, ranked in the n ° 9.
“His name comes up in business rumors because he’s incredibly valuable (to the Coyotes),” an executive told the Worldwide Leader. “That’s why he’s still here.”
And now he’s here in a city where the seasons and the lists are judged by parades. Or its absence.
The No.35 is taller and longer than its predecessor Philipp Grubauer. But he’s also never carried much water as the undisputed and healthy No. 1 goaltender of a team that declared It’s-Lord Stanley-Or-Bust the day before the puck fell in regular season.
Kuemper shared the load in Minnesota, where he’s never made more than 28 starts. With the Kings, same agreement. Arizona has never finished higher than fourth in the division during Kuemper’s tenure in the desert.
There are issues now. Super Joe Sakic sent defenseman Connor Timmins, a first-round pick in 2022 and a conditional third round in 24 for the big guy’s services. It was a win-now decision for a team that has won everything lately except the big one.
“I’m so excited,” Kuemper said shortly after the exchange was announced. “Obviously, those kinds of expectations are high. And these are the opportunities that you dream of. And to have the chance to step in and join that, it’s amazing, and I’m so excited for it.
The Avs track down unfinished business. Kuemper, a newlywed who turns 32 next May and is on a contract year, is looking for a long-term contract. Sometimes when mutual interests align, that’s a beautiful thing.
Otherwise, well …
“Play better,” Pang replied with a smile. “It’s an easy answer. My playing career wasn’t as good as Darcy Kuemper’s, but I remember once I let things bother me, and I had a really good friend who was a teammate who said to me, basically, “Shut up and play better. ‘
“But Darcy isn’t that kind of guy. He’s not going to attract attention because of his incredible saves and be the “first star” 10 games in a row. You will appreciate how stable it is. You are going to appreciate how big he is. You will appreciate how technically sound it is. And you are going to appreciate how much it makes a lot of really easy hard stops.
Star Nathan MacKinnon and coach Jared Bednar, two coronavirus scrapes for the season opener, are not getting any younger. On the bright side, as we know all too well here, the 2-0 leads aren’t as insurmountable as they used to be.