The Colorado Avalanche have a 2-0 lead over the Lightning, and unsung Valeri Nichushkin is a big reason why.
Nichushkin has had a night out in these playoffs, making crucial plays and averaging 0.73 points per game on Colorado’s first line.
In the 42 career playoff games he played before this year’s run by the Avs, he averaged 0.21 points per game.
Nichushkin followed that up with a goal and an assist over Burakovsky’s OT winner in Game 1 of the Final with the opening goal in Game 2, which eventually counted as the winner thanks to a Darcy Kuemper shutout.
Nichushkin also scored the fourth goal in the 7-0 breakout for a grand total of three goals and four points over the two games.
As if that weren’t enough, the six-foot-four winger has a great deal, earning a mouth-watering $850,000 this year.
Unfortunately for the Avs, that won’t last.
Nichushkin is an unrestricted free agent this summer, and when he and his agent sit across from general manager Joe Sakic at the negotiating table, they likely won’t be humbled about his playoff exploits.
Either way, Sportsnet’s Elliotte Friedman thinks they’ll be fine. “The word here is that Colorado has made him a priority,” he said during the Hockey Night in Canada Match 2 broadcast. “He’s priced himself even higher, but word is they’ve indicated to him they’d like to keep him and he’s a priority to keep.
“The one thing everyone needs to remember is that Nichushkin had a tough time in Dallas, and he loves it here and remembering that is what Colorado sees as its advantage.”