TAMPA — Cale Makar said he appreciated winning the Norris Trophy, given annually to the top defenseman in the NHL, at the 2022 NHL Awards on Tuesday.
But winning the Stanley Cup with the Colorado Avalanche remains the ultimate goal.
The Avalanche have a 2-1 lead in the best-of-7 series against the Tampa Bay Lightning heading into Game 4 at Amalie Arena on Wednesday (8 pm ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS).
“Obviously (I’m) very honored to be in the consideration for that award… but for me, I’ve got to kind of turn the page quick here and get ready for tomorrow,” Makar said Tuesday.
The 23-year-old became the first defenseman in Colorado Avalanche/Quebec Nordiques history to win the Norris, as selected by the Professional Hockey Writers Association, with 1,631 points. Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators, who won in 2020, finished second in this year’s voting with 1,606 points. It was the closest race for the award since Erik Karlsson won it with the Ottawa Senators against Shea Weber (Predators) in 2012 (1,069-1,057).
Victor Hedman of the Lightning, who won in 2018, finished third with 940 points.
Makar and Hedman are playing against each other in the Cup Final. Hedman is trying to help Tampa Bay win a third straight championship.
“They’re such incredible players,” Makar said. “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 led defensemen during the regular season with 28 goals and was second to Josi in points (86) in 77 games to help Colorado (56-19-7) finish first in the Western Conference. He ranked second among defensemen with a plus-48 rating behind teammate Devon Toews (plus-52) and tied for first with six game-winning goals.
Makar leads the Avalanche with 26 points (seven goals, 19 assists) in 17 Stanley Cup Playoff games. Colorado is 14-3 this postseason.
The No. 4 selection by the Avalanche in the 2017 NHL Draft, Makar scored a goal in his debut, a 6-2 win against the Calgary Flames in Game 3 of the Western Conference First Round on April 15, 2019. Colorado has qualified for the playoffs in Each of Makar’s first four seasons, and he said he learns a bit more with each experience.
He has 57 points (14 goals, 43 assists) in 52 postseason games.
“I’m still pretty young, so having this playoff experience at an early age is very exciting for me,” Makar said. “You just 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 of what It happens. But we’re focused on obviously winning right now.”
Makar has four points through the first three games of the Cup Final, including two assists in a 6-2 loss in Game 3 here on Monday. The Avalanche are two wins from their first Cup championship since 2001 after back-to-back victories at home to start the series.
“You can’t think too far ahead,” Makar said. “Obviously, we have so much still to do but as a team, we’ve put ourselves in a great spot right now. We just have to capitalize on that.”