Sorry, Miro. Avalanche’s Cale Makar is NHL’s real Stanley Cup hero

Spare the wreaths. Hold the psalms. You come to bury Cale Makar, you better come correct.

Lordy, the yapping. The peanut gallery on X tapped out 150-character obits, a troll at a time. ESPN spent much of Avalanche-Stars Game 5 speaking of Makar as if he’d retired at age 25.

For several hours, the greatest defenseman of his generation — of several, now that you mention it — was getting his mugshot cropped for the 2024 NHL Awards show’s “In Memoriam” segment.

Here lies CALE MAKAR’S CAREER, 2018-2024, RIP. May the road rise to meet you. May the wind be always at your back.

They’d torn the crown off Cale’s head Wednesday and were fitting it for the dome of young Dallas defenseman Miro Heiskanen. Until the third period. Until the fastest gun in the west, the best blue-line gunslinger since Bobby Orr, refused to let a series die.

“You’re playing desperate hockey now. Everyone’s got to play on the edge,” Makar said after his two goals rallied Colorado to a 5-3 victory and forced a Game 6 on Friday night at Ball Arena. “You’ve got to fight for every single chance that you’re getting now, (these) being elimination games.”

Makar went into Game 5 staring at a three-tilt postseason pointless streak. The Avs were staring at Cancun. The narrative was pasting the kid’s No. 8 sweater on milk cartons from Plano to Paonia.

The 24-year-old Heiskanen went into the final stanza on Wednesday night with eight points in the series. Makar went in with four. The Stars were a win away from sending Colorado packing. The connection between the two was self-explanatory.

To be fair, Dallas’ blue-line wunderkind had been more impactful offensively of the two through the first 38 minutes of Game 5. Heiskanen’s goal off the rush 11:39 into the second period snapped a 1-1 tie and was his fifth of the series. Makar responded with a sweet wrister of his own on the power play nine minutes later, knotting the game at 2-2 on a laser that beat a traffic jam of bodies and Stars goalie Jake Oettinger in the process.

“It was a full-unit mistake last game,” teammate Nathan MacKinnon told reporters. “(It) feels like that (Game 4 loss) was the only blemish of his playoff career. … He’s been unreal. He’s won a Conn Smythe (trophy) for a reason. He’s been there, done that. He’s not shaken by anything. He’s so mentally strong and we’re lucky to have him back there.”

About four-and-half minutes into the third period, Makar made his own luck. As only he could. With the Avs clinging to a 3-2 cushion, No. 8 raced to save an errant puck before it could slide into the neutral zone, zigged left, then zagged on a dime to his right in order to create a clean shooting lane. In a blink, Makar slotted the biscuit right through a shocked Oettinger’s five hole.

“Every one one of our (defenders) or theirs doesn’t have the ability (like Makar) to dance a guy in space and get to the net, right?” Avs coach Jared Bednar gushed after the game. “It takes elite skill to be able to do that and there’s only a handful of guys in the league that can do it …

“Great on him. That’s what we need from him. Obviously, we need that now, especially where we’re at in the series.”

The hard part doesn’t get any easier from here. Dallas is 4-1 on the road this postseason. Its 26 victories away from home during the regular season topped the Western Conference.

Nobody parks the bus with a lead, as the Brits like to say, the way that a Pete DeBoer team does. The Avs have been held to one goal or fewer at Ball Arena just four times since Jan. 1. The Stars, over the last week, have accounted for half of those.

“Obviously, (it’s a) do-or-die game from here on out in this series, so for us, each of us, we all feed off each other, kind of,” Makar continued. “(We had a) couple lapses in games and I felt like we were kind of back to forcing their hand (in Game 5) and playing well.”

Among defensemen who’ve appeared in at least 40 playoff games, only the legendary Orr (1.24) averaged more points than Makar’s 1.11. Over 71 Stanley Cup appearances, he’s only gone without a point in 23 games. The Avs, no shock, went on to lose 14 of them.

“We had a couple tough games and we’ve got to move on and find a way,” the Avs defenseman told reporters. “And I think the guys had a really good mentality. We got a good mentality coming into (Game 5) and (we’ve) got to hopefully continue that.”

The gunslinger’s got his groove back? Sorry, Miro. Makar’s still the real Stanley Cup hero.

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