DENVER | There's Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, Mikhail Sergachev and Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Lightning, as we have known for a long time, is full of star players.
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In this team, Anthony Cirelli spends a little more in the shadows than them. But its impact remains considerable. And his game does not go unnoticed in the eyes of his teammates.
On the ice, Cirelli seeks to shade the best attackers of the opposing team.
Before this sixth game of the final, the 24-year-old Ontarian had spent more than 40 minutes on the ice five against five against six different attackers: Mika Zibanejad (60 min 28 s), Auston Matthews (52 min 52 s), Frank Vatrano (51 min 40 s), Mitchell Marner (47 min 1 s), Chris Kreider (42 min 19 s) and Nathan MacKinnon (40 min 43 s).
In this group of six, there is a 60-goal scorer in Matthews, a 50-goal scorer (52) in Kreider, a right winger of more than 90 points (97) in Marner and two centers of more than 80 points in MacKinnon (88) and Zibanejad (81). And if he had played more than 65 games this season, MacKinnon would have reached the 100-point plateau, just like Matthews in Toronto.
know where they are
Despite some of the most dominant rivals, Cirelli is 1-1 through 22 playoff games. He also scored three goals and had five assists for eight points.
“I like it as a challenge, I always wanted to receive important missions, had said Cirelli during the day devoted to the media at the Ball Arena, before the start of the final. I take great pride in my defensive game. »
"We talk about me, but it's still a collective effort to slow down the big names on the other team," he continued. The key is to always know where they are on the ice. This was the case against Matthews, against Barkov, against Zibanejad and against MacKinnon. »
Patrice Bergeron of the Bruins won the Frank Selke Trophy for the fifth time in his career this season, edging Elias Lindholm of the Flames and Alexander Barkov of the Panthers in the ballot. If he did not find himself among the three finalists, Cirelli finished fifth for this honor.
endure the pain
Scorer of the first goal in a 3-2 overtime loss in Game 4 against the Avalanche, Cirelli finished the game despite an injury, possibly to an arm.
He had bad luck during this meeting, receiving a kick from his teammate Alex Killorn. Since that play, Cirelli hasn't taken a faceoff.
He was at his post for the fifth game of the final, but he left his place to Brandon Hagel in the face-off circle.
Asked about the challenge of playing despite a few injuries, Cirelli refused to make a big story out of it.
"I think you just jump on the rink and you play hockey," he replied. I'm just our game plan. When you find yourself in the heart of the action, you focus only on it and you do not think of anything else. »
Before winning the Stanley Cup twice with the Lightning, in 2020 and 2021, Cirelli had also known the joy of victory with the Oshawa Generals, winning the Memorial Cup in 2015.