Coming off a season where he produced 28 goals and 58 assists in 77 games — good enough to win the Norris Trophy as the NHL’s best defenceman — Makar took his play up another notch in the playoffs.
The 23-year-old’s 29 points (eight goals, 21 assists) in 20 games this post-season put him in rarified air: only Paul Coffey (37 points in 1985), Brian Leetch (34 points in 1994) and Al MacInnis (31 points in 1989) have had more prolific playoffs from the blue line.
His performance made him a unanimous choice for the award, which is voted on by the Professional Hockey Writers Association.
And not only did Makar produce, he did it in electrifying fashion.
One of his biggest moments came as early as Game 2 of the Avalanche’s first-round series against the Nashville Predators when he ended the contest in overtime with a stunning goal.
In Game 1 of the Western Conference Final, he ripped a blistering shot past netminder Mike Smith that initially appeared to be clearly offside, except it wasn’t because he kept his stick off the puck as it crossed the blue line while waiting for his teammate to tag up.
The goal sparked widespread debate and confusion, and had many fans in awe of Makar’s “Hockey IQ.”
“I knew they were trying to get out of the zone. My instinct was to try to give them as much time as possible,” Makar said after the game. (If you’re still confused, here’s a full explanation)
Makar is the 13th defenceman to win the Conn Smythe, and sixth since 2000, joining: Scott Stevens (2000), Nicklas Lidstrom (2002), Scott Niedermayer (2007), Duncan Keith (2015) and Victor Hedman (2020).
He also joins exclusive company as one of only three defencemen to win the Stanley Cup, the Norris Trophy, and the Conn Smythe in the same season.
Makar also joins Joe Sakic (1996) and Patrick Roy (2001) as the Avalanche’s only Conn Smythe winners in franchise history.