DENVER — Oh, Cale Makar.

You made a boo-boo, kid.

This isn’t how you start an NHL career. No, no. You don’t beat the University of Denver in the Frozen Four on Thursday, accept the Hobey Baker award as college hockey's best player Friday, play in the national championship Saturday, sign your professional contract with the Avs on Sunday.

And above all else, Mr. Makar, sir, do not under any circumstances score a goal in the Stanley Cup playoffs on Monday. That bar? Too high.

How are you ever going to top this introduction?

"He’s such a good player that it’s not going to matter," Colorado forward Tyson Jost said before the Avalanche blitzed the Calgary Flames 6-2 to grab a 2-1 series lead.

They knew this was coming. They knew Makar Mania was justified, and the Avs were playing coy. They tried to deke us by deflecting attention from Makar, a baby-faced defenseman and the No. 4 draft pick in 2017. They sincerely lamented the injury to defenseman Sam Girard, replaced by Makar. But they knew. Come on.

There was Jost, a junior teammate of Makar’s calling his buddy's shot before the game. There was coach Jared Bednar, skating at center ice with both eyes on Makar during his first morning skate as a pro and cracking a smile. There was Gabriel Landeskog, a captain being a captain.

“As excited as we are and as excited as I’m sure he is — and we’re happy to have him — this isn’t about Cale Makar,” Landeskog said before puck drop. “This is about winning Game 3.”

Makar scores in debut as Colorado Avalanche rout Calgary Flames in Game 3, take series lead

This is about both. This is about a 20-year-old who stepped off a plane — with a flight detour through Toronto due to crummy weather — and 24 hours later became the first defenseman to make his NHL debut in the playoffs and score a goal. And the Canadian did so in against his hometown squad, Calgary. After that too-good-to-be-true weekend we were talking about.

Can you believe they pay me to write this stuff?

When Makar took a feed from Avs star Nathan MacKinnon and slapped the puck under the right blocker of Flames goalie Mike Smith, Pepsi Center was as loud as I’ve heard it, and Monster Jam’s loud. The goal came 16 minutes, 2 seconds, into Makar's first period with the Avs. Bumped Colorado ahead, 3-0, and a party ensued. 

Game 4’s here Wednesday, and the pressure just shifted and landed on the one-seed Flames. Pressure’s heavy, and the eight-seed Avs are skating free, without a hint of chilling out. If you didn’t know before the series who was the 1 and who was the 8, you'd think they were flipped.

So this is about the Avs winning Game 3, like Landy was saying, but it’s also about the caliber of players filing into the franchise. It’s about the team they could become, if all goes according to plan. MacKinnon-to-Makar sounds sweet, eh?

The first teammate to smother Makar with a hug was Landeskog. His parents, Gary and Laura, reacted like you’d think parents would react, like folks who knew their son was capable of crazy things but still couldn’t believe it actually happened. Mom covered her mouth. Dad pumped both fists. Goosebumps.

Sometimes there’s a sports moment that shakes your head for you. It’s a moment too unreal until it’s real. This was one of those times. UCCS great Derrick White can’t dunk on the Nuggets at Pepsi Center, right? Cale Makar can’t score a goal in his first NHL playoff game, right?

“I don’t think it’s really sunk in for me yet,” Makar said.

It says plenty that MacKinnon scored twice, Rantanen added his first playoff goal and we’re still talking about Makar. The first one’s the NHL MVP runner-up, the second one’s soon going to sign a contract worth $60 million or more. And Makar skates in like he’s been here for years.

Try 24 hours.

Had Makar watched much Avalanche hockey during two years at UMass?

“I watched quite a bit of them when I wasn’t doing homework and other stuff,” Makar said.

This time last week, he means.

“I don’t think it’s too much pressure. It is what it is and you’re going to feel a bunch of different emotions, but you’ve got to be prepared for that. You kind of lived your life trying to get to this moment. I think it’ll be a fun one.”

Soon after Erik Johnson deflected a shot into the net for a 6-1 lead, one clever fan carried a sign through the concourse: “Dude, Where’s Makar?”

Raising the bar.

(Contact Gazette sports columnist Paul Klee at paul.klee@gazette.com or on Twitter at @bypaulklee.)

Sports columnist

Denver sports columnist for The Gazette

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