The Avs need Nathan MacKinnon to lead with the Stanley Cup Final hanging in the balance. “There is no time for doubt.”

Tampa, Florida – On the ice, Nathan McKinnon could always fly. But like Peter Pan, he refused to grow up. A hockey genius when admired from a safe distance. But up close and personal, it can be very difficult to live with the terrible kid in a Colorado locker room.

“He’s still tough on himself and others. I think that’s part of what makes him so good,” veteran Avalanche defender Eric Johnson said on Tuesday.

Like many magicians, McKinnon can show zero tolerance for the human fallacies and failures of the thieves around him. Truth be known, his impatience can make McKinnon a royal pain in the ass.

“He has competitive fire. That doesn’t go away. If he goes too far and he doesn’t, I would be worried about him. Guys new to him need to learn how to deal with it, because it can come off as a bit tough. But when you know him, it’s just something that makes him tick.”

From exploding on the NHL scene as a teenager, skating around defensemen as if they were traffic cones, McKinnon has been a boy wondering about skates. But it’s also fair to say that when things got tough in the playoffs, Kid Mac tended to get frustrated, lose faith in his less talented teammates, and agonize when his sweet championship dreams collapsed.

After Colorado rudely bounced back from the playoffs in Las Vegas a year ago, McKinnon said, “I’m going into my ninth year and haven’t won (crap).”

Now, at 26, when an avalanche desperately needs it, is he finally man enough to lead his Colorado teammates to the Stanley Cup?

The Magic 8-Ball says: Evidence points to yes.

McKinnon, however, struggles to put the biscuits in the basket against Tampa Bay. He has assists and no goals in three matches vs. Lightning.

With goalkeeper Darcy Kuemper having a hard time finding a puck like a man fumbling for a bathroom light switch in pitch black at 3 a.m., the Avs needs someone else to show them their way to the NHL Championship.

Suddenly, after crushing Tampa Bay 6-2 in this best of seven series, the Stanley Cup Final was no longer a day on a Colorado beach. With the goal shaking, the Avs have never been more desperate than the perennial MVP candidate to be their best player.

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