Darcy Kuemper or Pavel Francouz?  For Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, it's simple.  Here's why.

Darcy Kuemper or Pavel Francouz? For Avalanche coach Jared Bednar, it’s simple. Here’s why.

He didn’t say much then, either. Brent Belecki knew if Darcy Kuemper felt ready to rock by looking deep into his eyes. If he spotted any flame, even a flicker, burning from the soul to the pupils, the kid was good to go between the pipes.

“If people don’t know (Kuemper), they see him as a little quiet, or aloof, at times,” said Belecki, who was Kuemper’s position coach for two seasons with the Red Deer (Alberta) Rebels of the Western Hockey League .

“But it’s the exact opposite. You don’t need to yell and scream and take over the microphone. You can do your talking on the ice.”

From his home in Calgary, where he works as a firefighter, Belecki’s watched the Avalanche goaltender these last seven weeks get battered, bruised, kicked and, against Nashville, poked in the eye.

“(Darcy) is a keen competitor,” Belecki noted. “So if he was able to go, he would. Something’s bothering him. I’m not sure what it is.”

He doesn’t want to speculate, at this point. But he knows this: If Kuemper says, as the netminder intimated late last week, that he’s “100%” ready to go for the Stanley Cup Finals this week, well, that’s good enough for him. And it should be good enough for Avs coach Jared Bednar, too.

“(Kuemper) would just embrace it,” Belecki said. “Don’t think he’d say much about it. But I know he’d be burning up inside.”

A decade ago, the two spent hours on the ice before Red Deer practices, two or three times a week, 10 days a month. They broke down tape, then worked on smoothing over Kuemper’s rough edges in the crease. Movement stuff. Positioning stuff. Mental stuff, mostly.

“(He wasn’t) a prototypical ‘weird goalie,’” Belecki recalled. “Quite reserved, focused player. No quirks.

“But you’d kind of look into his eyes and there’s an intensity there and a drive that wants to perform. And knows he can perform well, for sure.”

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