NHL Finals, Avalanche Go From Chaser to Front-Runner

DENVER – The 1st game of the Stanley Cup finals was described as a challenge to face the current champions. In Game 2, the opponent flew to the past.

The Colorado Avalanche, many who predicted several years ago that the NHL’s grand ladder would rise quickly, are two wins away from winning the Stanley Cup on Saturday after losing twice to Tampa Bay Lightning champion 7-0 in a game. it felt like an outing party.

The question now is, can Tampa Bay be revived, as it did in the Eastern Conference Finals, after the Rangers took a brief 2-0 lead in the series? Or is the world of hockey witnessing a decent but exhausted champion of power transfer to a young and dynamic team of the future? Was game 2 an aberration or did Colorado arrive in a bigger hurry than anyone expected?

“They’re playing at the elite level right now, give them credit,” coach Jon Cooper Lightning said. “We’re not.”

The hardest part is still Colorado. The next two games, including Monday night’s 3rd game, are at sea level in Tampa, Fla., And for three seasons he hasn’t found a way to knock out the champion so far. Tampa Bay has won 11 playoff series, but Avalanche looks like a different creature.

Upon entering the finals, some Lightning players acknowledged that Colorado would be the best team they have faced in this tournament. But they never intended to suggest that Avalanche was better. Two games in the series, however, make Colorado seem faster, more dangerous, fresher and even more committed.

“There’s a fine line between being respectful of your opponent and being overly respectful of your opponent,” said Steven Stamkos, Lightning captain. “It simply came to our notice then. Let’s get back to our game and understand that they have an unbelievable team out there with great skill in every position. But so do we. So let’s find out what they’re up to when they get home. ‘

It’s becoming increasingly clear what Colorado is made of. Directed by world-class playwright Nathan MacKinnon and a transcendent puck-moving defense by Cale Makar, it also has support teams. It includes strikers Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky, Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, who scored two goals in Game 2, and defender Devon Toews. All are under 30 years old.

Lightning, the second-oldest average of any team in the NHL, has relied on his experience to outscore opponents in the last two years, but the accumulation of all that experience can result.

Deepening after two seasons in a row, Tampa Bay has played more games than any other team in that span, and is likely to increase fatigue in the 1st and 2nd games of the season. Denver is about a mile above the sea. level, which can affect Lightning’s performances. If so, returning to sea level for Games 3 and 4 may help.

They need it. After the 1st game, he went to Luzapora to talk about a better understanding of how Avalanche plays. But it was Colorado that increased its advantage with a new set of achievements.

For more than 100 years, he became the second team in the Stanley Cup final with a seven-goal lead over the 1991 Pittsburgh Penguins, who beat the Minnesota North Stars 8-0 in Game 6. that year.

Colorado also became the third team to score seven goals in four postseason seasons, joining the Edmonton Oilers, six times in 1984 and five times in 1985, at a time when they scored higher than their current goals.

And with Makar scoring two goals in Game 2, the Avalanche Blue Trailers have 17 goals (seven from Makar) and 61 points in these playoffs, a Colorado defense record. Makar scored a short-handed goal and added another in the power play, making it a second-round NHL defense in both sides of a man’s advantage in a Stanley Cup finals game. Glen Wesley of the Boston Bruins played in 1988 against Edmonton.

Colorado have won seven rounds in a row, including a sweep with the Oilers in the Western Conference Finals, and are 7-0 on the road – a machine that reaches top speed in Game 2 of the final.

“It was definitely the closest game you could get to the players,” said Avalanche coach Jared Bednar.

Andrei Vasilevsky, usually a great Tampa Bay goalkeeper, suffered the brunt of the attack, scoring more goals than he had ever scored in a post-season game. Most of it was not his fault. Colorado’s bad pace helped create a number of chances, some of which were saved by Vasilevsky with tremendous skill.

“We hung it to dry,” Stamkos said. “We owe it to him to have a better next game.”

Vasilevsky has not been replaced in a playoff game since 2018, a 77-game streak, and Cooper said he was not removed from Game 2.

“Even if he did, I don’t think he would come out,” Cooper said. “That’s the competitor. That’s why it’s best. ‘

Stamkos said it was time to “humanize” all the Lightning players, and veteran defender Victor Hedman said the team would hit home. But what confused Cooper was the lack of backlash against a team that was passing by him.

Although the Avalanche is very different from the Rangers, Cooper said, Lightning can rely on his anti-New York experience to suddenly flip the path at home.

“We wrote a story,” Cooper said. “Now we have to write another one.”

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