Avalanche’s speed keeps Lightning away from the series
DENVER — Steven Stamkos knows what you’re thinking.
You watched in awe as the two-time champions emerged from the barn 7-0 on the last Saturday night of the hockey season.
You’ve witnessed a relentless Colorado Avalanche team that not only seem ready to accept the torch, but to wrest it from the grizzled grasp of the Tampa Bay Lightning, perhaps with a limb attached.
Game 2 was a teardown. A declaration. A searing, singing stunner of the most unhinged order.
“You all saw what happened tonight. This is absolutely not acceptable,” Stamkos said, “Especially at this time of year.
“Look, people are going to watch this game tonight and probably think the streak is over. But our group, we’re a very resilient group.
“Whether it’s 1-0, 7-0 or 10-0, it’s a playoff loss – and you have to move on. We have to pick ourselves up, as a team and as people. Our let’s go home in front of our fans and see what we’re made of.”
Well, as they set a franchise record with seven straight playoff wins and improved to a stupid 14-2 this postseason, we have a good idea of what the Avalanche are up to. done. They are raging bulls wearing rocket skates and wielding magic wands.
“Our speed is unmatched by any team in this league right now,” Avs defenseman Devon Toews said. “The speed of our team is just amazing. We play the game fast. We play the game hard. We are a bit relentless in our offensive attack.
“They had to go through big animals. Toronto, Florida and New York are all big animals in this league right now. I just think we’re a bit of a different animal.”
So far, this one-of-a-kind beast – the one that’s learned to never let up on the gas pedal – is devouring Tampa with greedy bites.
Colorado’s special teams are superior. Her eruptions are cleaner. His forecheck is fiercer and his counter-pressing is more effective. Heck, even his goaltender has a better streak, if only because the puck so rarely heads into Darcy Kuemper’s end.
The Avalanche limited the Lightning to just 40 shots over six periods. At even strength, Colorado generates 70% of the expected goals and outclasses its opponent 11-3 in real life.
To find any aspect of this series across two games in which Tampa has an advantage is to lie to yourself.
It’s not about confrontations, discipline or goalkeeping; It’s about one side executing their identity to a T, and another getting swallowed up by waves of pressure and purpose.
“They are playing at an elite level right now. Give them credit. We’re not,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said.
“Does it suck to lose a game like this? For sure. We are not used to it. It doesn’t really happen to us. But will that ever happen? Yeah, that’s it. You just hope it doesn’t happen in the Stanley Cup Finals.
Styles dictate fights.
And as adaptable and savvy as Cooper’s group may be, one can’t help but wonder if the Colorado brand of hockey is just too fast for the most used legs in hockey over the past three years.
In Game 2, you’d be karaoke drunk if you knocked down a shot for every odd man rush charging Andrei Vasilevskiy’s way. The guy stopped two clear breakaways and still got bombed.
Cale Makar scored the power play and shorthanded highlights.
Defenseman Josh Manson fired a 4-on-1 run, courtesy of a risky pinch from Ryan McDonagh – one of 18 skaters who had a rough night.
The Lightning were in such bad shape that Stamkos tried to mix things up with Toews, Ondrej Palat made a poor O-zone cross-check on Makar and Corey Perry committed Three minor penalties inside Kuemper’s crease. (“Perry sucks!” Chants rang out in Ball Arena.)
They were looking for a spark that never came. Pedaling a tricycle in a strong wind.
“They’re definitely the fastest team we’ve played against,” Stamkos said. “So we have to find a way to slow them down, there’s no doubt about that. But that’s also part of our execution – putting pucks in areas where you can neutralize their speed and not flipping the puck, not giving them gifts, which I thought we did tonight.”
Ask yourself the question: can the Lightning win four out of five times against this freight train?
Without a doubt, Tampa has more to give. But Colorado can taste it now, and if Game 2 is any indication, the Avs won’t slow down.
“Am I shocked that we lost 7-zip? I mean, I don’t think we saw it coming. But saying that, we have to step up and we have to do better,” Stamkos said.
Cooper added: “We were able to go around the cars and react. Disappointed with how the game went tonight, there’s no doubt about that. But I don’t question our team. They’re ballers in there. So turn the page. Proceed to Game 3.”
Fox’s Fast 5
• Left out to grab all seven goals, Vasilevskiy has still only been retired once in 94 playoff starts – and not since 2018. (It was only the second time in Vasilevskiy’s career that he gave up seven.)
Did Cooper consider a knockout?
“Listen. It’s the playoffs. And we’re here to win hockey games. Vasi is giving us the best chance to win a hockey game. He’s our guy. He’ll be there in a few nights. No,” replied Cooper.
“He’s the best goalkeeper in the world. And we win together, we lose together. Even if I had, I don’t think it would have come out. That’s what he is as a competitor. That’s why he’s the best.
• Jared Bednar is now two wins away from a triple coaching crown: winning titles at all three professional levels in North America. He has already led an ECHL team (2009 South Carolina Sting Rays) to a Kelly Cup and an AHL club (2016 Lake Erie Monsters) to a Calder Cup.
“I wasn’t aware of that. It’s pretty cool that he gets this opportunity,” defender Jack Johnson said. “It’s a testament to his knowledge and his success as a coach and his ability to get the best out of his players.”
• This knee against knee of Ross Colton on Cale Makar did not result in a penalty. Makar was in pain afterwards:
“I don’t have much of an opinion on that. It’s hockey. It happens. I saw him late just trying to dodge it,” Makar said. “Partly my fault. I haven’t even watched it yet.”
• The NHL set a revenue record this season, but no longer displays the Stanley Cup Finals logo on the ice. Just ads from eight different companies instead.
• Former Denver Broncos linebacker Von Miller was in the house to watch the touchdown (plus the conversion).