In the NHL Finals, Avalanche Goes From Chaser to Front Runner

DENVER – The 1st game of the Stanley Cup final was described as a rival to reach the reigning champion. In Game 2, the opponent jumped straight.

The Colorado Avalanche, predicted several years ago by many to climb the ladder quickly to NHL supremacy, is a double victory before winning the Stanley Cup after a 7-0 defeat of defending champions Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday in a game in which I felt like a party was coming.

Question now: Can Tampa Bay be revived, as was the case in the Eastern Conference finals after the Rangers grabbed a short-lived 2-0 series? Or is the world of hockey witnessing a transfer of power from a respected but exhausted champion to a young, strong team of the future? Was Game 2 a distraction or did Colorado arrive more urgently than anyone had predicted?

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

The hardest part is still ahead of Colorado. The next two games, including Game 3 on Monday night, are at sea level in Tampa, Fla., And no team in the three seasons has found a way to eliminate the champion so far. Tampa Bay has won 11 consecutive qualifiers, but the Avalanche have a different creature shape.

Entering the finals, some Lightning players admitted Colorado would be the best team they have faced in this championship race. But they did not intend to suggest the Avalanche was the best. Two games in a row, though, Colorado looks faster, more dangerous, newer and even more dedicated.

“There is a good line between having respect for your opponent and a lot of respect for your opponent,” Steven Stamkos, captain of Electricity, said. “We have to realize that we got here for some reason. Let’s go back to our game and understand they have an amazing team there with great skill in every position. But we too. So let us know what we are made of when they return home.”

It is becoming increasingly clear what Colorado is doing. Led by world-class player Nathan MacKinnon, and former puck-moving defender Cale Makar, the team also has supporting actors. It includes strikers Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky, Gabriel Landeskog and Valeri Nichushkin, who scored twice in Game 2, as well as defender Devon Toews. They are all under 30.

The Lightning, which is the average age-old for any team in the NHL, relied on their experience to surpass rivals a few years ago, but all of that experience could be counterproductive.

Going deep into the post-season two seasons in a row, Tampa Bay has played more games than any other team in that period, and probably any fatigue was triggered by steepness during Games 1 and 2. Denver is about one mile above the sea. standard, which may have affected Electrical displays. If so, a return to sea level for Games 3 and 4 could help.

They need it. After Game 1, which went on for overtime, Electric spoke about gaining a better understanding of how Avalanche plays. But it was Colorado that improved its profitability with a new set of successes.

It was the second team in more than 100 years to register a tie in the Stanley Cup final by a margin of more than seven goals, after the Pittsburgh Penguins 1991, who beat Minnesota North Stars, 8-0, in a 6th qualifying match. that year.

Colorado has also become the third team to score seven goals four times in one season after one season, joining Edmonton Oilers, which did so six times in 1984 and five times in 1985, in an era when goals were scored faster than today’s game.

And with Makar scoring twice in Game 2, Avalanche’s blue line has 17 goals (seven by Makar) and 61 points in these qualifying matches, a record for the Colorado defenders. Makar scored a short-handed goal and added another in the dynamic game, making him the second NHL defender to score on both sides of a personal advantage in the Stanley Cup final. Boston Bruins’ Glen Wesley did so in 1988 against Edmonton.

Colorado has won seven consecutive qualifying games, including sweeping the Oilers in the Western Conference finals, and is away 7-0 – the juggernaut who reached the peak of the season 2 in the final.

“It was definitely as good a game as you can get from the players,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said.

Andrei Vasilevskiy, Tampa Bay’s top scorer by nature, carried the brunt of the attack, conceding more goals than he had ever despaired in the game after the new season. Much of that was not his fault. Colorado’s rapid pace helped create many reward opportunities, some of which Vasilevskiy saved with incredible skill.

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

Vasilevskiy has not changed in the knockout game since 2018, a series of 77 games, and Cooper said he did not consider removing him from Game 2.

“Even if I did, I don’t think he would have come out,” Cooper said. “That’s the way he is a competitor. That is why he is so much better. ”

Stamkos said the time has come for all Lightning players to “prepare themselves,” and Victor Hedman, a veteran defender, said the team would settle at home. But what puzzled Cooper was the lack of motivation against the team that was passing him by.

Although Avalanche is very different from the Rangers, Cooper said, Electric can use their experience against New York to suddenly change the home course.

“We’ve written one story,” Cooper said. “Now we have to write another one.”

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