The Colorado Avalanche made a statement win against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game2 of the Stanley Cup Finals.
Raise your hand if you thought the Colorado Avalanche would score seven goals on Andrei Vasilevskiy in one game and that Valeri Nichushkin would be the first star of the game. If your hand is up, you’re either psychic or lying. 😉
We all know the Avalanche are a skilled team. But they have their flaws, just like any team. Not a single one of their flaws was in evidence last night when they dominated the Tampa Bay Lightning from start to finish. ESPN analysists even remarked that you could play that first period as a tutorial for how to play hockey.
Even the Achilles heel of the Avalanche, their goalie, was flawless. He wasn’t much tested. However, seeing few shots sometimes negatively impacts a goalie because they have a hard time getting into the flow of the game. Well, Darcy Kuemper stopped all 16 shots he faced, and that’s all you can ask of him.
The way the Avalanche played last night made them look like the Lightning weren’t even in the same league as they were. These are the reigning Stanley Cup champions, and they’re relatively healthy compared to Colorado. However, the Avs outmaneuvered them at every turn.
Now, I’m not going to do nothing but sing their praises in this post. First, they haven’t won it all yet. And I’m wildly superstitious. I’ve been ragging on them all playoffs, so I feel like I need to nitpick to avoid jinxing them.
I guess the one thing we would like to see is more production from our big-name forwards. I mean, Nathan MacKinnon and Mikko Rantanen can score some goals, and that would be good. MacKinnon hasn’t had a goal yet against the Lightning, so he could get on that. Neither has Rantanen, so ditto. They’re numbers two and three for points on the team, though.
Who’s number one? Do you even need to ask? I’m not going to find a single thing to rag on for Cale Makar. Not only has he been pert-near flawless this postseason, but he’s been a true leader. At the end of the game, he did the post-game interview in lieu of first-star Nichushkin. Emily Kaplan of ESPN asked if he was going to celebrate after tonight’s victory. He immediately said, “No.”
He didn’t elaborate, but you got the feeling the unsaid portion was, “We’ll celebrate when we actually win the Cup.” It was the same energy as when Nathan MacKinnon didn’t celebrate their first playoff win way back at the beginning of May. He just skated away from the bench with a TCB look on his face.
Well, Colorado is on the brink of just that. But it’s not going to be easy to just beat the Lightning two more times. Technically they could do so and be celebrating as soon as Wednesday. I don’t think that’s going to happen, though.
The Lightning are the current, two-time champs. They didn’t get there by rolling over. They’re going to come out with pure desperation in their home rink Monday night.
We also have to worry about ice quality. As I mentioned in a previous post, the ice quality tends to be bad in Florida this time of year — understandably so. Poor ice quality doesn’t favor a team like Colorado that relies on speed both on skates and on the puck. Instead, it favors the team that wants to slow them down.
Well, that’s a small, niggling worry. Colorado doesn’t have to win a single game in Tampa to still win it all. Their home-ice advantage sees to that. That said, they’re perfect on the road this postseason, so we’ll see what happens in Florida.
The bottom line is this: If they can continue to impose their will on the Lightning, the Colorado Avalanche could very well be the new Stanley Cup champions. But we don’t want to count those chickens until they’ve hatched. And I have a feeling those eggs will hatch in Colorado in front of the home crowd.
It’s kind of the way it should be, don’t you think?