The Colorado Avalanche have their work cut out for them as they prepare to face the defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning.
The Colorado Avalanche seemed to have a relatively easy road to the Stanley Cup Finals. They swept two of the teams they faced. They’ve only lost two playoff games, none of them on the road.
No shade to those opponents. The truth was they simply couldn’t match the caliber of the Avalanche.
The Tampa Bay Lightning absolutely can match the caliber of the Avalanche. (Boy, I was really hoping for the New York Rangers.) They are the defending two-time Stanley Cup champions. They have a stellar goalie and a battle-hardened core. They’re also mostly healthy.
The Avalanche, of course, are not completely healthy. They lost defenseman Sam Girard in the first series. Unfortunately, both Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano went down with hand injuries in the last series. That former loss is the one that hurts the Avalanche the most.
Colorado has a tough road ahead of them to beat the Lightning. That’s probably how it should be when you’re competing for the most lauded trophy in professional sports. But the Avs need to focus on their game and their will to win this series and the ultimate prize.
Home Ice Advantage
Only one team had a better record than Colorado in the regular season — the Florida Panthers. Tampa Bay dispatched them in the second round, so the Avalanche will enjoy home ice advantage for the duration of the Finals.
Now, that hasn’t really been necessary on their road to the Finals. As stated, they have a perfect record on the road. However, it’s getting hot outside, and that makes it difficult to keep up ice conditions in the arena. Colorado may be hot, but at least it’s not humid like Florida. A good ice surface is advantageous to the fast-skating Avalanche.
Plus, there’s that whole getting the last change thing. I’m not always the biggest fan of the coaching staff’s matchups, but they’ve gotten the Avs this far.
Skating vs Trap
The old adage is that goal tending, and defense in general, wins the Stanley Cup. Let’s hope that doesn’t hold true because the Colorado Avalanche aren’t as gifted in that department. The Lightning have locked those two qualities, though.
The Lightning run the dreaded 1-3-1 system. It slows teams down in the neutral zone, thus limiting breakaways and quality scoring chances. It’s an absolutely awful style of hockey to watch, but it’s one Tampa fans have grown to love because it precedes those Stanley Cup parades.
Colorado is going to have to bust that system wide open and frequently. They win when they fly. As we saw in the Edmonton Oilers series they can allow a team to score five because they’re able to score six.
That won’t happen against the Lightning unless they absolutely impose their will on each game. They did it before, taking both regular season games against Tampa. They just have to do it four more times.
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Well, games aren’t won on paper or in simulations. They’re won out on the ice. The Colorado Avalanche will host the Tampa Bay Lightning for their first game on Wednesday 15 June. It’s so exciting to be watching summer hockey!