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3 Keys: Lightning at Avalanche, Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

3 Keys: Lightning at Avalanche, Game 2 of Stanley Cup Final

(3A) Lightning at (1C) Avalanche

8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS

Colorado leads best-of-7 series 1-0 


The Colorado Avalanche are preparing for pushback from the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena on Saturday.

The Avalanche won 4-3 in overtime in Game 1 on Wednesday.

“We know that we haven’t seen Tampa’s best game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said. “They’ll be better than they were in Game 1. There’s a lot of areas for me that we can be a lot better in than we were in Game 1. So, we approach it the same way we did in Game 1. I’ll expect our guys to be energized and ready to go.”

[RELATED: Stanley Cup Final coverage | Stanley Cup Final schedule]

Bednar said the Avalanche expect Andrei Vasilevskiy to be at his best in Game 2 after the Lightning goalie allowed four goals on 38 shots in Game 1.

Vasilevskiy is 1-3 with a .884 save percentage in Game 1s this postseason, but he’s 11-3 with a .938 save percentage from Game 2 on, including 2-1 with a .928 save percentage in Game 2s against the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers.

“‘Vasy’ just dials himself in,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said. “Now he’s got a feel for the way they play, the speed they play with, where they shoot from — all those things. And that’s what great goalies do. They can figure out teams.”

Tampa Bay is 18-1 in games following a loss in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2020. It is 4-0 all-time in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, but this is the first time it opened the series on the road. 

Teams that take a 2-0 lead in a best-of-7 series are 341-54 (.863) all time, including 47-5 (.904) in the Cup Final. When the home team wins the first two games of the Cup Final, it has won the series 37 of 40 times (.925).

Here are 3 keys for Game 2:

1. Fixes against the forecheck

It didn’t take long for the Avalanche to establish their forecheck in Game 1. Their speed on it forced the Lightning into turnovers coming out of their defensive zone, one that directly led to forward Valeri Nichushkin‘s goal that gave Colorado a 2-0 lead at 9:23 of the first period.

The goal by forward Andre Burakovsky at 1:23 of overtime also was a result of a Tampa Bay turnover caused by Colorado’s aggressiveness in attacking on the forecheck.

“I don’t think you can ever really understand it until you feel it in the first game like that,” Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh said. “When they are forechecking, sometimes for us we like to connect the dots, make a couple passes. Early on here it might be throwing it to an area, throwing it to speed ourselves and trying to bypass a couple of their forecheckers that way. In the end it comes down to reads, it comes down to being connected in our zone and trying to execute a lot better than we did.”

2. Keep firing, Cale

Cale Makar attempted nine shots in Game 1; six were blocked and the Avalanche defenseman missed on the other three. It was the first time in 15 games this postseason Makar did not have a shot on goal; that happened twice in 77 games during the regular season. 

Makar is averaging 3.4 shots on goal per game, most among all NHL defenseman who played beyond the first round. But Tampa Bay did a good job getting in the way of his shots, preventing Colorado from creating scoring chances off of them.

The fact Makar didn’t get any shots isn’t a concern for the Avalanche, especially because they won the game. But Makar’s ability to get shots through has been important to Colorado’s offense in the playoffs and it could be again in Game 2.

“It’s just making sure that you’re moving and have eyes up shooting and it’s something he does on a consistent basis,” Bednar said, “and if he sees something he likes at the net, I want him to send it there. They’re going to block a lot. It doesn’t bother me. We’ll get it back.”

3. Taking advantage

The Lightning were 0-for-3 with three shots on goal on the power play in Game 1. A big problem they had was entering the zone, but the Avalanche deserve some credit for that.

“I thought we did a nice job on the rush coverage and entering our zone,” Bednar said. “There was some real good quickness to it, anticipation. They were dialed in on some of the tendencies that Tampa’s power play has. There was some sacrifice. We were blocking shots.”

The Lightning need to create better breakouts to get cleaner zone entries when they’re on the power play. 

They did on their first power play in the first period, when they had two shots on goal and five shot attempts. They had one shot and two attempts combined on their other two power play opportunities.

Lightning projected lineup

Ondrej PalatSteven StamkosNikita Kucherov

Brandon HagelAnthony CirelliAlex Killorn

Ross ColtonBrayden PointNicholas Paul

Pat MaroonPierre-Edouard BellemareCorey Perry

Victor HedmanJan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak

Mikhail SergachevZach Bogosian

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Scratched: Cal Foote, Fredrik Claesson, Riley Nash

Injured: None

Avalanche projected lineup

Gabriel LandeskogNathan MacKinnon — Valeri Nichushkin

Andre Burakovsky — J.T. CompherMikko Rantanen

Alex NewhookDarren HelmArtturi Lehkonen

Andrew CoglianoNico SturmLogan O’Connor

Devon Toews — Cale Makar

Jack JohnsonJosh Manson

Bowen ByramErik Johnson

Darcy Kuemper

Pavel Francouz

Scratched: Justus Annunen, Ryan Murray, Kurtis MacDermid, Jacob MacDonald, Jayson Megna, Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Injured: Samuel Girard (sternum), Nazem Kadri (hand)

Status report

The Lightning did not hold a morning skate Saturday. … Cogliano is “possibly an option” for Game 2, Bednar said; the center missed Game 1 after having surgery for a hand injury sustained in the third period of Game 4 of the Western Conference Final.

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