The Tampa Bay Lightning were confident they would have a better start in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final.
That confidence, it turns out, was unfounded.
The Colorado Avalanche roared out of the gate for a second straight game on their way to a 7-0 win to take a commanding 2-0 series lead as it shifts back to Tampa Bay on Monday night. This is just the second time the Lightning have lost consecutive playoff games since 2020, and these two games have probably been the worst ones they’ve played during that stretch.
Tampa Bay simply has had no answers for anything Colorado has done over the first two games. They can not match their speed, they can not slow down their forecheck, they can not establish any offensive zone time, and they have been unable to take advantage of the goaltending matchup that should benefit them.
The Avalanche again jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the first 10 minutes on goals from Valeri Nichushkin and Josh Manson, and then added another when Andre Burakovsky found the back of the net for the second game in a row. Colorado recorded 15 of the game’s first 16 shot attempts and by the end of the first period had a commanding 24-10 attempts lead and an 11-5 shots on goal edge.
Colorado finished the game with a decisive edge in every major category offensively.
Even more than the score and the stats, the Avalanche just looked better. Even when they were not scoring goals they were creating golden scoring opportunities and making Andrei Vasilevskiy make more big saves than he probably wanted to be making in a game against that sort of offense.
What makes this Colorado onslaught so impressive so far is that it is not necessarily the superstars providing the goals. They have been great, sure, but the secondary players like Nichushkin and Burakovsky have been sensational, while Manson had a stellar game from the blue line.
Nichushkin was especially great in Game 2, continuing his magnificent postseason long performance that has seen him take a star turn. Along with the opening goal on the power play he added a second goal in the second period.
Make way for the Chu Chu train! 😤🚂 #StanleyCup
— NHL (@NHL) June 19, 2022
Along with the goals, he was also a menace on the forecheck and a constant disruption to Tampa Bay’s attempts to cleanly exit its own zone. He is a pending unrestricted free agent, and whether it is with Colorado or another team he has made himself a ton of money this season.
Cale Makar also added to his Conn Smythe candidacy with two more goals.
Lightning primed to come back?
This is not unfamiliar territory for Tampa Bay this postseason.
As we wrote on Saturday, the Lightning have started slow in every series this postseason. They have lost the first game in three of their first four series and are facing a 2-0 deficit for the second series in a row. They were able to overcome a deficit in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers when the series moved to Tampa Bay. They managed to hold serve with two wins there, and then won four consecutive games to advance.
But this feels a little different. The Lightning have not looked this bad in any of those early series, and certainly not against the Rangers. There was at least an argument to be made against New York that Tampa Bay was getting its chances but was simply getting out-goalie’d by the likely Vezina Trophy winner and a possible Hart Trophy winner in Igor Shesterkin. They were able to dominate the remaining four games of the series.
That sort of argument can not really be made here. This is not about the Lightning creating chances and matching its opponent in play only to lose because of goaltending. They are simply getting outplayed. Badly. In a way that we have not seen them get out played in years.
The Avalanche are now 14-2 this postseason with only one of those losses coming in regulation. It is to this point one of the most dominant postseason performances we have seen in years.
COLORADO AVALANCHE v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (COL leads 2-0)
Game 1 – Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3 – June 20: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
Game 4 – June 22: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 5 – June 24: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 6 – June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)