The Wraparound: Can Lightning overcome another slow start to series?

Game 2 Tampa Bay Lightning Colorado Avalanche
Michael Martin, Getty Images

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2022 NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down the NHL playoff game today with the all-important television information.

• TheLightning look to get even in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final in Game 2 against the Avalanche.

• John Tortorella was officially hired as the next head coach of the Flyers on Friday

On more than one occasion this postseason the Tampa Bay Lightning have looked like a team that has been vulnerable. A team that is in the middle of a third consecutive lengthy postseason run and could be on the verge of maybe running out of gas. But they have always found a way to overcome it and continue their dynastic run toward a third consecutive championship.

Those moments of vulnerability have typically come at the start of each series where they have been slow starts.

Entering Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche on Saturday night the Lightning are in an early series deficit for the third time this postseason.

[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]

They trailed Toronto in the First Round by margins of 1-0, 2-1, and 3-2 before ultimately winning, stole a couple of early wins against Florida in the Second Round on their way to a sweep, and then had to overcome a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference Finals against the New York Rangers. In each of those previous series’ the Lightning did not look like the Lightning team we have come to expect in recent years early on, and that was definitely the case in their 4-3 Game 1 loss in this series.

Colorado was faster, dominated the territorial aspect of the game, and had complete control from the start. The mismatch in goaltending was the main factor in getting the game to overtime and giving Tampa Bay a chance.

Based on that one game, it would be easy to think that Colorado has the upper hand in the series at the start. And maybe it does. The Avalanche have been one of the best teams in the league for five years now and seem to be on a mission this postseason to erase any doubt that may have existed around this core. They are 13-2 in the playoffs, have only lost one game in regulation, and are just running over every opponent that lines up across from them.

[Related: Avs defying the odds with playoff goaltending]

But again, two of Tampa Bay’s first three opponents have had the Lightning looking like they have been down this postseason.

In each series the Lightning were not only able to get back up off the mat, they were able to come back and win the series. They keep getting stronger each series, almost as if it takes them a game or two to feel out their opponent and then kick things into overdrive. What makes it really impressive is they keep doing it even though they have played a ton of hockey the past three seasons thanks to three consecutive Stanley Cup Final runs. At some point you would start to think all of that would catch up to a team. But it never seems to hit the Lightning.

Even though they have lost the first game of three of the first four series’ this postseason, they still have lost consecutive games just one time (Games 1 and 2 of the Eastern Conference Final) over the past three postseasons. It is an incredibly resilient and defiant team.

But can they continue that trend against the Avalanche?

Even though Tampa Bay has played some outstanding teams over the first three rounds, including a clean four-game sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy winning Florida Panthers, this Colorado team is an entirely different animal in terms of speed, skill, offensive firepower, and defense. This Avalanche team is built to win, and it has almost every possible ingredient that you would want to see in a Stanley Cup winner. It has superstar talent at forward, it has the best defense in hockey, it plays an aggressive, up-tempo style of play that most teams can not match up with while also being defensively sound in the neutral and defensive zones. Their underlying numbers across the board are completely dominant this entire postseason.

The Lightning remain confident, with head coach Jon Cooper talking about how it is about winning the series and not necessarily winning Game 1. If the Lightning can get the win in Game 2 on Saturday to split the first two games it will have successfully wrestled home-ice advantage away from Colorado. That is all you can ask for going into a series like this. But if the Avalanche can win on Saturday and take a 2-0 series lead it is going to take a herculean effort from Tampa Bay to erase that deficit. No matter how strong they are able to get and no matter how good Vasilevskiy can be.

COLORADO AVALANCHE v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (COL leads 1-0)

Game 1 – Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – June 18: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
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)

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