The Colorado Avalanche are halfway home to their first Stanley Cup title in 21 years. A 7-0 drubbing of the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 2 Saturday night has many believing this series is over. But the play now shifts away from Ball Arena in Denver, which could revitalize a Tampa Bay team that has been unable to deal with the speed of the Avalanche.
Colorado has made the Lightning pay for each turnover and while the series isn’t over, there’s plenty of work left to do for both teams.
Let’s take a look at what to watch for ahead of Game 3 tonight from AMALIE Arena in Tampa Bay.
What to watch for in Game 3 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final
• A bounce-back for Vasilevskiy: The Lightning goalie allowed a playoff career high seven goals in Game 2, a night to forget. But the netminder has found a way to rebound after tough nights like Saturday. Vasilevskiy is 19-13-1 after games where he’s allowed at least five goals, and 4-2 in that situation during these playoffs.
“Listen, we left him out to dry tonight,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after Game 2. “He’s been our backbone for years and years and years, and we owe it to him to have a better game next game. I mean, it could have been more. He made some unbelievable saves. By no means is this on him tonight. We’ve got to be better as a group.”
• Injury updates: Brayden Point did not take part in Monday’s morning skate and head coach Jon Cooper said he will be a game-time decision. Point, you’ll recall, missed both the Second Round and Eastern Conference Final after suffering a lower-body injury in Game 7 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round.
Burakovsky, meanwhile, hurt his hand blocking a shot in Game 2 and did not travel with the Avalanche on Sunday. He is expected to arrive in Tampa Bay Monday afternoon and will be game-time decision. Nicolas Aube-Kubel could find his way in the lineup, if necessary.
Also a game-time decision? Nazem Kadri:
Nazem Kadri ⬇️ pic.twitter.com/E4mkNpF1Ws
— Renaud Lavoie (@renlavoietva) June 20, 2022
Vasilevskiy and Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog took the morning off, but will be fine for Game 3.
[Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
• Tampa Bay needs better shot quality: A picture, via Natural Stat Trick, that sums up the series:
That’s a look at even strength shot attempts through two games. Look at how the Avalanche are able to get chances in close on Vasilevskiy, while the Lightning aren’t making life difficult for Darcy Kuemper.
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• Workload piling up for Lightning?: Since 2020, the Lightning have played 67 postseason games, winning two Cups along the way. Add in 208 regular-season games and that’s a lot of hockey. But don’t look for them to use that as an excuse for this slow start to the Cup Final.
“I think having the ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup in the building and there’s only two teams left, that trumps everything,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper. “I’m not a believer in, ‘You’ve played a lot of hockey.’ Isn’t that what you want to do? I’d rather be playing hockey than having a five-month summer every year. This is what we play for. This is what we coach for.
“The toll is taken in the playoffs. That’s the toll. And the shot blocking, the groins, the hips, the cuts, the bruises, playing every second night. That’s the toll. And so when you get to the end, even though it doesn’t look like they’re banged up, they’re missing guys, we’re missing guys. We’ve got banged-up guys. That’s what the playoff toll does. It’s not what happened last year.”
• Making history: In best-of-seven Stanley Cup Finals, teams that get out to a 2-0 series lead have won 90% of the time (47-5). Four of the five teams that managed to come back and win the series did so in seven games — the last being the 2011 Boston Bruins.
The Lightning made a bit of history in Game 2 as they became the first post-expansion NHL team to go down 2-0 in both the Conference Final/Semifinal and Stanley Cup Final. They could become the first team to come back from being down in the final two round of the postseason 2-0 and win the Cup. According to the NHL, the 1965 Blackhawks, 1963 Red Wings, 1962 Blackhawks, 1959 Maple Leafs and 1945 Red Wings all were in the same situation, but ultimately lost the final round.
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)
Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.