Stanley Cup Final Opinion: Avalanche Gut Examination

Game three ended with Avalanche’s worst playoff defeat in their quest to win the Cup after the Tampa Bay Lightning’s side dominated them 6-2. Colorado was quick to find answers during the second half, which saw four goals for the opponent. No matter how many times Jared Bednar rocked the eight ball, the message reads, “Try again” for the rest of the evening.

Tampa Bay will not go so quietly into the night as the Oilers and Predators did. The Colorado Avalanche players and fans should know that by now. The question is, how will Colorado respond to control? Can they replicate the poise and determination that Lightning demonstrated in Game 3 after being defeated 7-0?

Even more than anecdotal

Throughout this series, I have been dying on a certain hill. Maybe it’s a mountain you made out of a hill. However, my position was this; I don’t think the debate about this Stanley Cup game should be based on anecdotal and meaningless statistics. We’ve heard time and time again about Team Lightning being 18-1 after losing in the playoffs. Then we watched Avalanche dominate Game 2 from start to finish. The dialogue turned to “Avalanche undefeated on the road; here comes the sweep.” Then what happened? You can’t rely on the past to predict the future, at least not when the stakes are high, and not in a match with high-quality teams.

If you look closely at this match and dismiss the low scores of the previous ones, you will see two evenly matched teams. You’ll also see two teams struggling through some bumps and bruises. Depth has been the story of this series, with each combo being tapped as men leave the squad due to injury. So which team will get more comfortable in this department as the series continues to wear?

An avalanche could see striker Nazim Qadri return early in the fourth game. Andrei Burakowski did not make the trip to Tampa and is still in Denver for treatment but will ski later today or tomorrow. If one or both of those players can get back in and play shape, it will be hugely beneficial for the avalanche and depth contribution. Birke lost to injury in Game Two, forcing Colorado to split the third attacking line, which was in control. The return of Burke or Kadri will allow Avalanche to return to previous encounters.

Lightning saw Brayden Point return for Games 1 and 2 but he wasn’t in the lineup in Tampa. Victor Hedman, Corey Perry and Nikita Kucherov all look a bit overwhelmed with each taking notable time returning to the bench on numerous occasions. It won’t break a team like Tampa, but it will definitely put them on edge.

Where there is the will

Game 4 will be Lightning’s 10th game in 22 days, while Colorado will play its eighth game in the same time frame. The deeper this series goes, the more these two days count in Colorado’s favour, although both sides will be swayed by the grueling requirements of the final. Each team will have to find the will to win as their qualifying rounds get more and more physically demanding. Neither team can afford to “not have him” due to mental fatigue.

In the end, all the cliches surrounding the Stanley Cup will still apply. It will be a draining experience. It will be an arduous journey ending with the crowning of the most deserving and resilient team in the league, not the most talented team in the league. Intangible assets will separate these teams in the future, which is the best way to look at them. Could Colorado win by no means?