The dominance displayed by Colorado on home ice through the first two games made it seem easy for many to imagine a sweep of the Lightning. Yet, that didn’t happen. Granted it was only game three at Amalie Arena, but the Lightning aren’t back-to-back champions for nothing.
Luckily for the Bolts, they kept together their then seven game home winning streak and pushed it to eight after dismantling the Avs 6-2. Vasilevskiy in the first two games of the series posted an abysmal .831 SV% and let in nine goals in two games. Back on home ice he has since been rejuvenated to his MVP stance stopping 37 of 39 Colorado shots on goal and putting up a whopping.949 SV%.
With the improved goaltending, the Lightning have made it a series. Through game three, we realized that this is still a championship winning team. In the first period Colorado scored a power play goal and stole the energy early a bit from Tampa. Essentially what the Avalanche have done all series, play fast and steal momentum by scoring.
But this time the narrative changed.
The Lightning stayed resilient and after winning a successful coach’s challenge. Without the challenge, it would’ve let Colorado lead 2-1 after the first, but that set the game back on their home ice by their rules. Tampa went back to their championship caliber play of setting the tempo and playing surgical hockey. Controlling the play through the neutral and spending lots of time in Colorado’s end.
For most of the series, the Lightning haven’t really been able to test the play of Darcy Kuemper. Kuemper, Colorado’s starter, had only just returned from injury in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. He hasn’t faced too many difficult chances through both games at home. But at Amalie Arena, the Bolts made him work and managed to put six past him.
Star power also came into play in this game. During the ESPN broadcast, analyst Ray Ferraro mentioned how important star power would come into play for the Lightning for them to win this game. And the stars definitely showed out. Captain Steven Stamkos and Nikita Kucherov were the First and Second stars of the game respectively, as they combined for four points. Kucherov had two primary assists on Tampa’s 4th and 5th goals of the game that sealed the Avs fate. Stamkos scored a key goal in the second period to give Tampa a commanding two goal lead.
All of this culminated in the perfect storm for the Lightning to strike down Colorado. The series still favors Colorado as they lead 2-1, but one more game remains still at home. This is the make or break for the series. The Bolts were in the same position when facing the Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final. But the Avalanche are the toughest team they’ve faced both in the postseason and all three of their battles in the Stanley Cup Final so far.
Luckily for us fans, it gives us more of a reason to hope this series lasts as long as possible. It has not disappointed as an entertaining series and one of the best Stanley Cup Final series to date.