After Game 2, this series looked like it was going to be another power trip for the Colorado Avalanche. They had complete control of the series and had Tampa on the ropes. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning came out swinging in Game 3 and have life again. This series could go any way at this point. Both teams have shown their strengths and weaknesses. Colorado and Tampa have proven they are worthy of playing in this Stanley Cup Final. Let’s dissect what we’ve seen thus far between the Colorado Avalanche vs Tampa Bay Lightning.
Colorado Avalanche vs Tampa Bay Lightning Series Analysis
The Avalanche Offence is as Lethal as Ever
The main strength of the Colorado Avalanche in this postseason has been their offence. It’s been lethal all season and they continue to make that point in the Final. In the championship series, the Avs continue to flaunt their dominance. They’ve scored 13 goals through the first three games of the series. They’ve been able to tee off on Andrei Vasilevskiy and slice through Tampa’s defence. It’s impressive to watch Colorado still play their game against the league’s best defence.
What’s helped is the Avs efficiency on special teams. They’ve gone 5 of 11 on the power play and allowed only one power-play goal against. They’ve made the most of their opportunities and capitalized on mistakes. However, Game 3 showed they still have work to do. The Avalanche didn’t play the disciplined and rapid style that’s brought them success. They were sloppy, unorganized, and failed to keep Tampa down. Colorado is good at adjusting and fixing their flaws quickly. They will need to do so again to put this series in a chokehold.
The Lightning Get a Much-Needed Win
After being dominated in Game 2, the Bolts needed a game like they played in Game 3. Tampa was finally able to execute their dominant defensive style. For a team in need of a confidence boost, this is what the Lightning needed. They finally looked like the disciplined machine they’ve become known for. They had the perfect response after a humiliating loss. Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos finally gave a much-needed spark. Vasilevskiy looked comfortable for the first time in the entire series. The two-time defending champions looked like themselves again.
That said, the Lightning still have some tweaks to make. One thing that’s hurt them is special teams. They’ve only scored one power-play goal on 12 chances. That will need improvement if they want to take this series back. They’ve also taken too many penalties and have paid for it. One major reason for the 7-0 blowout loss was the excessive turnovers and penalties. Colorado can force errors on their own, so Tampa can’t afford to play sloppily. They tightened things up in Game 3. But they can’t rest on their laurels. Every game is a clean slate.
Win Comes With a Cost
Despite the win, Tampa now has to worry about the health of some of their star players. Brayden Point did not play game 3 and Nikita Kucherov left the game in the third period with an apparent knee injury. Both players’ status is unknown going into game 4. Nick Paul, who has been a key depth player for Tampa also was hurt in game three. While he was able to finish the game and score a goal, he went to the locker room for treatment more than once.
Kuemper or Francouz: Redux
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a 2-1 lead over the Colorado Avalanche after the first period in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final.
— TSN (@TSN_Sports) June 21, 2022
In the series preview, there was a question: Darcy Kuemper or Pavel Francouz. The Avs are at a clear disadvantage when it comes to goaltending. So they need a netminder they can trust to hold down the fort. Darcy Kuemper had two good, if unspectacular, starts. He was able to secure a shutout in Game 2, but only faced 17 shots. That’s not to take anything away from him. Kuemper did what was asked of him. But his Game 3 performance resulted in him getting pulled. He allowed five goals on 21 shots. That isn’t going to be enough. Pavel Francouz played well in relief, giving up one goal on 11 shots.
Colorado shouldn’t make a rash change after one game. Momentum can change at any time. But Francouz has shown the ability to stand strong when needed. His performance in the Western Conference Final is proof of that. If Tampa lights up Kuemper again, it will be time for a change of the guard. Kuemper will need to lock in for Game 4. An improved performance will be key for an Avalanche victory.
Vasilevskiy Needs to Remain Consistent
Vasilevskiy finally had a vintage performance in Game 3. In the first two games, he looked rattled and unfocused. As stated in the series preview, this is the toughest offence he’s ever faced. The Avs have the ability to generate chances on a dime. They swing the momentum in a game at will. He was able to weather the storm in the 6-2 victory. But if the Lightning want a third straight title, he needs to be more consistent.
Colorado will no doubt come out swinging in Game 4. They are hungry for that Cup and want to secure it. Vasilevskiy is what will make or break the Bolts. His save percentage in this series is shockingly low, at .870. He will need more games like this past one in order for the Lightning to get back in it. If Game 3 is a turning point, then the Lightning finally got the break they needed.
This series still has a ways to go. Game 3 is a very important game and tonight showed why. The Lightning needed to win this game to keep themselves in the series. Colorado will need to adjust quickly to keep this series in their control. Both teams are good at fixing issues quickly and not resting on their laurels. Both have flexed their strengths and shown weaknesses that can be exploited. Game 4 will be vital for both teams. For Tampa, it’s a chance to recapture control of the series. For Colorado, it’s a window to put their foot on Tampa’s throat.
Game 4 is scheduled for 8 p.m. Wednesday in Tampa Bay.