TAMPA – If you’re a neutral observer, you’ll love this series a lot.
If you’re interested in either side, you’re nervous as hell. And by right it should be.
The Colorado Avalanche have a chance to make it 3-1 and secure an early series win in front of a packed crowd at Ball Arena on Friday. However, the Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to capitalize on their impressive effort in Game 3 to tie things up and force a return to Florida.
If you don’t treat every Stanley Cup final game like it’s Game 7, you’re not trying hard enough.
Here’s what to look out for ahead of Game 4 on Wednesday:
Use the home crowd to your advantage
So far, the home teams have been perfect in the 2022 Cup Final and this has been a pretty noticeable advantage throughout the playoffs.
In Tampa’s case, they better hope it catches on.
The crowd at Amalia Arena was electrified in Game 3 – better than in Denver? It’s hard to say – and will definitely be again. Anything to shake up the team. They chanted “Vasya, Vasya” a few minutes before the start of the game, and Andrei Vasilevsky responded with a couple of huge pad stops at the beginning of the game. They have the goalkeeping ability they needed and they will need a lot more than that.
Even though the win brought back some momentum, the Bolts are still down 2-1. They can’t let Lavina score another early goal – they scored in the first 10 minutes in all three games – and have to change the script and start hitting damage before. Tampa played a good 40 minutes to start the game, but the Avalanche found their place in Game 3 and—if it wasn’t so out of control from the start—raised concerns about Tampa’s playing ability in the full 60 minutes.
Tampa needs a great game on the ice, but at least we can expect a great performance from the fans.
Avs should build on the positives
Despite losing 6-2 in Game 3, Avalanche maintained a Corsi-for of 62.22, i.e. best expected goals in percentage and 56.41 percent shooting in a 5-on-5 game. Tampa took advantage of a poor performance on the Colorado side, but otherwise the Aves looked much better with equal strength.
So if Darcy Kemper had been better, the result might have been very different.
The Avalanche have only three playoff losses, so it’s kind of unfamiliar territory. But their ability to simply choke opponents at will and force teams to chase was so dangerous that they’ll try again tonight. The Lightning will be without Braden Point in Game 4, and Nikita Kucherov and Nick Paul have also been hurt – can the Aves take advantage of this?
Colorado should treat this as Game 7 because the opportunity to close the series at home on Friday would be an incredible end to an incredible season.
They are still ahead and the motivation to keep going like this is unmatched. Not that they needed the motivation to win the Stanley Cup final.