The Stanley Cup Finals will last at least six games this year after the Tampa Bay Lightning won Game 5 3-2, keeping the Colorado Avalanche out of the Cup for at least two more days.
Game 6 will take place on Sunday in Tampa (8 ET, ABC and Sportzshala+). With Colorado leading the series 3-2, what are the keys to winning each side? How confident are they in goalkeepers? And who will emerge victorious?
More: Stanley Cup Finals Schedule
Path to Victory Avs
Kristen Shilton: Colorado clearly knows how to beat Tampa Bay: play fast, create opportunities for aggression, and pay attention to detail when breaking through. A little less and Lightning will find ways to fight back and capitalize. The Avalanche dominated the start of this series through the neutral zone. This has not been the case lately. And Colorado doesn’t produce the same fast starts as it used to. If anything, the Avalanche looked their best in the third period and overtime after that 7-0 rout they delivered in Game 2.
If Colorado intends to return home with the Stanley Cup after Game 6, they must return to attack. At this point, there’s no point in being afraid to make the mistakes that the Avalanche seems to have plagued for most of Game 5.
Closing Lightning is not easy; they wouldn’t be alive in the playoffs if that were the case. Tampa Bay has lost three out of four series. Colorado needs to show a lot more desperation in their game to shut out a Lightning group programmed to excel at clutching. The Avalanche has the talent and the tools to finish off Tampa Bay. What they have to channel in Game 6 is the killer instinct, which was at the forefront of their early series performances. Colorado did well in the playoffs, going 7-1 in four series.
“We’re doing well because we just keep playing our game, regardless of venue,” Avs coach Jared Bednar said after Game 5. – The guys were digging on the road. We saw it in the regular season. “I saw him really make the playoffs. The guys come in hungry and ready to play and play to our personality. So it’s a 60-minute effort. I thought the Tampa game we won, [4-3 in OT in Game 4]we got stronger as the game went on.”
Path to victory for Lightning
Greg Wyshinsky: The Lightnings believed in their recipe for defeating Avalanche throughout the series. It’s just that in the first two games, their ingredients were spoiled by a terrible start – a multi-goal deficit in the first 10 minutes, partly caused by missed penalties. But in the last three games they began to prepare, leading after the first period in all three matches.
“You can see what can happen. Won game 3, game 4 goes into overtime, it was a tight game. We want it to continue and we want to play like that,” said Captain Stephen Stamkos. “We know what a dynamic skill set they have. If we can stay disciplined, stay out of the box, try to eliminate their skills as much as possible. That’s how this team has won, and we’re built to play games that are so tight.”
Lightning is comfortable to play in intense games. They rely on goaltender Andrey Vasilevskiy, for example, a solid 35 save game they got in Game 5 and a great team defense that kept Nathan McKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen and Nazem Kadri from scoring a goal in Game 5.
But they can only win these intense games if they get enough points. Sometimes it comes from unexpected sources such as defenseman Ian Rutta. Often it comes from clutch players like Ondřej Palat, whose 11 goals in this playoff have been the talk of Conn Smythe.
“I don’t even know what else I can say to describe the guys,” said Lightning coach John Cooper. “You lose in the series, the Cup is ready. You have excellent conditions for the home team. And how do you show the skill of the game? Everything we just did. , score in the majority. And then when you need a big goal at the end, you get it.”
Goalkeeper Confidence Test
Shilton: I would give Darcy Kemper a 7.5/10 on the confidence scale.
Bednar disapproved of Kemper, calling his performance in Game 5 “good”, but then Kemper did give Rutta an easy-to-stop goal in the playoffs, so perhaps Bednar was just around the corner.
Kemper was inconsistent. It wasn’t much of an issue because Colorado was exceptional in front of him, so Kemper’s comparative mediocrity didn’t warrant too much analysis at times. Tampa Bay is no ordinary opponent, and Vasilevsky is no ordinary goalkeeper. Now more attention is being paid to Kemper than ever, and Vasilevsky has gotten the better of him.
In doing so, Kemper was sensational (minus one allowed goal from Victor Hedman from the left) in Colorado’s Game 4 victory. This is where the Avalanche need him in Game 6. It’s practically a given that Kemper will concede one unfortunate goal. It would be manageable. I think Kemper can outplay Lightning, if not outright Vasilevsky. Most importantly, he doesn’t let Bednar – or anything else – piss him off before the next big game.
Vyshinsky: My trust in Vasilevsky is about nine out of ten.
I don’t think he doesn’t have that aura at all that he had in previous runs. He still makes some clumsy saves that give Avalanche a second chance. He beat Kemper but only had 0.28 balls in Game 5 and dropped more than expected.
Lightning’s trust in Vasilevsky is basically 11 out of 10.
“He played hockey more than anyone, more than anyone in the last three years. The guy just has it,” said winger Pat Maroon. “He finds a way every night. This is very impressive. The way he did it in the regular season, playing over 50 games, three times in the playoffs. He plays all 60 minutes. So he’s a guy.”
What do we expect from game 6
Shilton: What happened to Nathan McKinnon’s finish?
He is dazzling to watch with the puck. He can stick a pen through a phone booth. But why did his performance in the Cup final evaporate? Yes, McKinnon gets the toughest matches. And he technically scored a goal when Mikko Rantanen’s pass failed him in Game 4. McKinnon had flashes of greatness in this series that didn’t score goals. But McKinnon really has to score goals. This has never been more important than now, on the cusp of a critically important, decisive, decisive moment.
Players always say it’s all about creating opportunities, and McKinnon clearly does that. But he had little time left to help Avalanche by appearing on the scoresheet with tangible results. If McKinnon has become the changed man that everyone thinks he is and is playing freely, now is the time to show it with well-timed stick goals, not skating.
Vyshinsky: Will we see a tipping point for special teams in the Stanley Cup Finals?
The X Factor in Game 5 was that the Lightning finally converted a powerplay for only the second time in 18 opportunities. Nikita Kucherov’s 4-on-3 goal was that they were short of an overtime loss extra-score in games 1 and 4.
“The power play was a little tight,” Stamkos said. “Obviously, this is an important moment in the game. I hope we can gain confidence in that as well.”
Meanwhile, the penalty showed its best results. It was the first time in five games that the Avalanche hadn’t scored a powerplay goal, having previously gone 6-for-13 with a player lead. But the key number was two, as was the number of power plays the Lightning gave away to Colorado. It was the second straight game in which they limited the Avalanche to two power plays. It’s huge.
Final score predictions
Shilton: I still think Colorado is the best team. And the Avalanche haven’t lost in a row in the playoffs. Tampa Bay impresses with its resilience. The Lightnings really leave it all on the ice every night and Game 5 showed they are nothing short of brave. If Colorado can play the full 60 minutes they played in the last 20 minutes of that game, and if Kemper can do his best, the Avalanche should find a way out. 4-2 Colorado.
Vyshinsky: My pre-series prediction was Avalanche in six, and I’ll stick with that. Kemper should be better and McKinnon, Landeskog and Rantanen should dominate. I think they will. I love it when they win another tight game in Tampa and finally lift the Cup again. 3-2 Colorado.