It might be Game 3, but it feels like a must-win for both teams.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have been down 0-2 already in the post-season, but they haven’t quite played a team to the quality level of the Colorado Avalanche.
The Avs have been dominant throughout the playoffs, losing just two games along the way. But you can never count out the Lightning, the team that’s famous for bouncing back after losses and not falling into traps that easily.
With a potential for the Cup to be awarded in Tampa Bay, expect the Amalie Arena to be nuts over the next few days. That starts with Game 3, so let’s get ready to setup tonight’s matchup:
Focus ahead for the Tampa Bay Lightning
How can you explain what has gone on with the Bolts in this series? It’s been pure domination by the Colorado Avalanche, and the two-time defending champs are in must-win territory heading home. It’s hard to beat a team playing like the Avalanche are, but the Bolts have been through enough over the years to know how to bounce back.
Playing back home at Amalie Arena where they’ve been so good throughout the playoffs is a good start. And they haven’t lost three in a row since 2019. But the Avs are no ordinary team,
This might as well be a new series for them. They still have to win four like they would if the slate was fully clean. They know how to do that. They won four straight against the Rangers last round and can do it again, but scoring is a big contributor towards winning, and they didn’t exactly excel in that on Saturday.
And then there’s Vasilesvkiy. Fresh off of his worst playoff game ever, the king of staying focused needs to play his best game of the post-season to keep this close. The Avalanche clearly have no issues creating offense up and down the lineup, so it’s not just the big stars you have to worry about.
Fixing that includes a better blueline effort. Vasilevskiy has consistently been left out to dry, and Colorado isn’t messing around. The Bolts have allowed the first goal in both games — that can’t happen again.
Colorado needs to keep the pressure
Have you seen a team put the pressure on like Avalanche did in the first two games? Mesmerizing, really.
But that was at home with the incredible Ball Arena crowd. The energy was high, and the team took full advantage of that. This time, they won’t have 17,000 strong on their side, but we know it doesn’t seem to matter where the Avs play — they don’t change game-to-game.
Darcy Kuemper has been good, Cale Makar has been spectacular and all the usual suspects have shown up to play. Colorado has managed to get four lines working every game, and the ability to score from just about everywhere has been so vital in the team’s strong start.
The opportunity to close this series out by Wednesday is tantalizing, but they have to stick to the plan. Don’t get caught in the excitement, just focus and replicate what made them successful to start the final. The first two games were near-dominant efforts — even if they nearly gave away Game 1 — and while winning the Cup at home might be more fun, they don’t want it to get that far.