Avalanche not expecting letdown against Lightning in Game 2 of Cup Final

DENVER– The Colorado Avalanche know she’s coming. You know the Tampa Bay Lightning is coming.

If there’s anything the Avalanche can learn from the past, it’s that the Lightning won’t fold. So they didn’t get to their third consecutive Stanley Cup final. It’s not like they’ve won the Stanley Cup back-to-back seasons. It’s not like they came back after losing Game 1 of the Eastern Conference first round to the Toronto Maple Leafs and Games 1 and 2 of the Conference Finals to the New York Rangers.

So the Avalanche said they know they’re headed into Game 2 of the Cup Final at the Ball Arena on Saturday (8pm ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, SN, TVAS) after a 4-3 overtime win here on have to prepare on Wednesday.

“We’re focused on our game,” Colorado coach Jared Bednar said on Thursday. “We watched the game last night; we liked big parts of it, didn’t like parts of it. some of the things [there] that we can correct.

“Regardless of how Tampa plays, we have a certain identity that we must play in order to be successful. We learned that especially over the course of this season.

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But the Avalanche also studied.

With eight days off between the conclusion of a four-game sweep in the Western Conference Finals on June 6 and the start of the Cup Finals, they had time to pick apart what the Maple Leafs and Rangers had done well against the Lightning, what it allowed them to take the lead in the two series – and where those teams ended up falling short.

“I would say we learned a lot,” said Bednar. “We watched all of their playoff series. That’s where we spent most of our time getting into it. We saw the success that Rangers had in Games 1 and 2, and we watched.” for reasons we felt they didn’t find as much success as the series progressed.

“Tampa looked like they were getting stronger in a lot of different areas. They’re very comfortable in these tight checking plays. I think the more controlled, tighter checking play on their side favors them.”

Bednar said Colorado saw particular parallels with Toronto, which pushed Tampa Bay to the limit ahead of a 2-1 Game 7 loss. The Maple Leafs’ style of play mirrors that of the Avalanche in many ways, and the coach said he knows he can learn from it and hopefully apply that to this series.

“One of the teams that we looked at closely and spent a lot of time on was the Leafs,” Bednar said. “It’s obviously been a great streak, it’s been a dynamic streak. And I see a lot of similarities in the Leafs game, in the staff and in us. And some of the things they do with the puck, in their offensive strategy, structure, tactics, whatever you want to call it, there are many similarities.

“We learned that playing against them this year. So they have a lot of success. It’s difficult to get that goal in time [goalie Andrei] Vasilevskiy and Tampa as they defend. But they’ve consistently had some really strong flare-ups that we’ve been looking at very closely.”

Video: Amalie Benjamin with the latest on the Avalanche

Beyond learning from the Maple Leafs is a renewed commitment to what the Avalanche themselves have done well this season. They’ve taken special care to break the game up into five-minute chunks that they can easily come back from if they’ve given them away.

“It’s huge”, Captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “I don’t think that’s unusual, but you have to narrow your focus and if you just go out there and try to win that game, that’s a lot easier said than done. Stay in the present, stay in the moment, focus on your next shift, that’s super important.

“You have to be able to manage your emotions and sometimes you have a bad five minute segment and you have to be able to reset the clock and sometimes you see the clock ticking down to the next TV timeout , one would like to reset and go back. I think that’s important. “

The Lightning have been in this scenario before against the Maple Leafs and Rangers, but also the Avalanche. Bednar recalled the second round, when Colorado opened the series with a 3-2 overtime win over the St. Louis Blues. The Avalanche followed here in Game 2 with a 4-1 loss and needed six to progress.

“We have to be aware that we experienced disappointment in this game against St. Louis,” said Bednar. “We’re not hiding from that. We didn’t play that game well at all.”

But Bednar said he believes his team have learned from that experience and are approaching Saturday differently.

“I see no reason why we have a disappointment in Game 2 knowing how important the game is,” Bednar said.

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