With a win Friday night at Ball Arena, the Avalanche will win their third Stanley Cup and save the Tampa Bay Lightning from a three-pointer.
Five things to consider for Game 5
1) Complete it at home. The Avalanche have not finished a playoff series at home since 2008. You can win the Stanley Cup in front of the burgundy-blue faithful at Ball Arena for Denver’s biggest hockey celebration since 2001.
“It’s going to be great,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Thursday morning at the Tampa airport. “We try to have home field advantage all season and we came in and got a split in Tampa, played better night two than night one. Our boys will be delighted. Our boys are excited and should play with desperation. It should be a great hockey game.”
2) lightning. Tampa Bay twice beat Toronto in the first round as they faced an elimination game, and the Lightning trailed the New York Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bolts don’t budge.
“Just focus on one game. We can. We have to win a game,” said Lightning forward Pat Maroon. “Right now we’re concentrating on Game 5 and we have to win. I mean, there’s nothing (else) we can really do.”
3) Stay in the moment. Colorado doesn’t want to get away with what worked. The Avs are 15-3 in the postseason, and a 16-3 result would be the second-best since the NHL transitioned to a four-round best-of-seven format in the 1980s. The 1988 Edmonton Oilers hold the record of 16-2. The Avs’ previous cup victories ended 1996 with 16:6 and 2001 with 16:7.
“It helps us stay in the moment and focus on the things that we can control, and for me that’s the process that makes us successful,” Bednar said. “Our preparation, our splitting the game into five-minute increments so we’re sharp and doing what we need to do to be successful. This is our path to success so far this season and we will not change it now.”
4) Play fast. The Avalanche outplayed the Lightning 11-3 in thrilling Games 1 and 2 in Denver. Colorado played fast — faster than Tampa because the ice conditions there were deteriorating. With the Avs being the faster team in this series, expect Ball Arena’s ice crew to ensure conditions are favorable for the home team.
“We have a great opportunity here to do something great for the team, but at the end of the day we have to focus on ourselves and play our game and then wherever that takes us, it takes us,” said Avs- Defender Cale Makar. “We have a lot of faith and a lot of faith in the guys and there’s definitely no faltering confidence in our space.”
5) Be special on rare occasions. The Avalanche burns on special teams in this series, going 6-of-13 on the power play and killing 13 of 14 shorthanded situations. But penalties are being awarded less frequently as the series progresses and both teams must recognize that they must fight through non-calls and focus on how they play with even strength.
“It’s playoff hockey. Stanley Cup Final. Players are expected to struggle through a lot of things because it’s the most competitive time of year,” Bednar said. “The referees won’t call out the tricky stuff that knocks teams down and gives them an advantage over the other team. They let the players decide the game. It should be so.”