Stanley Cup Final Opinion: Gut check time for the Avalanche

Game 3 ended as the worst playoff loss for the Avalanche during their quest for the trophy after the Tampa Bay Lightning dominated them 6-2. Colorado struggled to find answers in a second half that saw their opponents score four goals. No matter how many times Jared Bednar shook the eight, the message was “try again” for the rest of the evening.

Tampa Bay will not go into the night quietly like the Oilers and Predators did. Colorado Avalanche players and fans should realize that by now. The question is how will Colorado react to being dominated? Can they replicate and resolve the stance the Blitz displayed in Game 3 after suffering a 7-0 loss?

So over anecdotal

In this series, I died on a certain hill. Maybe it’s a mountain I made out of a molehill. Nonetheless, my attitude was this; I don’t think the dialogue surrounding this Stanley Cup match should be based on anecdotal and meaningless statistics. We’ve heard over and over again that the Lightning are 18-1 after losing in the playoffs. Then we watched the Avalanche dominate Game 2 from start to finish. The dialogue switched to: “The Avalanche are undefeated on the street; here comes the sweep.” What happened then? You can’t rely on the past to predict the future, at least not when the stakes are this high and not in a matchup with teams this high.

If we look closely at this matchup and dismiss the low-hanging fruits of previous results, you see two evenly matched teams. You’ll also see two teams struggling through some bumps and bruises. Depth is the story of this series where every group is taken advantage of when guys leave the lineup due to injuries. Which team will see more relief in that department as the series progresses?

The Avalanche could see the return of forward Nazem Kadri as early as Game 4. Andre Burakovsky did not make the trip to Tampa and is still in Denver receiving treatment but will be skating later today or tomorrow. If either or both of these players can come back and play in form it would greatly benefit the Avalanche and Depth contribution. Burky’s loss to injury in Game 2 forced Colorado to split the dominant third line forward. The return of either Burky or Kadri would allow the Avalanche to return to previous matchups.

The Lightning saw Brayden Point return for Games 1 and 2, but he wasn’t in the Tampa lineup. Victor Hedman, Corey Perry and Nikita Kucherov all look a bit battered as each takes a noticeable amount of time to return to the bench on numerous occasions. This won’t break a team like Tampa, but it will definitely push them to the edge.

Where there is a will

Game 4 will be the Lightning’s 10th game in 22 days, while Colorado will play its eighth game in the same period. As this streak goes deeper, those two days will add up in Colorado’s favour, although both sides will be hit by the grueling demands of a final. Each team must find the will to win as each playoff run becomes increasingly physically demanding. No team can afford to “just not have it” because they are mentally exhausted.

In the end, all clichés surrounding the Stanley Cup remain valid. It will have been an ordeal. It will be a difficult journey that ends with the crowning of the most deserving and resilient team in the league, not the most talented team in the league. The intangibles will separate these teams going forward, that’s the best way to look at it. Can Colorado win by not being denied?

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