Will the 2021-22 NHL season end tonight? The Colorado Avalanche leads the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-1 thanks to Nazem Kadri’s overtime winner Wednesday night. Colorado is looking to win its third Stanley Cup in franchise history and its first since 2001 when they defeated the New Jersey Devils in seven games.
The Lightning have not been eliminated since the Sweep-that-launched-a-monster series in 2019 against the Columbus Blue Jackets. But they have Andrei Vasilevskiy and as we have seen after the first two games of this series, they will not go down without a fight.
“There is no tomorrow now. That’s it,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said Friday. “There are no more mulligans. We have to pull this one out.”
Let’s take a look at what to watch out for tonight ahead of Game 5 at the Ball Arena in Denver.
What to watch out for in Game 5 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals
• Avalanche management of emotions: Friday night could be a memorable one for the Avalanche players and organization. Winning a Stanley Cup at home is a special experience, but even though they lead 3-1 in a row, they can’t think of celebrating – not with the two-time champions still in contention.
“This is a great opportunity for us. It’s an exciting game, an exciting moment,” said Avalanche head coach Jared Bednar. “You always hear about controlled emotions. I want us to use our nervous energy and emotions and play with passion and play hard and stay on our toes.
• Overcoming the ‘too many men’ controversy.: The Lightning face a tall order: beat the Avalanche in three straight games. Colorado hasn’t lost three straight or back-to-back games since a slip at the end of the regular season when they lost six of their last eight. The way Game 4 ended, whether you think Nazem Kadri’s goal should have counted or not, is now a thing of the past.
“The great thing about today is that it’s not yesterday,” Cooper said Thursday. “And now I’ve got some excitement going into Game 5, and it’s on my mind how I’m going to win that. Not [anything] we can do to reverse. you missed it Too bad, but now there is water under the bridge. Let’s get ready. It should be a damn good Game 5.”
[Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
• Rare terrain for this Lightning run: Since Tampa Bay kicked off that cup run in 2020, it hasn’t happened that often that you’ve got your back against the wall in a series. In fact, Game 5 will be only the fourth time in the last three postseasons that they’ve faced elimination. In 2021, they defeated the New York Islanders in Game 7 to advance to the Cup Finals, and earlier in those playoffs they beat the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round with victories in Games 6 and 7.
• A dominant run by the Avs: Should Colorado end the series in Game 5, they will end the playoffs with a 16-3 record. According to the NHL, that would make them the first team since the 1987-88 Edmonton Oilers to end a postseason with fewer than four losses. The Oilers team, led by Wayne Gretzky, won their fourth title in five seasons, 16-2.
Another win would also set the NHL record for most combined wins during the regular season and playoffs.
• A return for Burakovsky?: Bednar said that forward André Burakovsky is an “option” for Game 5. He hasn’t played since blocking a shot with his hand in Game 2. Burakovsky, who scored two goals in the series, including the Game 1 overtime winner, stayed behind in Denver as the team traveled to Tampa Bay for Games 3 and 4.
In other injury news, Lightning defenseman Erik Cernak participated in Friday’s optional skate after blocking a shot in the second half of Game 4. He didn’t return. Also on the ice was Brayden Point, who had been struggling with a lower body injury since the first round and last played in Game 2. Cooper didn’t rule him out for Game 5, calling it a game changer.
COLORADO AVALANCHE v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (COL leads 3-1)
Game 1 – Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3 – Blitz 6, Avalanche 2
Game 4 – Avalanche 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 5 – June 24th: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 6 – June 26th: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – June 28th: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
* if necessary
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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Write him a message email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.
Avalanche vs. Lightning: What to Watch For in Game 5 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals originally appeared on NBCSports.com