Game One was mostly what we expected to see in this series. Colorado’s dizzying offensive speed, Tampa’s ability to capitalize on chances and solid team defence from both squads. I do think that neither goaltender was on their best in Game One, but that brings us to tonight and the biggest question: How in the heck do you beat Andrei Vasilevskiy in consecutive games in the playoffs.
His streak had gotten to 17-0 before the New York Rangers beat them in Games One and Two of the Eastern Conference Finals, but we all know how that 2-0 series lead held up for the Blueshirts. It can be done, as the Rangers proved, but it won’t be easy. There’s not a goalie who responds better to a playoff loss than Vasilevskiy, but in their two previous Stanley Cup wins they didn’t have to face an opponent like the Colorado Avalanche.
One thing Tampa needs to do is find a way to limit the damage that Nathan MacKinnon is doing to them in this series. He plays like a human cheat code, and the Lightning will have to find that balance between checking him effectively and not over-committing, which can lead to Avs teammates being left unchecked for scoring opportunities. He can hurt you in so many ways, and how they respond tonight will be one of the difference makers in this series.
Like we saw back in 2011, the Finals are a war of attrition, and the team that manages to stay the healthiest is usually the one that comes out on top. For Colorado, that means not hoping they don’t lose anyone else as the series grinds on, but getting back Andrew Cogliano, and more importantly Nazem Kadri as soon as possible. Both players have been skating, but we likely won’t know til game time if either are ready to go.
The Lightning have twice lost Game One in this post-season, so it’s hardly a new thing for them, and Vasilevskiy is 11-3 lifetime in Game Two situations following a Game One loss, but they are going to need more than that if they hope to come out victorious. They did get some timely goals from Nick Paul and Ondrej Palat. They’ll also need to find a way to generate more offence, as they managed just 23 shots on goal in Game One.