AVALANCHE

If that was the Avs final home game of the year, it was perfect

Jun 18, 2022, 9:54 PM
Avalanche after win...
Photo by Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

The Colorado crowd got treated to All the Small Things blaring one last time, another dominating Cale Makar performance and the Avs scoring a touchdown. Soak it in Denver, and those of you who were at Game 2, because that might be the last time you see the burgundy and blue at Ball Arena this year.

The Colorado Avalanche beat the breaks off the Tampa Bay Lightning on Saturday, winning 7-0 to take a 2-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final.

From the game’s opening puck drop to the final horn, it was all downhill for the Bolts, where avalanches most thrive. Colorado’s seven goals contrasted with just six scoring chances for the Lightning. The Avs 30 shots on goals were to just 16 for Tampa.

“We stuck to our identity tonight, and that’s what led to the result,” Cale Makar said.

The most electric moments for the Lightning were one save from Andrei Vasilevskiy on Valeri Nichushkin, which prevented the first hat trick in a Stanley Cup Final game since Peter Forsberg’s in 1996. And them trying to goon it up late. Aside, they were a dead team skating.

“He’s built for this time of year,” Avs Head Coach Jared Bednar remarked of Nichushkin.

Nichushkin scored just 2:54 into the game, one of three in the first period. They added two more in the second and another two in the third. Makar netted his first two career goals in a Final game, becoming the first defenseman to score two since Dustin Byfuglien scored two in a game in 2010. Meanwhile, Mikko Rantanen tallied three helpers to become just the fourth player in franchise history with multiple 20-point postseasons.

Vasilevskiy’s 100th career postseason game was just the second time he’s allowed three goals in the first period. Both those instances are in this series against Colorado. The seven goals are the most Vasilevskiy has allowed in his career.

“If we play our game and don’t get away from that, it’s going to be really hard to beat us,” Alex Newhook said. “Tonight, we did a good job of staying on the gas.”

These aren’t indictments on the back-to-back champs; it’s more a compliment to just how good the Avs are playing.

“They’re just playing at a much higher level than we are right now. I think that was evident tonight,” Tampa Bay Head Coach Jon Cooper said. “We lost by a lot tonight. You’re better just throwing this one away and regrouping for the next one.”

Simply, the Avs are going toe-to-toe with a dynasty and kicking their butt.

“It’s a tough style to maintain at all times; you want to be fast and consistent,” Darren Helm, who had a club record 12 hits in a playoff game, said. “Our team is on the right on the nose of balancing those things.”

So the Avs go to Tampa up 2-0, the Bolts are looking for the NHL’s first three-peat in 40 years and they’ll have to win four-of-five to do so. In the Eastern Conference Final, they went down 0-2 and won four straight to get here. But Saturday showed a tired hockey team. A dynasty that’s past its prime and there is too much historical data to show that Tampa can come back.

In NHL history, only five times have come back to win a Final after trailing 0-2, and only two have occurred in the last 51 years. In any NHL series, teams that go up 2-0 have a near 90% chance of winning. Can the Bolts beat the odds twice in a month?

One more thing they’ll have to beat: the Avs on the road, at least twice. Colorado is undefeated away from Denver in this postseason.

So I ask again, did the Colorado Avalanche just play their final home game of the season? Are they about to sweep a team with at least six future Hall of Famers?

“This crowd is amazing; the environment is nothing I’ve ever seen before,” Andrew Cogliano said. And Cogliano might not see it again this season. Or at least he’ll see something crazier during the parade.

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