Speedy Colorado Avalanche zooms to 2-0 lead over Bolts

By on June 19, 2022 0

DENVER (AP) — Mariner on that for a moment: Colorado has 11 goals in the Stanley Cup Final so far, and none from star forward Nathan MacKinnon.

The Avalanche, always pushing the pace, clicked on all cylinders, even with MacKinnon’s score held in check and Nazem Kadri sidelined with a thumb injury.

It’s a group that comes from all directions – regardless of the name on the back of the jersey. They are a constant blur of burgundy and blue who get quick break after quick break, scoring chance after scoring chance.

Meanwhile, they have a 2-0 lead over Tampa Bay in the best-of-seven series, with Game 3 in Tampa on Monday night.

“Definitely the fastest team we’ve played against,” Tampa Bay forward Steven Stamkos said. “We have to find a way to slow them down.”

How, precisely? “Put pucks in areas where you can neutralize their speed and not flip the puck — don’t give them gifts,” Stamkos said. “It’s no secret that they are a very fast team.”

Colorado has scored at least seven goals four times in this playoff series, the latest being a 7-0 rout in Game 2. They are one of seven NHL teams to have recorded that many games with seven or more goals in a single postseason.

On top of that, the Avalanche became the first NHL team to score 11 or more goals in two Finals games since accomplishing the feat themselves in 1996.

Coach Jared Bednar attributes the offensive fireworks to one big reason: rest. While the Lightning had to go through a tough six-game series with the New York Rangers, the Avalanche had an extended break after a sweep from Edmonton.

“We tried all year to balance the work/rest ratio,” explained Bednar. “It’s important. … Our team just seems to be really focused, composed and they’re hungry and they want to win.

A different player also rises to the occasion in each game. Like Andre Burakovsky scoring the OT winner in Game 1. Or Valeri Nichushkin and Cale Makar each recording two goals in Game 2. They found a way to score early and often on Tampa Bay’s Andrei Vasilevskiy who is one of best goalkeepers on the planet.

Speed ​​can really make a difference.

“We think that’s how we have to beat them,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson said of picking up the pace. “For us, we can’t think we’re under their skin. We cannot think of such a thing. We just have to keep going and have that mentality that doesn’t stop.

The Colorado also does all the hard work. Take Darren Helm, for example: he leads the playoffs with 84 hits, including 22 in the Finals. He also scored in Game 2, his second of the playoffs.

“A beast,” Makar said of the veteran center. “He’s so motivated.”

There’s also Darcy Kuemper and his 16-save shutout on Saturday night. He joined Patrick Roy as Avalanche goaltenders who recorded a shutout in the Stanley Cup Final (Roy accomplished the feat in 1996 and twice in 2001 as Colorado won its two Stanley Cup trophies).

“They’re playing at an elite level right now,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said. “We’re not. … We have to raise our game.

MacKinnon has two assists in the series so far. He realized that he can’t always play the lead role. He can, however, play the role in which he plays. In this case, it’s about winning faceoffs, dishing out hard hits, and being such an offensive force that Tampa Bay needs to be watching him all the time.

“Goals don’t matter to him,” Manson said. “Whether Mac scores or not, he’s running the game, he’s wearing the guys down, he’s forechecking, he’s over the pucks. He plays amazing.

The same goes for Mikko Rantanen, who had three assists in Game 2 for the Avs. It was his fourth consecutive home game in which he recorded two or more points. That matches the Quebec/Colorado franchise record in a playoff year, which was set by Nordiques great Peter Stastny in 1982 and tied by MacKinnon in 2020, according to NHL Stats.

“We know as a team that we’re rewarded offensively when we play our best game defensively,” said Makar, whose team is 7-0 on the road so far in these playoffs. “It’s just coming to that kind of realization every night. It’s obviously a great team.

“They’re going to throw everything they’ve got at us in the next game. We just have to be ready – and ready to bring it back at them too.