The Tampa Bay Lightning were able to bounce back from a 2-0 defect and take game 3, but the Avalanche now look to bounce back and take a commanding 3-1 lead before heading back to Colorado for game 5. The Lightning struggled in the first two games but showed their pedigree with a commanding 6-2 win in game 3, can that even the series up and take game 4? Here is my complete prediction and breakdown.
Fast Paced Avs
The biggest strength of the Colorado Avalanche is the speed and offense, and they delivered in the first two game netting 11 goals (7 in game 2). They are going to need their offense to keep stepping up against this Lightning team with Vasilevskiy in the net. Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, and Valeri Nichushkin have scored six goals and four assists to lead the top line but the rest of the team has stepped up as well. Mikko Rantanen, Andre Burakovsky, and Andrew Cogliano have combined for two goals and 10 assists in the series to carry the middle forward lines while defensemen Cale Makar and Josh Manson have added three goals and two assists from the point.
Their offense has been truly incredible but the biggest story of for the Avalanche is their defence. Their lack of defence is actually why I picked the Lighting to win the series before game 1. Allowing just 3 goals, including a shutout, made me look silly for thinking the Avalanche have a weak defensive unit, but their flaws were exposed in game 3 allowing 6 goals (none of which were empty-nets). Goaltender Darcy Kuemper was pulled in the second period after allowing five goals on 22 shots, the Avalanche need to step up defensively if they want to take that precious 3-1 lead against the back-to-back champs.
The lightning looked completely overwhelmed in the first two games of the series, especially losing game 2 in dramatic fashion (7 zip). As we expected however they stepped up in game two and showed some real fight. ikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat continued to lead the top line, scoring two goals and four assists in the game while combining for three goals and five assists in the series. Overall the lightnings offense looks much more like what we expected before the series.
The biggest turnaround, and probably the most predictable, was the play of goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. After allowing 7 goals on 30 shot attempts, Vasilevskiy stepped up and save 37 of a possible 39. Being on home ice we can expect the same level of play out of the goaltender which puts immense pressure on the Avalanche’s offense.
Tie it up
This is a great series and both teams have great paths to victory. The problem is that the Lightning have taken the momentum of the series after a decisive victory and look to once again overwhelm the Avalanche in all three zones. The Lightning look to build off a six-goal game and constantly find the back of the net with Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and the rest of the forward unit controlling the puck in the offensive zone and creating open shots with great puck movement. Vasilevskiy is one of the best goaltenders we have ever seen and you can expect him to step up again in game 4.
Take the Lightning to tie this one up before heading back to Colorado.
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