After Saturday's 7-0 win over the Avalanche, there were concerns for the stance of the Stanley Cup Final, but like true champions, the Lightning players bounced back and now have strength. oxygen in the lungs.
I won't teach you anything by saying that Game 4 tonight is crucial for Tampa Bay. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions lost the first game of the initial series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, the first two against the New York Rangers and the first two also against Colorado.
If there's one team that can go through anything and win four games in a row, it's the Lightning, but you can't play with fire all the time, especially not against the Avalanche.
Not only is Colorado a leading formation, but it also has a major ally: altitude. If Tampa ever lost tonight, they would need to win two games in Denver to capture their third straight Cup, and I don't believe that's going to happen.
Playing at 1,600 meters is grueling, but Jared Bednar's men are used to it, unlike their rivals. I believe that was one of the factors that allowed the Avalanche to downgrade the Lightning in Colorado.
Having played for the Avalanche, I can assure you that the altitude aspect is not a myth. The legs get tired; we look for our air and we drink a lot of water. I have seen teams use oxygen cylinders to deal with this problem.
St-Louis and Lecavalier burned
I've seen players like Martin St-Louis and Vincent Lecavalier struggle to finish games in Denver. I also have an anecdote about Vincent. When he trains hard in a gym, he has a peculiarity. His face turns red like a tomato.
However, one evening in Denver, at the end of the meeting, he had this scarlet color, but he was still threatening. I made a good save against him and he came to see me.
“José, I am completely burnt out. »
And I often heard that from other players when we talked in the hallways of the amphitheater. Beating the Avalanche in Denver is tough, let alone the current roster, which is 32-5-4 at home in the regular season and 7-2 at home in the playoffs.
And we will not be content with history: the best team has been that of Bednar so far. We can say that it bets on the best player in Nathan MacKinnon and the best defender in Cale Makar.
Where the Lightning have an advantage is in net. But Andrei Vasilevskiy has not been at the top of his game so far. And if Darcy Kuemper had had a good outing on Monday, perhaps his club would have a 3-0 lead.
Kuemper, the X factor
Knowing Vasilevskiy, we can expect a solid performance from him tonight. However, it is difficult to predict how Kuemper--- will react. I believe he will get the start, even though he was taken out in the second period on Monday. He's done a good job in Arizona and Colorado in recent seasons, but he has little playoff experience.
Whether he wins or loses tonight, Kuemper must assert himself and give confidence to his people. Imagine going back to Colorado at 2-2. I wouldn't bet against Tampa going forward. Kuemper has the chance to pass for a real number one and he must take advantage of it, otherwise he risks receiving the label of an Antti Niemi or a Michael Leighton. It is not impossible that Pavel Francouz will end the series.
What strikes me so far is the speed of the Avalanche and the depth of both teams. We are blessed to see so much talent in the grand finale. Reminds me of Colorado v. Detroit and Colorado v. New Jersey.
– Interview by Gilles Moffet
The aftermath of a massacre
People tend to get fired up after a 7-0 massacre, but in the playoffs, the score doesn't matter. A loss is a loss, period. I would even say that it is easier to recover from a beating than to lose in overtime. I think a second overtime loss to Denver would have hurt the Lightning more than this rout. Also, when two talented teams play against each other, it is normal to see a lot of goals. Guys like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Nathan MacKinnon are dangerous under any circumstances. That helps explain Andrei Vasilevskiy's .869 and Darcy Kuemper's .879 save percentage in the final.
The coaches waltz
I didn't expect Bruce Cassidy to be out of work long after being fired by the Bruins. The Vegas Golden Knights made a good deal by signing him quickly. Cassidy--- did a good job in Boston, with an aging team and no well-established goaltender following the retirement of Tuukka Rask. In addition, it is a trainer who is up to date. I'm more skeptical about John Tortorella at the Philadelphia Flyers. --- He's an old-timer, but he's no surprise. I can't wait to see how young goaltender Carter Hart performs under him. He will push it, but, be careful, if he overdoes it, he risks losing it. For once the Flyers have a promising goaltender, we must not let him escape. He will be 24 in August and he is entering the prime of life.
The Edmonton Oilers had no choice but to renew coach Jay Woodcroft's contract. He has done a great job since taking over from Dave Tippett on February 10. General manager, Ken Holland,--- will have to find him a number one goalkeeper worthy of the title.