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Avalanche bury Tampa Bay in impressive Game 2 domination to take commanding series lead

AJ Haefele Avatar
June 19, 2022

You know those annoying people that like to bring up the weather during casual conversation? Well, I’m one of them. I obsessively check the day’s forecast throughout the day and want to know what I’m facing anytime I decide to leave the house.

So imagine my amusement when I checked the forecast before leaving my house and seeing that the forecast called for “isolated thunderstorms” in the downtown Denver area.

With the Avalanche taking on the TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING, I just had to laugh. Of course there was an isolated storm. It was taking place at Ball Arena, right?

Following Colorado’s impressive Game 1 victory over the two-time defending Stanley Cup champs, the hockey world was abuzz with the adjustments from coaching whiz Jon Cooper and the pushback from the grizzled vets of two arduous Cup runs.

It was all about what Tampa Bay was going to do differently after Colorado had just played the best that could be expected from them.

Then the game started and the storm was indeed isolated. Unfortunately, as happens from time to time, the forecast wasn’t quite correct. Instead of an isolated thunderstorm, there was no lightning at all to be found.

No, this was just another run-of-the-mill Colorado avalanche. It might be ho-hum this season, but this Avalanche squad did what it could to once again show the hockey world they just aren’t normal, not even compared to the team universally respected at the top of the sport.

A three-goal outburst in the first period gave the Avs a comfortable lead going into the second period, the one area from Game 1 that Tampa Bay felt it could build from and try to replicate.

None of that happened, however, and the Avs just built and built until a Darren Helm wrister blew past Andrei Vasilevsky to give the Avs a 5-0 lead late in the second period.

That goal really ended whatever machinations the Lightning had on a furious comeback attempt, one that, to be honest, never really got into gear.

As Colorado came out and added two more goals, both from Cale Makar, in the third period to make it 7-0, the game’s eventual final score, the numbers just became overwhelming along the way.

At 5v5, the Avs completely dominated. Completely.

  • 41-16 shot attempts
  • 21-7 shots on goal
  • 21-6 scoring chances
  • 7-1 high-danger chances

In 44:37 of even-strength hockey, the team that was going to reign on Colorado’s parade and shutdown their high-flying offense and expose their air-tight defense managed to generate just 0.32 expected goals.

If you add the other 15:23 of ice time in there, that number jumps all the way to…0.89.

The head coach so widely respected as among the league’s elite watched everything he tried, from changing their forecheck to their neutral zone coverage to swapping lines around through the entire game, and all of it generated less than one full expected goal.

Instead of pulling his world-class goaltender to sit through a meaningless third period, Cooper sat and watched Vasilevsky wear this embarrassing performance with his whole entire chest. Makar scoring both short-handed and on the power play didn’t do anything except boost his numbers and further hurt Vasilevsky’s, and still, Cooper did nothing.

Can you really even blame him? What adjustment do you make when the game is 5-0 going into the third period? Just try to get out of Denver healthy and recapture the magic that helped them erase a 2-0 series deficit in the last round against the New York Rangers, right?

We’ll see how things go from there, but this was Tampa Bay’s worst nightmare and Colorado’s dream scenario. Had the first two games in this series happened in reverse order, the league would still be applauding Tampa Bay for tightening the screws and coming close in a hard-fought overtime loss.

Instead, the Lightning head back to Tampa Bay with a much lighter bandwagon than it arrived with, at least in terms of the media contingent assigned to cover the series. This was the kind of disheartening performance you see from teams who are broken down physically, emotionally spent, ready to throw in the towel.

We’ve said those things about this very Lightning team, however, and they’re still here, still standing. Their resiliency is the stuff of legend. It’s earned through the trenches of repeated victories.

Just in this postseason alone, Tampa Bay has erased a 3-2 series deficit in Round 1 versus Toronto, given up just three goals to the President’s Trophy-winning Florida Panthers in Round 2 (despite the Panthers outplaying them for long stretches), and then erased a 2-0 series deficit to run away with a 4-2 series win over the Rangers. They aren’t living off past accomplishments, they’re a living embodiment of what a champion who repeatedly gets up off the mat looks like.

What the Lightning currently face, however, is something they have yet to face in their awesome 11 straight postseason series wins. They face a team with the offensive capabilities to go punch for punch with their best players and a defensively stout team that can cut off those best players the same way Tampa Bay regularly has done to other clubs.

When things haven’t gone their way, Vasilevsky has risen to unbelievable heights. Even at his age, if he retired tomorrow, he would have a very strong Hall of Fame case. That’s how consistently remarkable Vasilevsky has been.

Yet, with the series heading back to Florida and all of the pressure on the Lightning to win now or face a dynasty-ending doom, the spotlight is on Cooper and Vasilevsky, in particular, to figure out how to dig this team out of this hole against their most formidable opponent yet.

For Colorado? Just keep being the isolated storm at puck drop every other day and you’ll find yourself on the right side of history.


  • Val Nichushkin has been nothing short of incredible through two games. His forecheck has helped set the tone in that part of the ice and his linemates have done a great job feeding him pucks in front. He’s cashed them in and is making himself a priority free agent, not just for the Avalanche but the rest of the league. His combination of size and speed has given Colorado a huge (literally and figuratively) boost and his finishing ability this season has made him a legitimate top-six player. He needs to keep it up through this series, but he’s destroyed Tampa Bay through two games.
  • Darcy Kuemper with the world’s quietest shutout in a Stanley Cup Final. The Avs were so dominant that nobody is rushing to anoint Kuemper, but you also cannot, by definition, do a goaltender’s job any better than giving up zero goals against. Coming from a game where people were ready to be done with Kuemper forever, this was exactly what he needed. It would also be incredibly disingenuous to contend that Kuemper struggles in games with low shot totals against and then dismiss his success in a 16-save shutout as something anybody could do. He either struggles, or he doesn’t. Tonight, he left no doubt.
  • Cale Makar is a special talent. You already know this. I just wanted to repeat it.
  • I’m not sure what Josh Manson is going to prioritize come free agency and rumors are out there that his family preference would have him going back out to the California coast, but his playstyle has opened up in Colorado in a way it never did as a member of the Anaheim Ducks. I’m struggling to call it flukey, too, because his scoring rate during the regular season (.318 PPG) and postseason (.437 PPG) in Colorado is higher than his entire career in Anaheim (.249 PPG). It’s clear he’s gotten the green light from the Avalanche coaching staff to go for it when he sees a chance and his goal tonight was another example of him being unafraid to jump into the mix offensively. His defense remains a solid piece in Colorado and his more limited minutes keep the team from having to lean too heavily on him, but this fit continues to be excellent. His price might just be too high in UFA, especially in a weak defensive class such as this year’s, but I’d love to see them find a way to make this work.
  • The Darren Helm/Andrew Cogliano/Logan O’Connor trio is incredible right now. The shot numbers are a little deceiving because they have almost seamlessly gone from a fourth line to a true third line so far in this series. Helm scored again tonight and his 12 (!!) hits tonight push his Stanley Cup Final total to 22 (!!) through two games. He actually leads the postseason in hits right now with 84 (Jacob Trouba is next with 73).
  • No postgame update on the health of Andre Burakovsky, who left the game after appearing to take a puck off his hand. It continues a postseason that has been full of frustrations for the Swedish winger but he had another two points tonight to give him eight in just 12 games this postseason. When he’s on, he scores in bunches. Losing him with Nazem Kadri still working his way back would be a real loss heading into Game 3. A story to watch over the next 48 hours.


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