DENVER – The Colorado Avalanches have long aspired to become the Tampa Bay Lighning. Now it is the Lighning who stand between the Avalanche and their first Stanley Cup title since 2001.
The two-time reigning champions knocked out the New York Rangers in Game 6 of Saturday’s Eastern Final, reaching the final for the third consecutive year. Lightning excellence is exactly what the Avalanches are looking for. It is now within reach, provided the team can dethrone the NHL heavyweight.
“To be the best, you have to beat the best. That’s how I see the game, “said Avalanche manager Jared Bednar. It’s her. It’s this team that inspires other NHL teams. They are in the final for the third consecutive year. They’ve won two years in a row. That’s what each team tries to achieve, not just get there, but stay at the top every season and be in the first places season after season. “
Colorado has already laid its foundations. The Avalanche are 12-2 in the playoffs so far, sweeping the Predators in the first round and then the Oilers in the Western Final. Colorado have not played since winning the Clarence Campbell Trophy on June 6, waiting to know who their opponent is.
It was almost poetic, in a way, to see Tampa Bay join them in the final (again). Avalanche can directly face the team that has dominated the game in recent years, hoping to become Lightning’s successor in that powerful role.
“They are a good team, but we are confident in our abilities,” said Bowen Byram. We have a great team. It is not easy to reach the final, we are excited. They have a great team and we will have to play our best hockey to beat them. But we are excited about this challenge. “
Bednar admitted that Colorado has yet to face a team of Lightning stature in the playoffs. The Lightning are relying on Andrei Vasilevskiy’s excellence in goal, who has maintained a save rate of 0.928 and an average of 2.27 goals in 17 games. Tampa is also an aggressive team to keep the opponent off the net. Bednar said he focused his preparation on the Lightning when Tampa took the lead in their series against Rangers 3-2. The key to Colorado is not to be intimidated by the team in front of them.
“We have to play according to our identity. We have specific things we are looking at and things we want to accomplish in the offensive zone. It has to start with our skate. It is a team of great depth, a team very involved in the defensive phase and dangerous in attack. They look good in front of the net. They returned to the final for a reason, right? It is a team against which it is difficult to win. We will have to be ready for this challenge, “explained Bednar.
At Lightning, one of the keys is experience in series and above all knowing how to win when it counts. Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said it’s an invaluable aspect of lightning at this time of year.
Colorado will definitely try to use its recent rest as a weapon. When Tampa had nine days off between the end of their second round – a sweep against the Panthers – and the start of the third round, there was obviously some rust that helped them get them down by 2- 0. . Avalanche didn’t have the same problems between the first and second round of matches. Colorado doesn’t believe its eight-day hiatus will be a problem.
“We are not using excuses,” Landeskog said. We will make sure to work hard in training, rest and be ready for the final. This is the group we have. We are ready to do what we have to do. In the end, I believe rest is a good thing. “
What matters to Colorado is the opportunity they have at their fingertips: compete and possibly win the long-awaited Stanley Cup.
“It is exciting to play and to know that we are one of two teams in the final. But the most difficult battle is ahead of us. It is an exciting challenge and it will be fun to see what we can do as a group. I think we have been playing great for about six weeks and we want him to continue, ”concluded Landeskog.