Lightning-Avalanche Stanley Cup Final Chess Match Begins

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DENVER — Jon Cooper told his Tampa Bay Lightning players in the locker room after his loss of game 1 they need to be much better to eliminate the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final.

After a day of rest, they went to work to figure out how to do it.

The two-time defending Lightning champions are are no strangers to making adjustments and recovering in a playoff series. The greatest test of him begins with trying to slow down the swift avalanchethat they have their own adjustments to make in the chess match that has now started going into Game 2 on Saturday night.

“We’re dissecting the game by zone, by special teams, by breakouts, by forecheck,” Cooper said. “There are so many different things that go into it.”

Due to the lack of familiarity facing an opponent from the opposite conference, the start of a Finals is more of a learning process than the previous series in the playoffs, and required experiencing, and sometimes being nervous about, Colorado’s pace for Tampa. Bay. know exactly what to expect.

“You can never really understand it until you feel it in the first game like that,” forward Nick Paul said Friday. “They definitely have speed throughout their lineup, and they love to attack and chase. They make good reads whether they’re trying to throw the pucks down or when trying to load them, so you have to constantly push yourself to get good clearance to force them to take the puck out of their hands.”

What to do with the puck was a big focus for each team during practice on Friday. After star defenseman Cale Makar failed to shoot on goal for the first time in all of the playoffs, despite being one of the best in the NHL to do so, the Avalanche must find a way to put more rubber on the Tampa Bay goaltender. Andrey Vasilevskiy.

They expected the Lightning to block a lot of shots, and they did by going in front of 25 in Game 1. There will be some tweaking, but don’t expect the Colorado players to be hesitant to shoot.

“You still have to throw it there,” defenseman Josh Manson said. “You don’t want to just hang on to it and try to find the perfect lane. So, I think we have to do that: keep moving our feet and throwing it in there.”

Getting the puck out of their defensive zone is paramount for the Lightning, knowing what can happen when the Avalanche are on the attack. A major emphasis of the coaching staff is to put speed bumps on the road, whenever possible, without receiving an unnecessary interference penalty.

“The most important thing is just to make sure you position your body, whether it’s a hard hit, whether it’s a push, and stand on them because the transition is so fast,” Paul said. “You just make reads, stay above guys and try to force turnovers.”

Each side is concentrating on trying to reduce errors.

For Makar, it’s about being better defensively than he was in Nikita Kucherov’s move to set up an Ondrej Palat goal in the series opener. Fellow Norris Tropy finalist Victor Hedman said in Swedish that he needs to improve after a tough night in Game 1.

The Lightning are also hoping Vasilevskiy is better after allowing at least one soft goal and maybe two in the opener. It was the first time he had allowed three goals in the first period of a playoff game in his NHL career.

History indicates that Vasilevskiy will give his best. Tampa Bay is 18-1 after losing the last three postseasons, and its elite goaltender has a lot to do with it, stopping 509 of 542 shots for a 1.57 goals-against average and a . 939.

“Vasy, his mental strength is out of the world,” Hedman said. “We have a lot of confidence when we have him there. The record is not a fluke, but we can’t trust that either. We just have to go out there and execute our game plan a little better than in Game and help Vasy a little more: let him see the pucks, he’ll make those saves. But he helps to have the best guy in the world back there.”

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