Stanley Cup Game 4 Final Preview: Lightning Bolt needs to lean on the goalkeeper’s advantage for the even streak

After being inducted into the first two games of the 2022 Stanley Cup final, the Tampa Bay Lightning were able to get on the scoreboard with a 6-2 win in Game 3. The difference for the Lightning was their ability to test Colorado Avalanche goalkeeper Darcy Kumper. Entering the series, I chose lightning to win because of their advantage on the net. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been the best goalkeeper on the planet for some years and Kuemper struggled in the postseason.

That advantage for the Bolts was in full evidence in Game 3.

On more than one occasion Vasilevskiy has stopped what seemed like a sure goal. Unlike his first two games in Denver, he was blocked for a full 60 minutes at home in Game 3. He finished the game with 1.47 saved goals above average out of a total of 3.47 goals against, according to Natural Stat Trick. .

On the other side of the ice, not only did Kuemper fail to make a big save, but he couldn’t find the relatively easy stops he probably should have made. Anthony Cirelli loses control of the puck on a counterattack, which slips between Kuemper’s legs and ends up in the net. Pat Maroon scored Kuemper’s short side shot for a goal from a difficult position. So, with Colorado down 5-2 in Game 3, Kuemper was withdrawn in the second period. By that time, he had conceded 2.28 goals above the expected 2.72 goals against, for Natural Stat Trick.

It was a bad night for Kuemper and he continued a recent bout of troubling outings for the Colorado goalkeeper.

  • In his last seven games as a starter, dating back to Game 4 against the St. Louis Blues, Kuemper has conceded at least three goals five times
  • In that stretch, Kuemper conceded 21 goals out of 147 shots, which are obtained with a save percentage of 0.857.
  • During these playoffs, Kuemper faced only 22.7 shots per game. Despite that light workload, he scored an abysmal -6.01 saved goals above average. Which is the last of the 30 goalkeepers who took the ice in the postseason.

However, there is evidence to suggest that Kuemper can turn things around. In the regular season, Kuemper finished fourth in the NHL with 25.19 goals saved above average. The difference, however, is that Kuemper simply didn’t look comfortable since the second half of the series against the Blues.

By contrast, Vasilevskiy has scored two or fewer goals five times in his last seven games as a starter. Throughout the 2022 postseason, Vasilevskiy is in fourth place for above-average goals saved with 5.09, after a disastrous 7-0 defeat to Avalanche in Game 2.

Now with just one win from leveling the Stanley Cup final, the Lightning must keep Kuemper working, which they didn’t do much in Denver. In those first two games, Tampa Bay generated a total of 2.80 expected goals, and they were only within one shot from victory in Game 1.

No position in hockey has more control over the outcome of a goalkeeper game and, luckily for Lightning, that’s the only obvious advantage they have over Avalanche. If Tampa Bay returns and wins this Stanley Cup final, it will need to take advantage of it by beating Kuemper early and often.

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