The Bolts won a franchise record of eight consecutive playoff games at the AMALIE Arena, outperforming their opponents by a combined score of 33-13 during that eight-game span. Andrei Vasilevsky He was particularly sharp on home ice, stopping 254 of 267 shots during those eight games for a 0.951 save percentage.
Vasilevskiy was a big reason for Lightning’s win in Race 3, making some important saves at key moments. As Tampa Bay manager Jon Cooper said in the past, many of the most important saves in a game are based on timeliness and Vasilevskiy has steadily stepped up and made huge saves at the most important moments. Following Monday’s win, Vasilevskiy took his career playoff win to 62, his 14th in NHL history and one behind Curtis Joseph, who sits in 13th place with 63 career playoff wins.
In the other fold, Colorado’s Darcy Kuemper was yanked after giving up his fifth goal against the stick of Pat Maroon. Avalanche manager Jared Bednar did not give a firm answer on who will be the starting goalkeeper for Game 4 when asked Wednesday morning, but it was Kuemper who trained in the goal typically occupied by the starting goalkeeper at the morning skate.
If there’s one area where Tampa Bay has a distinct advantage over Colorado, it’s between the pipes. In his last seven appearances, Kuemper has stopped 126 of 147 against shots for a save rate of 0.857. Overall, he has played 13 games this post-season and recorded an overall save rate of 0.892. On the other end, Vasilevskiy has a save percentage of 0.920 in 20 playoff games this year and that includes staying the entire 7-0 defeat in Game 2 in Denver.
Video: Preview | Stanley Cup Game 4 final against Colorado
“It’s consistent,” said lightning striker Nick Paul. “He’s always focused. He’s always ready. That’s what makes him such a good goalkeeper.
“No day off for him. He’s always focused. He takes everything seriously. Then when the time comes for the game, you see.”
Typically, as the series progresses, Vasilevskiy gets better. He catches the opponent’s tendencies as the Bolts simultaneously increase their level of defensive play. Tampa Bay will need him to continue playing strong against an Avalanche bout that has amassed historic numbers during the playoffs.
Colorado have averaged 4.59 goals per game in 17 games this post-season. No team in this century has scored more goals per game in the playoffs. Of the teams that have appeared in more than 10 post-season games in their respective seasons, only eight teams of all time have scored an average of goals per game higher than this year’s Avalanche squad.
But it is the defense that wins the championships.
After missing out on five goals in Toronto in Round One Games 1 and 3, the Lightning have kept the Leafs at three or fewer goals in three of their last four games in the series.
In the second round, the Bolts stifled the Panthers’ high-octane attack, keeping them at a goal or less in all four games of the series.
Tampa Bay allowed Rangers to score six goals in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Subsequently, they kept New York on three goals in a Game 2 defeat. Back on home ice, the Lightning turned the entire series upside down. Rangers scored two goals in Game 3 and managed to score a goal on the scoreboard in Game 4, 5 and 6.
Will this trend continue for the Bolts?
After poor performance in Game 2, Tampa Bay kept Colorado two goals in Game 3 and both were scored in power play. If lightning can improve their discipline and their game on penalties, they will give themselves a great chance to win games.
“We had some clears,” said the Tampa Bay striker Pierre-Edouard Bellemare. “The engagements need to be a bit more complex. Small mistakes immediately cost us a lot of time.
“We will have to make sure we are on our details and are as close to the perfect image as possible.”
High-flying attacks are great to have, but at the end of the day, the Stanley Cup winner is usually the team that can best defend themselves. The Lightning have the experience and know what they have to do to win, but Avalanche’s attack certainly offers the toughest test.
“We just have to focus on the Tampa Bay Lightning,” Maroon said after the victory in Game 3. “What we can control is the guys in that room who go out and play as best they can because if we play well, everything will be fine.
“This game is out the window too. It doesn’t matter what the score is in the hockey playoffs.
“It’s just one game. See you later. Let’s move on to the next one. Now we have to focus only on game 4.”
The Lightning can expect a big response from Colorado tonight. Game 3 was the first postseason road defeat for the Avalanche, who still have only three total losses throughout the playoffs.
Video: Jon Cooper | Pre-match SCF game 4
“This group has had a really impressive run of turning the page on whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing,” Cooper said. “You are looking at what we are up against and the challenge is a team that will probably come out quite determined.
“Did we buy another game in this series? We have it, but we have to keep buying more and that will be to be more determined, even more than we were in Game 3.”
Wednesday morning, Cooper said it Brayden point he will be out for the second straight game as he continues to recover from the lower body injury he sustained in the first round. Cooper added that he expects the lineup to remain the same as in Game 3. Some of those were in question afterwards Nikita Kucherov He was injured towards the end of the game on Monday and Nick Paul left the game towards the end of the first period with an apparent right leg injury before returning and scoring in his first round return. While both are definitely high, it looks like they’ll be in line-up for Tampa Bay on Wednesday night. Riley Nashwho filled the fourth row in Point’s absence, he will probably return to the lineup as well.
“They are all NHL players,” Bellemare said. “Everyone understands the system. Everyone can do the job.
“You just have to make sure you answer this if the call is made for you and I think we’ve done a good job so far.”
Nash was impressive in Game 3. He only scored 7:01 on the ice, but made a positive impact when he had his chance and played a simple, error-free game. With plenty of turnovers and mistakes on their side in Game 1 and 2, the Bolts benefited from Nash’s calming presence in the lineup.
“It’s just a real full lineup,” Lightning forward said Alex Killorn. “We don’t have Pointer, who would generally be one of our top scorers, so other guys are replacing him.
“This is just what you have to do in a playoff run, so I think we did a good job.”
As for injuries for Avalanche, it seems Nazem Kadri is very close to returning to training. Bednar tagged Kadri as a “chance” for Game 4, but the second row center was doing reps on the team’s second power-play unit during Wednesday’s morning skate. I think it will make him return tonight.
Kadri would be a great addition for Colorado. He has 14 points in 13 playoff games this year, scoring six goals and adding eight assists.
Video: McDonagh, Bellemare | Pre-match SCF game 4
The Avalanches have given the Lightning more trouble in this series with their quickness on the forecheck. Kadri is a great skater, but will he be willing to play physically and aggressively about two weeks after thumb surgery? We may find out tonight.
Andre Burakovsky remains out for Colorado and will not play in Game 4.
My player to watch in Game 4 is Ondrej Palat, who scored a point in all nine home games this postseason. He has 13 points during that nine-game period with seven goals and six assists.
Overall, Palat has amassed 19 career record points this postseason with 10 goals and nine assists. He has scored five goals in his last seven games and scored points in six of his last seven games overall. His 10 goals are tied Steven Stamkos for the most part among all Tampa Bay skaters.
“Right now it’s 2-1 with another home game for our group,” said Stamkos. “Obviously we are very comfortable playing in front of our fans.
“It will be a challenge. Now they will respond. We have already seen that with the teams.
“We have to improve even more”.