DENVER — No need to dig too deep to find a storyline for this Stanley Cup final:
The Avalanche are scoring goals at a historic pace in the postseason, and the Lightning are playing defense better than ever.
“Colorado is a different team than Florida or New York but for us it’s about defending,” said forward Alex Killorn. “We feel like if we defend well and don’t let them score more than two goals, we give ourselves a pretty good chance of winning.
“No one is saying its going to be an easy task. I think it’s the best team we’ve played in the three years we’ve been in the playoffs when you’re talking about how complete they are, how hard they are going to be to stop. We’re going to get a feel for them, just like we did with New York. As the series went on, we kind of figured out how to defend against them and hopefully we can do that against Colorado.”
Lightning coach Jon Cooper pointed out that it’s a complete turnaround from 2020 when the Lightning’s postseason opponents were first, second, third and sixth in the NHL in goals allowed.
“We played the Islanders, the Bruins, Dallas. We’re playing all these teams that were the best defensive teams in the league. So we had to navigate a way to play those teams,” Cooper said. “And now, two years later, we’re playing Florida, Toronto, Rangers, Colorado, all these explosive offensive teams.
“So it’s funny how it works out that way. But the guys have found a way. We just have to adapt our game and find ways to beat teams.”
Who’s in the net?
Brayden Point is not the only injury question hovering over the Stanley Cup final. Colorado goaltender Darcy Kuemper left Game 1 of the Western Conference final and missed the rest of the series. Kuemper now says he’s ready to return, although the Avalanche are not expected to name a starter until Wednesday.
Pavel Francouz replaced Kuemper and has a 6-0 record in the postseason with a .906 save percentage. Kuemper is 6-2 with an .897 percentage. “Both goalies can play. Darcy is 100 percent healthy now,” Colorado vice president Joe Sakic said. “They’ve both won six games in the playoffs. Our guys are excited.”
Line of the day
It’s easy to forget, now that the Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup final, but they were one goal from being eliminated in the first round. Had Toronto scored in overtime in Game 6, Tampa Bay’s season would have been over on May 12. Instead, Point scored in overtime and the Lightning came back to win Game 7.
“I’ll be honest, the guys have done a phenomenal job, especially in the Toronto series when we were down 3-2 and there were no more tomorrows,” Cooper said. “They gave us two more months of tomorrows.”
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