TAMPA, Fla. — Backup goaltender Brian Elliott didn’t flinch whereas sitting on the bench, maybe as a result of he knew what was going by means of coach Jon Cooper’s head.
As the Tampa Bay Lightning had been getting drubbed 7-0 by the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final, there was by no means any severe consideration about pulling reigning playoff MVP Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“Listen, this is the playoffs and we’re here to win hockey games,” Cooper stated afterward, understanding on the time the possibility to win that individual sport had vanished lengthy earlier than the ultimate horn. “Vasy gives us the best chance to win a hockey game, and he’s our guy. He’s going to be in there a couple nights. No. He’s the best goalie in the world, and we win together and we lose together.”
Two nights later, that unwavering confidence caught out, much more, when Colorado coach Jared Bednar pulled Darcy Kuemper after he allowed 5 objectives in a 6-2 loss that trimmed the Avalanche lead over the two-time defending champions to 2-1 in the best-of-seven collection.
Colorado has leaned on two goaltenders all postseason, however the uncertainty about who begins Game 4 on Wednesday evening — and shifting ahead — has emerged as the most important query mark for the high-powered Avalanche. Their offense has by no means actually been a difficulty, in any case. It’s all about who’s in internet.
This is acquainted turf for Colorado, these questions in aim. Philipp Grubauer is lengthy gone to Seattle, and common supervisor Joe Sakic tried to lock down the difficulty final summer season by buying Kuemper in a commerce with Arizona. If the issue persists, it might derail the membership’s hopes of closing out the collection after leaping out to a 2-0 lead.
Asked what goes into his choice of Kuemper or Pavel Francouz for Game 4 Wednesday evening, Bednar advised reporters, “The same thing I always put into the decision” and chuckled a bit.
Bednar acknowledged Kuemper “didn’t have a good night.” Then he sounded a complete lot like Cooper, the coach with the 2 Stanley Cup rings in his fourth journey to the ultimate that Bednar appears on the trail to following.
“We win as a team, lose as a team,” he stated. “You can group him in with everybody else. Just weren’t as good as we needed to be.”
Bednar’s selection might tip the steadiness of the collection. Of course, Vasilevskiy has the potential to flip it in Tampa Bay’s favor, too. He was sharp in Game 3, making 37 saves after permitting seven objectives for simply the second time in his NHL profession.
“You know he was going to bounce back and play well and he played well,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson stated. “We still played a lot in their zone. We still had our chances.”
It might not matter if Vasilevskiy returns to the shape that gained him the Conn Smythe Trophy because the playoff’s high performer final yr and the Vezina Trophy as the most effective goalie in the league in 2019. Game 2 was an uncharacteristic blip for a participant who’s turning into the face of the Lightning franchise and has each capacity to steal this collection, if mandatory, and he has not but even stolen a sport in opposition to the Avs — when he very nicely might.
Kuemper or Francouz? Either is unlikely to do this. They obtained the Avalanche to the ultimate with .897 and .906 save percentages, respectively, by being regular, not spectacular. They backstop a group that doesn’t hand over plenty of high quality probabilities as a result of it performs with the puck a lot and doesn’t usually let an opponent drive the play.
Game 2 was the proper instance of that. Manson known as Kuemper “rock strong,” although the Avs goalie confronted solely 16 pictures in his shutout and was hardly ever examined.
That modified dramatically in Game 3, and Kuemper gave up at the least two objectives he’d prefer to have again. In true hockey style, gamers blamed themselves for Kuemper getting the hook.
“It was on us, for sure,” ahead Mikko Rantanen advised reporters. “Three Grade A’s (chances) in the slot, so you can’t really ask for a goalie to make every save when you give chances like that.”
That’s true, however the disquieting factor for Colorado is that the Avalanche are outshooting the Lightning 107-71 — together with 39-32 in Game 3 — and have a blowout loss and a good extra time win sandwiched round that 7-0 victory to indicate for it.
Colorado’s possibilities of shifting one win from the Stanley Cup relies upon Kuemper bouncing again — or Francouz locking issues down — and each are massive ifs in opposition to the group that has gained it all of the previous two years with a goalie who’s been there earlier than.