The Stanley Cup Finals will shift from Denver to Florida for Game 3 Monday night as the Tampa Bay Lightning host the Colorado Avalanche for the first time this series.
While the Lightning trail the series 2-0, they are slight favorites against the spread, although the moneyline for the teams are virtually identical. The over/under for Game 3 is listed at 6.5 goals.
For all intents and purposes, this is a must-win game for the Lightning. The Avalanche pulled off a 4-3 overtime win in Game 1 but then dominated Game 2, beating Tampa 7-0. The Lightning can’t afford to fall behind 3-0 in the series and surely need to win these next two games at home to have any chance.
The Avalanche has won the first two games of the series largely because of their incredible team speed. They look like they are on another level compared to the Lightning in that category, allowing them to outlast Tampa in the overtime game in the series opener and then dominate the Lightning in Game 2.
Colorado has essentially overwhelmed Tampa goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, which is why they were able to score seven goals against one of the league’s best goalies in Game 2.
Of course, Colorado’s defense also deserves a little credit, allowing just three goals over the first two games of the series. While goalie Darcy Kuemper has arguably been the team’s biggest weakness, the Avs haven’t allowed Tampa to expose that weekend. The Avalanche has also traveled well throughout the playoffs, going 7-0 on the road during this year’s playoffs.
Not so Lightning Quick
Despite their name, the Lightning has not shown enough speed or quickness during the first two games of this series. Tampa struggled to even get the puck into its attacking zone in Game 2.
Over the first two games of the series, they have just 35 scoring chances, which is less than the 38 they had in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers, and even that was barely enough in a 2-1 win.
Even before they were shut out in Game 2, the Lightning was averaging just 2.6 goals per game in their previous eight games. The talent is undoubtedly there with the likes of Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and others, although Tampa has scored more than three goals just six times in 19 playoff games.
Until Tampa can start to generate more offense, the pressure remains on Vasilevskiy to perform at an elite level and carry his team to wins.
Now or Never
Perhaps the silver lining for the Lightning is that they were down 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals but used a home win in Game 3 to turn things around and win four in a row against the Rangers. After losing their first home playoff game this year, the Lightning has won seven in a row at Amalie Arena.
Granted, the Avalanche is a far stronger opponent than what Tampa has faced in the playoffs previously, but with even odds, the Lightning still has some betting value to win Game 3 and keep this series interesting.
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