It took extra time, but the Colorado Avalanche lead 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Final after a thrilling end to Game 1. Andrei Burakowski played the hero in the avalanche by netting the game winner, finishing off a solid effort by his side on the ice at home.
The Avs came out with their hair on fire in the first half, as they jumped to a 3-1 lead and put bolts in their heels. Tampa Bay, one of the most prepared teams in the NHL, returned in the second half to tie the game, scoring twice in just 48 seconds from Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev.
Colorado completely dominated the third period, but Andrei Vasilevsky helped Tampa Bay escape regulations and get in overtime. However, the lightning couldn’t survive the barrage of Avs for much longer. After a bad spin by Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman, Valeri Nichuskin put Burakovsky into a beautiful feed, tearing a bullet into a large cage.
Tampa Bay will attempt to level up the series in Game 2, which is set at 8:00 PM ET Saturday night. Before we get to that, here are some tips from Colorado’s victory in the first game.
Avalanche overshadows lightning
The list of teams that can make Lightning seem over their heads is pretty short. In fact, it may only take one team. Obviously, Avalanche was the better team in the first game. It’s that simple.
No matter how she sliced it, Avs took it to back-to-back fields in the opening game. In five-on-five, Colorado has a projected 2.60 to 1.05 in Tampa Bay, per natural stat trick. When it came to special teams, Avalanche had the advantage there as well. Colorado turned in one of his three games in strength and had some good chances in the other two. Meanwhile, Avs’ penal killing unit completely silenced the Lightning Man’s killer advantage on all three opportunities. The Lightning is a resilient team – you can’t win a Stanley Cup straight without this quality – but they need a much better effort in order to tie this streak back to Tampa.
Concerned about Kuember
If you just look at those numbers I mentioned above, plus the total number of shots, you’d think Colorado ran Tampa Bay out of the building. Instead, the Avs needed extra time, and a false rebound in the other direction could have put them on a 1-0 hole to start the series.
That’s because Colorado’s only area of interest in this game was between the pipes. Darcy Comber has faced only 23 shots in more than three periods of hockey, and allowed three. When you look at the basic numbers, it’s even worse. Tampa Bay created only 1.54 goals expected in all situations, which means that Kuemper allowed 1.46 goals above expected in this game alone. If it wasn’t already clear that Lightning has a huge advantage in the network, it sure does now. How many times can Avs go on to beat a disappointing start from the goalkeeper?
Nathan McKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, or Cal Makar were not the leader of the expected avalanche targets in Game One. Instead, it was Nichuskin who scored a predicted 0.74, and it was all five to five.
Part of the reason Avs are so killer is that their depth is unmatched by any team in the league, and Nichuskin is a great example of that. He earned his sixth goal in this post-season when he fired a shot through legacy Andrei Vasilevsky in the first period, and helped score the match-winning goal by having the mind to pass a decent shot in order to award him. His teammate, Andrei Burakovsky, has a great guy. After falling in Colorado’s second round elimination round a year ago, Nikosken has raised his level of play this year, making Avalanche a more dangerous team.