Tuesday, March 28, 2023

Electricity may be running out of gas vs fresher avalanche

DENVER ( Associated Press) — It’s no secret that Tampa Bay has played more hockey in the last two years than any other team in the NHL.

That could – in the end – take a toll on two-time defending champion Lightning against the Colorado Avalanche, who took a very short route to the Stanley Cup Finals and a 2-0 best-of-seven series going into Game 3. Monday in Tampa.

“Shot blocking, groins, hips, cuts, bruises, playing every other night: that’s the toll,” coach John Cooper said on Sunday. “And so when you get to the end, even though it doesn’t look like they’re going to bang, they’re missing the guys, we’re missing the guys. We’ve got the guys banging up. That’s what the playoffs toll take.” It’s not like what happened last year.”

What happened last year was the Lightning became the second franchise to win the cup back-to-back since the salary cap era began in 2005. This year, they defeated Toronto in seven matches, defeated Florida in six and reached the finals, defeating the New York Rangers in six.

Tampa Bay has played 67 post-season games since August 1, 2020 – the most by a team in a period of three playoffs. Because the pandemic pushed the 2020 playoffs into the summer and early fall, it’s all more condensed than usual. It would be prudent for the players to run out of gas.

“You’ve played an extraordinary amount of games, and the playoff games are obviously a little more physical, a little more everything as you play them,” said three-time Cup champion Justin Williams, becoming an NHL Network analyst. With Game 3. “At the moment, these people are disappearing. Listen, they’ve played a lot of hockey, but once you get that far into the playoffs, you’re mostly running on adrenaline right now.

“You feel great, and that’s one excuse for playing too much hockey that I’m sure they just aren’t ready to use.”

The Lightning didn’t put themselves on the verge of becoming the NHL’s first three-peat champion by making excuses. Even after losing 7–0 in Game 2 on Saturday night and looking unable to keep up with the sharp avalanche, players pointed to the same shortcoming against Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals as believing it would Cause this series is not close is ending.

“We are in the same position,” said veteran winger Cory Perry. “And we found a way to win Game 3 at the end of the game. It rejuvenated us, it rejuvenated us, and now we’re going home.”

Avalanches are already rejuvenating. After finishing first in the West in the regular season, they beat Nashville in the first round, knocking out St. Louis in six, and then Edmonton to give themselves more than a week off before the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. Ended up with another sweep. ,

It seems to be paying dividends with fresh legs and crisp plays.

“I think it’s physics that when you relax you get relaxed,” said forward Miko Rentanen. “If you play for a long time every other day, it will tire you out. But they’ve been here before, they’ve played very long seasons before, so we can’t think too much about whether we’re a new team. “

The Avalanche looks like a fresher team, and this has allowed them to keep the pressure on the Lightning despite their loss of experience at this stage of the playoffs. Colorado provoked opponents to make mistakes, and in the finals that recipe is working again.

Tampa Bay’s challenge now is to figure out how to cope with the situation it is facing. Motivation, at least, won’t be a problem.

“There are only two teams at this time of year and it’s the best time of year to play hockey and it’s the finals,” Perry said. “Why wouldn’t you want to be here? Why would you only want to say ‘Hey, we play hockey a lot.’ There is no point in saying that. That’s why we are excited to be here. We want to be here.”


Follow Associated Press Hockey writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter https://twitter.com/SHowno


More Associated Press NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports

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