Stanley Cup Final Game 4 Preview: Avs, Lightning run it back in Tampa

The Colorado Avalanche will face the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 4 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena in Tampa, FL. The Bolts scorched earth on the Avalanche in Game 3, winning 6-2 on the back of a four-goal second period. Can Colorado respond with a more confident performance?

Colorado Avalanche

Colorado has much to correct following a Game 3 loss that featured plenty of self-inflicted errors. I’d say that Colorado hurt themselves by making mistakes they don’t typically make (ei leaving Steven Stamkos and Nick Paul wide open). I expect them to bounce back with an intense and focused effort. With a victory tonight, the Avalanche would have the opportunity to hoist at home in Game 5 and would guarantee at the very least a Game 7 at home to determine the champ.

One of the little indicators of how the Avalanche are clicking is their passing. When they are buzzing, they can go tape to tape, in transition, and weaponize their immense talent. Speaking of tremendous talent, congratulations to Cale Makar, the 2022 Norris Trophy Winner. Makar won the award despite having fewer first-place votes than Roman Josi. Makar is more than deserving and has improved in this year’s playoffs after a historic regular season, and that’s scary.

Nathan MacKinnon acknowledged questions that implied he needed to score for his team. I find it hard to believe that MacKinnon will be held off the scoreboard for long based on the high danger chances he creates and his shooting percentage. It’s just a matter of time until Nate puts his stamp on this Stanley Cup Final.

Projected Lineup:

Gabriel Landeskog – Nathan MacKinnon – Valeri Nichushkin
Artturi Lehkonen – JT Compher – Mikko Rantanen
Andrew Cogliano – Darren Helm – Logan O’Connor
Alex Newhook – Nico Sturm – Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Cale Makar – Devon Toews
Jack Johnson – Josh Manson
Bowen Byram – Erik Johnson

Note: Nazem Kadri was spotted at morning skate taking full contact time with his teammates. He could play tonight but Jared Bednar is yet to reveal who will be in the lineup.

Tampa Bay Lightning

The Lightning players must feel good after following through on their promise to play their best in Game 3. They pointed to going down 2-0 to the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final and winning four straight to show their capabilities. They look to take both home games and make it a best of three series.

Tampa seemed to do an excellent job of neutralizing the Avalanche defensive core during Game 3. The Lightning effectively used Colorado’s strength against them and forced the Avalanche’s top-six forwards to win their matchups. Devon Toews had a noticeably difficult night and finished minus three.

Projected Lineup:

Ondrej Palat – Steven Stamkos – Nikita Kucherov
Alex Killorn – Anthony Cirelli – Brandon Hagel
Corey Perry – Nick Paul – Ross Colton
Patrick Maroon – Pierre-Edouard Bellemare – Riley Nash

Victor Hedman – Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh – Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev – Zach Bogosian

Note: The Lightning will still be without forward Brayden Point. Jon Cooper said that Tampa would go with the same lineup that they went with in Game 3.

Goaltending

Darcy Kuemper will get the start this evening despite his shaky performance in their 6-2 defeat. He hasn’t seemed like the confident goaltender we saw earlier in the regular season and will get one last crack at it. Jared Bednar isn’t afraid to go with whomever he thinks will give his club the best chance of winning. I’d imagine his leash is getting shorter and shorter.

Andrei Vasilevskiy showed why the hockey world speaks so highly of him. After suffering the worst playoff defeat of his career, he only allowed two goals on 37 shots, effectively restoring the public’s towering opinion of him. He will have to be at his best to thwart the Avalanche twice in three nights.

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