With a victory Friday night at the Ball Arena, the Avalanche will win the Stanley Cup for the third time and stop the Tampa Bay Lightning from a hat-trick.
Five things to watch for in Game 5
1) Close it at home. The Avalanche haven’t closed a playoff series at home since 2008. They can win the Stanley Cup in front of the burgundy and blue faithful at the Ball Arena in Denver’s biggest hockey celebration since 2001.
“It’s going to be great,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Thursday morning at the Tampa airport. “We try all season to get home ice advantage and we came in and got a split in Tampa, we played better the second night than we did the first. Our guys are going to be thrilled. Our guys are excited and should play in desperation. It should be a great hockey game.
2) Lightning. Tampa Bay won twice in the first round against Toronto in a playoff game, and the Lightning trailed the New York Rangers 2-0 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Bolts are not backing down.
“Focus on one game. We can. We have to win a game,” Lightning forward Pat Maroon said. “Right now our goal is Game 5, and we have to go and win. I mean, there’s really nothing (else) we can do.
3) Stay in the moment. Colorado doesn’t want to get away with what worked. The Avs are 15-3 in the playoffs and a 16-3 result would be the second-best since the NHL switched to a four-round best-of-seven format in the 1980s. 1988 hold the record of 16-2. Previous Avs Cup wins ended 16-6 in 1996 and 16-7 in 2001.
“It helps us stay in the moment and focus on the things we can control and for me, it’s the process that makes us successful,” Bednar said. “Our preparation, our dividing the game into five-minute chunks so that we are precise and do what we need to do to be successful. That’s our process for success so far this season and we’re not going to change it now.
4) Play fast. The Avalanche outscored the Lightning 11-3 in Games 1 and 2 in Denver. Colorado played fast – faster than Tampa due to deteriorating ice conditions there. Because the Avs are the fastest team in this series, expect the Ball Arena ice squad to make sure conditions favor the home team.
“We have a great opportunity here to land something big for the team, but at the end of the day we have to focus on ourselves and play our game and then wherever that takes us, it takes us,” said said Avs defender Cale Makar. . “We have a lot of faith and a lot of trust in the boys and there is certainly no wavering trust in our room.”
5) Be special on rare occasions. The Avalanche are on fire on special teams this series, going 6 of 13 on the power play and killing 13 of 14 shorthanded situations. But penalties are called less frequently as the series progresses and both teams need to recognize that they will have to fight through no-calls and focus on how they play evenly matched.
“It’s playoff hockey. Stanley Cup Finals. As players, you’re expected to fight in a number of things because it’s the most competitive time of the year,” Bednar said. “Referees aren’t going to call the tricky stuff that puts teams down and gives them an advantage over the other team. They’re going to let the players settle the game. That’s how it should be.”