Location: Amalie Arena
Time: 8:00 PM EST
Broadcast/Streaming: ABC, CBC, TVAS, SN, ESPN+
Opponent’s SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey
The Tampa Bay Lightning avoided elimination in Game 5 on Friday night, defeating the Colorado Avalanche i n their own rink for the first time this season. Tonight’s goal is to extend this series for couple of days and force Game 7 in front of their fans at Amalie Arena.
The determination and experience of the Lightning’s players isn’t disputed at this stage. As Alex Killorn mentioned couple of times during this postseason, there are not many situations that this group haven’t been through. Jon Cooper also noted yesterday that the Bolts are better equipped in these situations due to their experience.
The biggest question ahead of tonight’s game, however, is if the Lightning have enough fuel to go for another couple of games. The fatigue and injuries have been piling up massively: we all know that many players have been playing literally through the pain. Anthony Cirelli for example is probably playing with just one hand after his injury in Game 4 — in the last game his time on the ice dropped from usual 20 minutes per game to just 11:46, while he also didn’t take any faceoff on that night. Erik Cernak is also far from his 100% form after blocking dozens of shots throughout this postseason.
The Lightning have improved their 5-on-5 performance since the opening games of the series and this matchup has been pretty even in these situations in recent games. What makes the difference is special units and the Lightning have been unusually mediocre there.
Since the start of SCF, the Lightning scored just two power play goals, despite having 18 opportunities in five games. On the other side Colorado converted on six out of 15 power play chances, scoring at least one power play goal in four out of five games. The previous game was the best for the Lightning’s penalty kill, as they didn’t allow a single goal for the first time against Colorado.
As we anticipated, the goaltending duel is another key factor in this final. After two poor games early in the series, Andrei Vasilevskiy elevated his game, becoming the backbone of this team as we are used to seeing him in significant games. Darcy Kuemper hasn’t been consistent as his goalie opponent: after very strong Game 4, he recorded -1.15 GSAx in the latest game. Jared Bednar, however, is confident in his goalie, although he mentioned yesterday that he’d like to see Kuemper to get his first goal.
As we’re awaiting tonight’s game, there’s no information on if Brayden Point will be available. Jon Cooper isn’t willing to play Point until he’s healthy, preferring Riley Nash over him. The fourth line with Nash has been very effective lately, not allowing much during their shifts.
The Avalanche Andre Burakovsky remains a “possibility“ for tonight’s game after missing three previous games due to hand injury. He travelled with the team to Tampa. Val Nichushkin and J.T. Compher, who were banged up a little bit after Game 5, will play tonight.
Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines
Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov
Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn
Nick Paul — Ross Colton— Corey Perry
Patrick Maroon — Pierre-Edouard Bellemare — Riley Nash
Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta
Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak
Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosian
Colorado Avalanche Potential Lines
Artturi Lehkonen — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen
Gabriel Landeskog — Nazem Kadri — Valeri Nichushkin
Alex Newhook — J.T. Compher — Logan O’Connor
Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Nico Strum
Devon Toews — Cale Makar
Jack Johnson — Josh Manson
Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson