Yellow Star
Yellow Star

Can Lightning neutralize speed of Avalanche?

The first game of the Stanley Cup Final between the two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning and Western Conference juggernaut Colorado Avalanche exceeded expectations with Andre Burakovsky's overtime triumph.

This game will go down as a classic, but the Avalanche's speed advantage and the Lightning's response will decide the series.

Colorado's rapid tempo is its defining characteristic, and Tampa Bay's head coach Jon Cooper stated that his opponent is the league's fastest club.

They're the most entertaining team to watch because of Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar's highlight-reel plays.

The Avalanche executed the little things right, drove the Lightning into mistakes (17-4 differential), outshot the champs 38-23, and their superior pace paid them in both aspects of the game.

Three of the Avalanche's four goals were sped up. Colorado dominated early, forcing hasty departures with its forecheck.

Bowen Byram has emerged as a shutdown defender with top-pair attacking chops this postseason.

Byram joined the rush, passed to Mikko Rantanen, and drove towards the net, distracting Ryan McDonagh. 

Anthony Cirelli's puck-watching gave Rantanen an open shooting lane, and Gabriel Landeskog beat Erik Cernak for the tap-in.

Colorado's quickness led to Tampa Bay's second goal. Valeri Nichushkin led the forecheck by pressuring Zach Bogosian. 

Bogosian tapped the puck back to Victor Hedman, but with Landeskog approaching, Hedman passed to Nick Paul, who couldn't handle it as Makar closed in.

MacKinnon chased down Makar, recovered the loose puck, and sent it to Nichushkin in the slot. Vasilevskiy was beaten through the wickets, a save he usually makes, but you can't fault him when the Avalanche caused a turnover and got a clean shot.