It took overtime, but the Colorado Avalanche lead 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals after a thrilling finish in Game 1. Andre Burakovsky played the hero for the Avalanche, netting the game winner and ending a strong performance by his team on home ice.
The Avs came out with their hair on fire in the first half as they popped out to a 3-1 lead and heeled the Bolts. Tampa Bay, one of the most balanced teams in the NHL, hit back in the second half to level the game, scoring twice in just 48 seconds from Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev.
Colorado thoroughly dominated the third period, but Andrei Vasilevskiy helped Tampa Bay escape regulation and get into overtime. However, the Lightning could not survive the Avs barrage much longer. After a poor turnover from Lightning defender Victor Hedman, Valeri Nichuskin gave Burakovsky a nice feed, and he ripped a shot into a gaping cage.
Tampa Bay will try to even the series in Game 2, which is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday night. Before that, here are some takeaways from Colorado’s Game 1 win.
Avalanche overwhelms lightning
The list of teams that can make the Lightning look like they’re standing over their heads is very short. In fact, it might only be one team long. The Avalanche were clearly the better team in Game 1. As simple as that.
No matter how you slice it, the Avs made it to the back-to-back champions in the opening game. In five-on-five, Colorado scored 2.60 expected goals versus Tampa Bay’s 1.05 per natural stat trick. The Avalanche also had the edge in the special teams. Colorado converted on one of his three power plays and got some good chances on the other two. Meanwhile, the Avs’ penalty-kill unit completely silenced a lethal Lightning Man advantage on all three occasions. The Lightning are a resilient team — you don’t win two Stanley Cups in a row without that quality — but they’ll need to put in a lot more effort in Game 2 to end that streak on the way back to Tampa.
Worry about Kümper
From the numbers above, as well as the total number of shots fired, one would think that Colorado drove Tampa Bay out of the building. Instead, the Avs needed overtime, and a jump the other way could have put them in a 1-0 hole to start that streak.
That’s because the only area Colorado worried about that game was between the pipes. Darcy Kuemper has had just 23 shots and conceded three goals in more than three hockey periods. If you look at the underlying numbers, it’s even worse. Tampa Bay only managed 1.54 expected goals in all situations, meaning Kümper conceded 1.46 goals over expectations in that game alone. If it wasn’t already clear that the Lightnings have a huge advantage on the web, it now is. It remains to be seen how often the Avs can overcome their goalie’s overwhelming starts.
The leader in expected goals for the Avalanche in Game 1 wasn’t Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Cale Makar. Instead, it was Nichuskin who netted 0.74 expected goals, all of which happened at five against five.
Part of the reason Avs are so deadly is because their depth is unmatched by any team in the league, and Nichuskin is a great example of that. He scored his sixth goal of the postseason when he fired a shot through Vasilevskiy’s legs in the first half and he helped in the decisive goal by being quick-witted to pass a decent shot to give his teammate Burakovsky a one great. After falling flat in Colorado’s second-round elimination a year ago, Nichuskin has upped his game this year, and that makes the Avalanche a much more dangerous roster.