Avalanche intends to swarm Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in Stanley Cup Finals – The Denver Post

Andrei Vasilevskiy is only human. It just seems like a giant of mythic proportions.

The Tampa Bay Lightning’s stellar award-winning goaltender lost twice to the Avalanche in the regular season. And Colorado intends to beat him four more times in the Stanley Cup Finals.

“They do have a great goalie on that side that has accomplished a lot but we also know that defending isn’t just about goalies,” Avs forward J.T. Compher said after Wednesday’s morning skate ahead of Game 1 at Ball Arena.

Compher would prefer to talk about the Avalanche’s goalies. Darcy Kuemper is expected to start Wednesday, but coach Jared Bednar declined to say. He might go with Pavel Francouz, who closed out series sweeps against Nashville and Edmonton in the first and third rounds.

Either way, Vasilevskiy wins the comparison. The 6-foot-3 Russian was the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner as the NHL’s best goalie and is the reigning Conn Smythe Trophy winner as playoff MVP. He was an integral part of the Bolts’ back-to-back Stanley Cup title victories, and has played all 17 games during the team’s current run to the finals.

But Compher said a refined team effort to defend in front of Kuemper or Francouz will be key in the goalie comparison.

“It’s about the whole team, making sure we’re helping our goalies, forwards tracking well, blocking shots — doing all the little things to help those guys out,” he said. “We have full confidence. Both guys have shown throughout the season that they can be successful and both guys have been doing the work. Obviously, Kuemps was out but he’s been working hard to be ready to go. Frankie, same thing, during this break he’s just getting ready.”

Winger Logan O’Connor also spoke about the Avs goalie Wednesday morning.

“Both guys have been huge for us all year and have stepped up at different points,” he said. “I think tonight, whoever gets the opportunity is going to be dialed in after this break and focused and ready to go.”

Ah, that break. The Avs will have eight days between games since last playing on June 6 in Edmonton. Will Colorado come out rusty against the Lightning?

“We’re in a good spot,” Bednar said after the morning skate. “Our approach to this break was very similar if not exact to what we did after the Nashville series. We came out and were ready to play Game 1 against St. Louis (winning 3-2 in overtime but outshooting the Blues 54-25).

“We’ve given them enough rest, we’ve had our meetings for the prep, guys are feeling good about it. There’s a little bit of a nervous energy, the excitement and anticipation is here now. Guys are really wanting to get on the ice and get competing.”

The Avalanche’s penchant for activity could be the difference in negating the Bolts’ goalie advantage.

Colorado’s ability to control the puck and continually pepper opposing netminders with shots has been a hallmark of its play throughout its 12-2 playoff run. In fact, the Avs enter the Stanley Cup Finals with 18 more shots on goal (570) than the Lightning (552) — despite playing three fewer games.

How much that matters against a team, and goalie, with as much big-game experience as Tampa Bay remains to be seen. But Bednar exuded confidence that his team would be ready.

“I feel like we’ve been preparing our team for this moment since day one of training camp,” Bednar said.

“We’ve got a lot of great leaders in there, guys that have spent a lot of time in this league and been in a lot of different situations and we’ve handled them well as a group. Love our leadership starting with (Gabe Landeskog) all the way down, and we’re prepared and ready to go play our game. That’s the most important thing. I don’t think that we’re going to shy away from the moment.”

Source: Read Full Article