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FREI: You Didn’t Really Think This Would Be an Avalanche Sweep Did You?



Chris O'Meara/AP

TAMPA — Not so fast. As  Tampa Bay’s 6-2 rout of the Avalanche in Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final demonstrated Monday night here at Amalie Arena, the Lightning will not go quietly.

(Cue the movie-style flash of bright white light here).

The two-time defending champions effectively got back in the series.

In fact, the Stanley Cup now won’t necessarily have to be in the house Wednesday night for Game 4  in Tampa.

There’s now no chance of a sweep scenario in this series that would be eerily remindful of the Avalanche’s 1996 first-ever Colorado major-league championship. That was earned with the sweep of another Florida-based franchise — the Panthers — that left Joe Sakic, Peter Forsberg, Patrick Roy and their teammates taking turns hoisting the Cup in a relatively subdued Miami Arena.

The Avalanche still lead in the series and even could end up winning in six games, which would lead to the passing  of the Cup from Gary Bettman to Gabriel Landeskog in Amalie Arena next Sunday.

But it won’t be a sweep.

Plus, this re-emphasized that winning the most physically and mentally post-season test in pro sports involves a body of work, not snapshots.

What so many seemed to overlook in the wake of the Avalanche’s 7-0 throttling of the Lightning Saturday night in Game 2 in Denver was that as mouth-dropping, head-shaking impressive as it was, it was only one win.

Its decisiveness was not on its own an indication that the Lightning would be psychologically scarred by the humiliation, overmatched for the rest of the series, and destined to be swept or otherwise dispatched in ignominious fashion.

That was one win for the Avalanche. One. No more.

The same for the Lightning’s response in Game 3.

That was one win for the Lightning, too. One. No more.

The Avalanche this time only beat Andrei Vasilevskiy for Landeskog’s two goals, and Darcy Kuemper — largely inactive and untested in his Game 2 shutout — gave way to Pavel Francouz after allowing five goals on 22 shots. Kuemper exited at 11:15 of the second period after the Lightning took a 5-2 lead on Pat Maroon’s goal.

“Defensively, we have some things to clean up,” Landeskog said. “Our exits weren’t as good. We allowed some quality scoring chances that we haven’t done so far in the series. . . We try to stay as even-keel as possible. When you win, it’s not much to it. When you lose, it’s the same thing. We’ll watch some video tomorrow and learn and get better from it and be ready for Game 4.”

Nathan MacKinnon had six shots on goal, but went pointless in the loss.

Superstreak Bonus!

“Obviously it sucks losing,”  he said in the post-game scrums. “But I thought we played OK. . . Everything kind of went wrong for us tonight. We got beaten for sure, but it wasn’t all bad.”

He added: “I like the looks I’m getting. I have to put the puck in the back of the net. That’s my job.”

MacKinnon also noted a playoff credo.

“You have to have a short memory,,” he said. “We’re gonna lose games. We’ve won every (previous) game on the road, so I guess we were kind of due for a tough night. Every mistake we made, they capitalized on, and that’s how they play. They’re a really good team. That’s obvious. We have to be sharper.”

Just one win in these routs?

Trite? Or course.

Obvious? Of course.

Yet now we have confirmation: More important than the blowouts, home ice has held up through three games in the series and if that continues through Game 4 in Tampa, the series goes back to Denver tied up at 2-2.

I wrote this before the series started, and I’ll stick with it: The Avalanche will win this … in seven games.

The major warning sign is whether the Avalanche’s disadvantage in the goaltending matchup rears its ugly head (or mask).

On nights like these, when Kuemper is shaky or awful — or both — it renews the concern that  Vasilevskiy could swing this series by ridiculously outplaying Kuemper or Francouz. And it also challenges Jared Bednar to decide whether to go with Francouz as the starter the rest of the way.

“He didn’t have a good night,” Bednar said of Kuemper. “Neither did our team. We win as a team, lose as a team. We weren’t as good as we need to be.”

MacKinnon said he told Kuemper to “just shake it off. He’s been great all year. I’m not going to get down on him. He had a shutout last game and played great. Tough bounces for him, too. I can’t remember all the goals, but it’s just unfortunate.”

Terry Frei (, @tfrei) is a Denver-based author and journalist. He has been named a state’s sportswriter of the year seven times in peer voting — four times in Colorado and three times in Oregon. His seven books include the novels “Olympic Affair” and “The Witch’s Season.” Among his five non-fiction works are “Horns, Hogs, and Nixon Coming,” “Third Down and a War to Go,” “March 1939: Before the Madness,” and “’77: Denver, the Broncos, and a Coming of Age.” He also collaborated with Adrian Dater on “Save By Roy,” was a long-time vice president of the Professional Hockey Writers Association and has covered the hockey Rockies, Avalanche and the NHL at-large. His website is and his bio is available at

His Colorado Hockey Now column archive can be accessed here

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Trenton Dunn

Have faith Avs faithful! Find A Way.


Spot on, Terry.

Karl Keen

Do we have a goalie problem? Yes, but we didn’t play a great game and yet we still outchanced them and outshot them. We showed fire in the 3rd period. We didn’t get beat down in my opinion. They simply took advantage of our mistakes. That’s what two time defending cup champions do.

Good to get reminded that this wasn’t going to be that easy. I’m confident we will rebound and play a great game next game. Doesn’t matter who is in goal.


Props getting this out so quickly. It’s very good analysis

Donald Victory

What is the latest on Burky and Nazem?

Donald Victory

The Avalanche still leads in the series and even could end up winning in six games, which would lead to the passage of the Cup from Gary Battman to Gabriel Landeskog in Amalie Arena next Sunday.


I certainly did not expect the Avs to sweep the Lightning. The Avs need to chalk this game up and now refocus on game 4. Go Avs!

Wayne Dunlap

Avs in 5 and we get to see it at home on Friday!

Brad Jacobs

If the Avs can get decent play from either Frankie or Kuemper, they can wrap this up in 5. But keep giving up multiple soft goals like game 1 and 3, and it will go 7 with the outcome in doubt. They team played fine last night, but 3 bad goals by DK and a few unbelievable saves by AV was the difference.


Something that gets overlooked, when was the last Avs road game? They were at home for close to 2 weeks, win a blowout, travel and play. Tampa has been in a routine. The Avs were clearly not themselves.

Grace Cooke

No, I knew it wouldn’t be sweep, but I had my fingers crossed! I hoped Kemps wouldn’t be exposed. That was bad.

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