By STEPHEN WHYNO, AP Hockey Author
DENVER (AP) — It’s no secret Tampa Bay has performed extra hockey over the previous two years than another staff within the NHL.
That will — lastly — be taking a toll on the two-time defending champ Lightning in opposition to the Colorado Avalanche, who took a a lot shorter path to the Stanley Cup Closing and lead the best-of-seven sequence 2-0 going into Recreation 3 on Monday in Tampa.
“The shot blocking, the groins, the hips, the cuts, the bruises, enjoying each second night time: That’s the toll,” coach Jon Cooper stated Sunday. “And so once you get to the tip, regardless that it doesn’t appear like they’re banged up, they’re lacking guys, we’re lacking guys. We’ve acquired banged-up guys. That’s what the playoff toll does. It’s not what occurred final 12 months.”
What occurred final 12 months was the Lightning grew to become the second franchise for the reason that wage cap period started in 2005 to win the Cup back-to-back. This 12 months, they beat Toronto in seven video games, swept Florida and superior to the ultimate by coming again to beat the New York Rangers in six.
Tampa Bay has performed 67 postseason video games since Aug. 1, 2020 — probably the most by one staff over the span of three playoffs. As a result of the pandemic pushed the 2020 playoffs into the summer season and early fall, it’s all condensed greater than regular. It could make sense for gamers to expire of gasoline.
“You’ve performed a unprecedented quantity of video games, and playoff video games are clearly just a bit bit extra bodily, a bit bit extra all the pieces as you play them,” stated three-time Cup champion Justin Williams, who’s changing into an NHL Community analyst beginning with Recreation 3. “As of proper now, these guys are fading. Pay attention, they’ve performed a whole lot of hockey, however when you get this far within the playoffs, you’re working totally on adrenaline proper now.
“You’re feeling fairly good, and an excuse to have performed an excessive amount of hockey is one which I’m positive that they’re not ready to make use of proper now.”
The Lightning didn’t put themselves on the verge of changing into the NHL’s first three-peat champion for the reason that New York Islanders of the early Nineteen Eighties by making excuses. Even after getting trounced 7-0 in Recreation 2 Saturday night time and looking out unable to maintain up with the speedy Avalanche, the gamers pointed to overcoming this identical deficit in opposition to the Rangers within the Japanese Convention last as motive to imagine this sequence isn’t near being over.
“We’re in the identical scenario,” veteran winger Corey Perry stated. “And we discovered a solution to win Recreation 3 on the finish of the sport there. It rejuvenated us, it acquired us going once more and now we’re going residence.”
The Avalanche are already rejuvenated. After ending first within the West within the common season, they swept Nashville within the first spherical, took out St. Louis in six after which completed off one other sweep of Edmonton to offer themselves greater than per week off earlier than the beginning of the Stanley Cup Closing.
It seems to be paying dividends with recent legs and crisper performs.
“I believe it’s physics that once you get relaxation you’re rested,” ahead Mikko Rantanen stated. “In case you play each different day for an extended time period, it’s going to put on you down. However they’ve been right here earlier than, they’ve performed too lengthy seasons earlier than, so we will’t take into consideration that an excessive amount of that we’re the recent staff.”
The Avalanche do appear like the brisker staff, and that has allowed them to maintain up the strain on the Lightning regardless of an expertise drawback at this stage of the playoffs. Colorado acquired right here by flustering opponents into making errors, and that recipe is working once more within the last.
Tampa Bay’s problem now could be to determine the way to counteract the scenario it’s confronted with. Motivation, no less than, received’t be a problem.
“This time of 12 months there’s solely two groups and that is the most effective time of the 12 months to play hockey and it’s the finals,” Perry stated. “Why wouldn’t you wish to be right here? Why would you wish to simply say ‘Hey, we play a whole lot of hockey.’ There’s no level saying that. So we’re excited to be right here. We wish to be right here.”
Observe AP Hockey Author Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
Extra AP NHL: https://apnews.com/hub/NHL and https://twitter.com/AP_Sports
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