DENVER — The Tampa Bay Lightning insist that their heavy workload in the Stanley Cup Playoffs since 2020 is not a legitimate reason for their current predicament.
But the eye test of their 7-0 loss to the Colorado Avalanche in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday suggests otherwise.
In a bid to win the Stanley Cup for the third straight season, the Lightning have played 67 postseason games since the start of the 2020 playoffs. Looking sluggish and tired on Saturday, they were down 2 on Monday. 0 behind the best-of-7 series en route to Game 3 at Amalie Arena.
“I think the ultimate goal of the Stanley Cup is in the building and there are only two teams left, which trumps everything,” Lightning coach Jon Cooper said on Sunday. “I don’t believe in: ‘You played a lot of hockey.’ Isn’t that what you want to do? I’d rather play hockey than have five months of summer every year. This is what we play for. This is what we coach for.
“The toll is taken in the playoffs. That’s the toll. And the blocking of shots, the groin, the hips, the cuts, the bruises, playing every second night. That’s the toll. And so when you’re at it end comes even though it doesn’t look like they got beat up they miss guys we miss guys we got busted guys thats what the playoff toll does it ain’t (roughly) what came last year has happened.”
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The Avalanche have had less trouble in the 2022 playoffs. They are 14-2. The lightnings are 12-7.
“You can use that as an excuse,” Tampa Bay attacker Corey Perry said. “But this time of year there are only two teams and this is the best time of year to play hockey and it’s the final. Why wouldn’t you want to be here? Why would you just want to say, ‘Hey, we play a lot of hockey.’ “It’s no use saying that, so we’re excited to be here. We want to be here.”
Perry said the Lightning could use the lessons they learned from their series against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, when they lost the first two games on the road before winning the next four.
“We are in the same situation as against the Rangers, we are going home 0-2,” he said. “And there we found a way to win Game 3 at the end of the game. It rejuvenated us, it got us going again and now we’re going home.”
The Lightning have won seven consecutive games at the Amalie Arena. They hope the energy of the home crowd will help build momentum.
“We don’t think here that oh, well, you know, we’re just gonna turn it up,” go ahead Pierre-Edouard Bellemare said. “We know we haven’t played the right way. We haven’t shown what we can do, so we’ll just go home and play the game the way we want.”