The Colorado Avalanche took Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning by a score of 4-3 in overtime. Andre Burakovsky got the winner 1:29 into the extra session. But one of the big takeaways coming out of the victory for the Avalanche was their ability to exploit the cross-seam or East-West pass on the Lightning.
Colorado Avalanche Continue To Follow Past Trends
Before we break down the game-winning goal by Burakovsky in overtime, we have to look at the trend that has plagued the Lightning all playoffs. It is their inability to stop the cross-seam pass. It started in the Toronto Maple Leafs series and it has carried over into the Stanley Cup Final.
The New York Rangers were able to exploit this early in the Eastern Conference Final. In the Rangers first two victories, most of their goals came via the cross-seam pass. Even when New York went up 2-0 in Game 3, the goal scored by Mika Zibanejad on the power play came via the cross-seam pass. As we can see in this video.
The biggest instance of this was during “The Shift” of the Rangers Kid Line.
The Rangers were able to use their forecheck aggressively to keep the Lightning pinned in the zone. As you can see here in the video, the “Kid Line” of Kaapo Kakko, Filip Chytil, and Alexis Lafreniere along with K’Andre Miller and Adam Fox on the back end moved the puck quickly around the offensive zone. This tired out the Lightning’s defence opening up seams. Thus exploiting the middle of the ice. Miller gets the pass from Lafreniere. From there he skates down the left side and passes the puck across to Chytil for a one-time play for the goal.
Again this was in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Final. Though the Lightning made adjustments and adapted to the Rangers cross-seam pass, chances were still there later in the series. However, Andrei Vasilevskiy was much sharper than he was in Games 1 and 2. There was some luck involved too. Andrew Copp in Game 5 gave Ryan Strome a glorious opportunity at the side of the net. Strome slid too far, but the right play was made as he had an open net on another cross-seam pass. See the trend here.
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Burakovsky’s Game Winner Exploits Massive Weakness
Everyone knows the Lightning are an excellent team. There is a reason they are on the cusp of history. However, if one thing is certain. Teams are beatable especially if their weakness is exploited. Case in point on the Andre Burakovsky game-winning goal.
The Colorado Avalanche’s speed and aggressive forecheck is something the Lightning have not seen all playoffs. Maybe the closest was the Maple Leafs in the first round. But not to this extent.
Colorado’s aggressive forecheck during Game 1 led to multiple turnovers by the Lightning. Some of them were uncharacteristic. None more so than the winner in overtime.
Victor Hedman tries to clear the puck it hits an Avalanche forward in the zone near the blue line. The puck bounces going to Mikhael Sergachev. Instead of waiting and settling it down, Sergachev tries to pass a bouncing puck. This allows Colorado to enter the zone with numbers and speed off their transition game. Colorado’s entry forces Hedman and Sergachev to backup towards Vasilevskiy.
From there Compher skates down the middle of the ice. Something the Lightning were very good at not giving up in the Eastern Conference Final. Compher shoots the puck, but it is blocked by Hedman. The puck comes to Valeri Nichushkin, who is wide open, as the Lightning forwards are still coming back.
As you can see in the video, there is too much space given up by the Lightning players, thus opening up the cross-seam pass to Burakovsky for the game-winning overtime goal. This was one of the big areas the Lightning had to clean up coming into the Stanley Cup Final. And as we can see from this goal given up, it still needs work. But give credit to the Avalanche for making it hard out there for the Lightning players.
If the Lightning are going to win a third straight Stanley Cup, Jon Cooper will have to get his team to play a little tighter in their own zone. As for Colorado, they just need to keep using their speed and skill to their advantage. They just have to be patient in their game. Just look at the chances they did not covert on. There could be more cross-seam passes that open up for goals as the series progresses.
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