It seemed as if everybody went into Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final viewing it as a coronation for the Colorado Avalanche.
Colorado was up 3-1 in the series and coming off a terrific performance in Game 4 on the road. The betting market became infatuated with the Avs, and the price reflected that. Colorado closed as -200 favorites on Friday night. To put that in perspective, the Avs closed at -150 in Game 1 and -144 in Game 2.
Though there were some legitimate reasons — such as Tampa Bay’s injury issues and the fact the Avalanche had been the better team for the majority of the series — for the line to adjust from Colorado’s first two home games, but a 53-cent move off the average closing price from Games 1 and 2 was out of control.
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And wouldn’t you know it, the Lightning did not go quietly into that good night. Despite being counted out by just about everyone, the two-time defending champs responded with their best performance of the series en route to a 3-2 win at Ball Arena. And the most important part of Tampa Bay’s victory was that Andrei Vasilevskiy put in a much stronger performance than his goaltending counterpart, Darcy Kuemper.
For Tampa Bay to have a chance to pull off the stunner, Vasilevskiy needs to be elite, and he has been just that over the past three contests. The reigning Conn Smythe winner has a .939 save percentage and a +3.22 Goals Saved Above Expected since the puck dropped for Game 3.
With Vasilevskiy in form and Kuemper still hot and cold, the Lightning have what they need to compete with the Avalanche on Sunday night and force a Game 7.
The Play: Lightning, -105.