After a two-day break, hockey's back, baby.
The Colorado Avalanche are hoping to take a 2-0 series lead heading to Tampa, while the Tampa Bay Lightning are hoping to channel their "never lose twice" energy that has made them so dominant over the past couple of seasons.
Here's what you need to look for ahead of Game 2, set for 8:00 PM ET at Ball Arena in Denver on Saturday:
Darcy Kuemper needs to get more comfortable
Expectations were lenient, to an extent, for Darcy Kuemper's return to the crease after a two-week break due to injuries. He was chasing pucks a bit early, and didn't seem overly comfortable.
And that almost backfired, with Kuemper allowing three goals on 15 shots, including a weird one from Nick Paul in the first period. It wasn't all his fault, but given how Colorado continued to pressure the Bolts all game long, the victory nearly slipped away.
To win this series, Kuemper needs to outplay one of the best goaltenders in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy. After a tough opening first period for Vasilevskiy, he eventually got back in the groove and played a good second half while keeping his team in a game they were statistically struggling in.
Luckily for Kuemper, the Avs did pull off the win, so it's all about moving on and getting focused again. Kuemper can steal some games, and the Lightning are going to be flying high trying to steal a win on Saturday before heading back home.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar shared a vote of confidence in Kuemper, and that's all you can ask for.
Tampa knows how to bounce-back
The bad news? They got outplayed heavily in Game 1. The good news? There were some positive signs, regardless.
For starters, even though he wasn't at full speed after missing a month of hockey, getting Brayden Point back into the lineup was a huge get. There was also the fact that, despite struggling on the power play and allowing three goals early, they ended up forcing overtime and started to find their legs in the second half.
You know the narrative all too well by now: the Bolts know how to bounce back after a loss better than anyone. Heck, Tampa has struggled to open the series throughout the playoffs, losing Game 1 to Toronto and New York, but there's a reason they've won 11 playoff rounds in a row. They finally lost two games in a row against the Rangers for the first time since 2019, an insane feat on its own.
For Tampa to pull through, they have to play better structural defense and slow down one of the fastest offenses in the league. It's all about smothering Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog and Co., and the Lightning tend to do that best with their backs against the wall. It's too early to say THAT's the case, but you don't want to go down 0-2 to a team as dangerous as Colorado.