DENVER -- Colorado has a chance to clinch its first Stanley Cup since 2001 with a victory over the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup Final on Friday, and the Avalanche are managing their emotions accordingly.
Instead of shying away from the naturally occurring nerves, coach Jared Bednar is encouraging his players to use those as fuel to be at their best come puck drop.
"You always hear about controlled emotion. I'm kind of the opposite with our team," Bednar said on Friday. "Besides running around and getting out of our game plan, I want us to use our energy and nervous energy and emotion to go play the game with passion, play hard and stay on our toes and getting after it. That's my message to our team, has been all year. I want to harness that. I want our team to get on the attack."
The Avalanche took a 2-0 lead over Tampa Bay in the Cup finals with a pair of strong performances at home. A 6-2 drubbing by the Lightning in Game 3 was Colorado's most lopsided defeat of the playoffs, and it responded with a tightly contested 3-2 overtime win in Game 4.
That lined up the opportunity at hand to potentially hoist the Cup on home ice Friday night. It's the biggest game of the Avalanche's season to date, and a monumental moment for the franchise. Colorado intends to stay immune to that pressure by treating the tilt like any other along the way.
"You're just sticking to your routine and knowing that you've got to go play a hockey game tonight," J.T. Compher said. "We had some stuff we talked about cleaning up going into Game 5 tonight, and we're just focusing on ourselves, making sure we're mentally prepared to play a good, hard hockey game, check the right way and do all the things that made us successful."
That's hardly lip service from Colorado, either. The Avalanche have stayed impressively even keeled throughout the postseason. They've gone 15-3 up to this stage by staying mentally resilient, consistent in their habits and focused on the controllable.
Cliché? Perhaps. But it's the truth behind Colorado's dominance.
"Our process for success hasn't changed, doesn't change," Bednar said. "There have been minor tweaks in the series, we talked to our group about all of that. Every game the whole season long, it was the same type of preparation as today. We're breaking games down five minutes at a time, doing what we need to do to be successful. You don't preach it all year long and practice it all year long to throw it away at the most important time of the year."
The Avalanche are also aware the two-time Cup champion Lightning won't go quietly. They're expecting a desperate opponent, and an urgent push by Tampa Bay from the start. Colorado has scored first in three of the series' four games, a pattern they've perpetuated -- to great returns -- throughout the postseason. The Avalanche can't stop there, though.
"You want to start well, we've done that at home [a lot]," Compher said. "But it's going to be 60 minutes. We've talked about it. The hardest [game] to win is the one to close out a team, especially a team like this. So, we know that whether the start goes our way or not in the first five, 10 minutes, it's going to be a 60-minute effort, maybe even more. We'll be ready to play our way for as long as it takes."