Commentary

Avs Fans on Twitter: Is Goalie Darcy Kuemper to Blame for Game 3 Loss?

Colorado Avalanche goalie wearing a shell-shocked expression after game three of the Stanley Cup finals.
Colorado Avalanche goalie wearing a shell-shocked expression after game three of the Stanley Cup finals. NHL via YouTube
The Colorado Avalanche is a better team than the Tampa Bay Lightning, its opponents in the 2022 Stanley Cup finals, at pretty much every position but one: goalie, where Avs starter Darcy Kuemper and backup Pavel Francouz collectively add up to less than superstar net-minder Andrei Vailevskiy. And ever since the potential repercussions of this unfortunate fact were made abundantly clear during Colorado's 6-2 loss to Tampa Bay on June 20, Avalanche fans on Twitter have been debating who deserves the most blame for what happened.

Plenty of boosters leapt to defend Kuemper even after he gave up five goals and was pulled by head coach Jared Bednar in the second period. Their main argument: While Kuemper had hardly been impenetrable, the defense in front of him was equally culpable, giving up thirty shots on goal, nearly twice as many as the sixteen surrendered in the Avs' 7-0 dismantling of the Lightning in game two. Moreover, Francouz promptly let in a goal of his own after taking over — and that he blanked Tampa Bay during the third period was more about the state of the game at that juncture than a spectacular performance on his part.

Kuemper is an average goaltender at best. He's good at stopping typical scoring chances and will occasionally make an impressive save, but he's also prone to giving up soft goals on occasion. And when his teammates need him to bail them out after making a mistake (a Vailevskiy specialty), he fails to do so all too often. That puts an extreme amount of pressure on the Colorado defense, whose members must know in their heart of hearts that if they don't prevent shots from reaching Kuemper, some are going to get past him.

That was certainly the case in game three. The Avs jumped out to a 1-0 lead thanks to the way Gabriel Landeskog responded to a goal being waved off minutes earlier because of an (accurate) offside call. But the Lightning charged back with three goals of their own — from Anthony Cirelli, Ondrej Palat and Nicholas Paul. And while a second-period repeat of Landeskog's feat temporarily stopped the bleeding, Tampa Bay cashed in three more times after that, with Steven Stamkos, Pat Maroon and Corey Perry doing the damage.

The Avs retain a 2-1 advantage, and they're more than capable of winning game four in Tampa Bay on Wednesday, June 22. In the meantime, fans are still hashing over the Kuemper-versus-Francouz choice — and whether it makes any difference at all.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts