The Avalanche and the rest of the hockey world got to know their opponent in the Stanley Cup Finals on Saturday night.
The Tampa Bay Lightning are returning to the championship round after the two-time defending champions defeated the New York Rangers 2-1 in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals at the Amalie Arena.
Tampa Bay won four straight games against the Rangers after losing the first two and now has to go for a three-pointer against the Avalanche.
Game 1 of the cup final takes place on Wednesday in the Ball Arena; the full schedule is below.
The Avs have eight days off between games since beating the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals on June 6. Colorado had seven days off after beating Nashville in the first round and beginning its second round against St. Louis. The Avs played extremely well in Game 1 but struggled in Game 2.
“I’ve always liked the rest, but the stats show that the rest isn’t good,” said Dave Reid, an analyst at NHL Network, who won the 2001 trophy with Colorado.
Tampa Bay had eight days off between beating the Florida Panthers in the second round and starting the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers. The Lightning struggled in Game 1, losing 6-2 and also losing Game 2, 3-2 before beating Rangers four straight times.
The Avs and goaltender Darcy Kuemper are 2-0 against the Lightning to win the first meeting in a 4-3 shootout on Oct. 23 in Tampa. Cale Makar scored the winning goal on goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in the sixth round of penalties.
Colorado also defeated Tampa Bay in another close game (3-2) on February 10 in Denver. Vasilevskiy accepted the loss despite his outstanding 0.939 save percentage (44 saves). Kuemper was even better (.947, 36 saves).
Kuemper is expected to start Game 1 against the Lightning, although he has watched backup Pavel Francouz end two of the first three series due to Kuemper’s injuries. Kuemper has started Game 1 in each series and Francouz sees his role as a $2 million backup.
“I have the feeling that together we are really pulling the rope in the right direction,” Francouz said of Kuemper on Friday. “We can talk about anything, whether it’s hockey or not. You know how he is: he always smiles. he is positive So it’s fun to be here.”
Tampa Bay became the first team to secure a Finals berth in three consecutive seasons since the Edmonton Oilers in 1985. The Oilers won their second Stanley Cup that year after beating the New York Islanders in the championship series in 1983 and then defeating the Islanders in 1984 in five games.
The Lightning make the Finals for the fifth time (also 2004, 2015, 2020, 2021), which is the most among non-Original Six clubs behind the Flyers (eight times), Oilers (seven), and Penguins (six).
STANLEY CUP FINALS 2022 (all times MT)
Wednesday, June 15: 6 p.m. Tampa Bay, Colorado
Saturday, June 18: 6 p.m. Tampa Bay, Colorado
Monday, June 20: 6 p.m. Colorado in Tampa Bay
Wednesday, June 22: 6 p.m. Colorado in Tampa Bay
*Friday, June 24: 6 p.m. Tampa Bay, Colorado
*Sunday, June 26: 6 p.m. Colorado in Tampa Bay
*Tuesday, June 28: 6 p.m. Tampa Bay, Colorado
* If necessary