It’s the final we’ve all been waiting for. The League’s Most Exciting Team and Consecutive Champions are the final two teams to sit between Avalanche and Lightning in the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals.
The Avalanche entered that season as favorites to win the Stanley Cup. Now here they are, just four wins away from doing just that.
Colorado mostly survived the playoffs. After a dominant win over the Predators in the first round, the Avs overcame the Blues in six games to finally earn the second-round win they have eluded for the past five seasons. It took them just four games to eliminate the Oilers in the Conference Finals, and for the first time since 2001, they punched their ticket to the Cup finals onto the shoulders of backup goaltender Pavel Francouz, standing in for the injured Darcy Kuemper.
At just 23, Cale Makar is quick to engage with the all-time great defender. The Avalanche Blue Liner leads the team with 22 points in 14 playoff games. Behind him is Nathan MacKinnon, who is first on the team with 11 goals and second on the team with 18 points. Both Gabriel Landeskog and Mikko Rantanen have 17.
Colorado is a team all too familiar with playing in the Finals. Entering the series as reigning champions of 2020 and 2021, the Lightning aim to become the first team to score three goals since the ’80s Islanders.
Tampa Bay had a hard-fought seven-game battle with the Maple Leafs in the first round, but came away with a series win. The Lightning drove circles around the Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy, in the second round and swept the top East team into the conference finals. There they won four straight games after falling 2-0 to Rangers to eliminate the Broadway Blueshirts.
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Nikita Kucherov comes back to life in the playoffs. His 23 points leads the team and puts him in the top-5 for the postseason. Ondrej Palat trails him on 16 points, Steven Stamkos on 15 and Victor Hedman on 14. The side’s backbone has once again asserted itself at the net with goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy averaging 2.35 goals and a . Save 927 percent.
Can lightning strike again? Or will the Avs make last season’s prediction come true?
Here’s everything you need to know about the Stanley Cup final between Avalanche and Lightning.
Key Story: How is Brayden Point and Nazem Kadri’s health?
Some of the biggest stars from these two teams didn’t play at the end of the Conference Finals and their status heading into the Finals is up in the air.
Brayden Point has been out since Game 7 of Round 1 when he sustained a right leg injury against the Maple Leafs. While he’s back skating with the team, he has yet to play a game. He had four points in seven games before the injury and was the playoff leader in goals in each of the last two postseasons.
The more unlikely of the two to return is Nazem Kadri, who was injured in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals when he was hit by Evander Kane. He was eliminated from the rest of the conference finals, but not the playoffs.
However, he recently underwent surgery for his thumb. There’s yet to be an announcement that he’s ready for the postseason, but given the surgery, it doesn’t seem likely that we’ll see him against the Lightning. Kadri has been sensational in these playoffs with six goals and eight assists in 13 games.
This leaves each team with a gap in the top 6 that could potentially be exploited in the finals.
With the Lightning, we’ve seen a number of different combinations of Jon Cooper and co with no Point in the lineup. Nick Paul has moved up to the second row, Anthony Cirelli has slipped back into the middle, and Brandon Hagel is stepping up to play in the top-six wing. Point hopped between center and wing when he was in the lineup anyway, so there are a variety of options to explore Tampa Bay with or without him.
With Kadri out in Game 4, coach Jared Bednar opted to push Rantanen down the middle and play in the second row down the middle, flanked by Artturi Lehkonen and Andre Burakovsky. He’ll have to see if he sticks with it. JT Compher or Alex Newhook could be options to fill that central second line role and Rantanen could move back to the right wing on the front line.
Either way, Point and Kadri’s potential absence from this series could have dire consequences. The Lightning was able to advance two rounds without a point, but his absence was evident at times. We’ve only seen the Avs play a full game with no Kadri in the line-up and although they’ve had plenty of time to adjust during practice, game situations are completely different and you can’t afford to give up a game in the finals.
Avalanche vs. Lightning Schedule, TV Channels
(All times Easter)
|Wed, June 15||game 1||Flash in case of avalanche||8 p.m||ABC|
|Sat 18 June||game 2||Flash in case of avalanche||8 p.m||ABC|
|Monday, June 20th||game 3||Avalanche at Lightning||8 p.m||ABC|
|Wed, June 22nd||game 4||Avalanche at Lightning||8 p.m||ABC|
|Fri 24 June||Game 5*||Flash in case of avalanche||8 p.m||ABC|
|Sunday, June 26th||Game 6*||Avalanche at Lightning||8 p.m||ABC|
|Tuesday, June 28th||Game 7*||Flash in case of avalanche||8 p.m||ABC|
Avalanche vs Lightning Odds
Sports Interaction Odds
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Avalanche vs. lightning forecast
Colorado was by far the most dominant team in the playoffs. In three rounds they lost only two games and averaged 4.64 goals per game while giving up 2.86.
While Tampa Bay was better defensively and allowed 2.50 goals per game, they averaged a goal and a half fewer than the Avs and posted a 3.13 clip.
That being said, there are two things that will define this series. The first is an old cliché – defense wins championships. There were times when defending the Avs was problematic. As in games 1 and 4 against the Oilers. There’s no such scenario where the Avalanche can give up five to six goals a game and expect to still beat the Lightning since Tampa’s defense is a fair bit better than Edmonton’s and Vasilevskiy is by far the best goaltender they have have seen during the game playoffs.
The Lightning simply has the ability that if they get a gate or two, they know how to shift gears and shut it down in their own zone. You get it over the red line and throw it on offense and lock things up on defense. Tampa proved it can handle a coast-to-coast team as it kept Florida’s high-flying offense to three goals in four games. They face a similar test with the Avs.
The second is health. I think Kadri’s absence will be monumental. There’s such a slim chance they’ll get it back, and even if they do, there’s no way it’s going to be 100%. It’s unfortunate that the Avs season is the result of a dirty play, but I just don’t see the Avalanche top-six being the same without Kadri.
Tampa Bay makes history and completes the three-peat.
Forecast: Lightning in seven.