Stanley Cup Finals Preview: the Colorado Avalanche take on the Tampa Bay Lightning
By Jordan Laroche
The Stanley Cup Final is finally upon us, the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche have battled all season for a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup. We have two of the NHL’s elite clubs going at it and will spoil fans with some great play on the ice. But how did these teams get here? And is there a favorite as we head into the series?
The Road Less Traveled, How They Got Here
For the Tampa Bay Lightning the regular season was a wash, they knew that if they just made the playoffs they had a chance to have a deep run with a group who knows what it takes to win. This was proven by the moves the Lightning made at the trade deadline, bringing in Nick Paul, Brandon Hagel sacrificing their future to continue their Stanley Cup winning streak.
The Lightning faced off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, the Leafs had Tampa Bay on the brink of elimination, but back-to-back wins in game 6 and 7 advanced them to the second round. But the win came at a cost as Brayden Point went down with a lower-body injury and has yet to return in these playoffs.
The Lightning would then sweep the Florida Panthers in the Battle of Florida before facing the New York Rangers in the conference final.
The Colorado Avalanche have been considered a cup favorite by many for several years now, but in their first Stanley Cup Final since 2001 they still have a lot to prove. After leading the NHL for most of the season, the Avalanche were also busy at the trade deadline bringing in Josh Manson, Nico Strum, Artturi Lehkonen and Andrew Cogliano adding defensive and forward depth to an already remarkable roster.
The Avalanche didn’t run into too much trouble on route to the Cup Final opening with a sweep against a Juuse Saros-less Nashville Predators.
The St. Louis Blues were the toughest opponent for the Avs so far taking them to six games, they were able to shut down the Avs top weapons at key times through the series.
The Avs would then sweep the Edmonton Oilers in the conference final as Nathan MacKinnon out dueled Connor McDavid.
Betting the Stanley Cup Final
– To win the series:
o Avalanche: -189
o Lightning: +155
– Conn Smythe Trophy Winner:
o Cale Makar: +180
o Nathan MacKinnon: +215
o Andrei Vasilevskiy: +400
– Number of games in series:
o 4 games: +540
o 5 games: +260
o 6 games: +210
o 7 games: +210
Analysis: The Avalanche being the favorite definitely jumps off the page as I personally thought the back-to-back Stanley Cup winners would be the favorite. Nevertheless, there is good value in taking the Lightning at +155, ($100 bet gets $155 + $100) it’s a high risk-high reward bet.
Picking a Conn Smythe winner should go hand-in-hand with who you think will win the series. The Avalanche players will receive lower odds as they are the favorite. MacKinnon and Makar are obvious picks for the Avalanche, but Mikko Raantanen (+1400) or Darcy Kuemper (+3900) are also good picks. If the Lightning win the series, Andrei Vasilevskiy will be the front runner for the trophy, but Victor Hedman (+2100) and Nikita Kucherov (+400) can also provide some upside.
Storylines to Watch
Point was hurt in game seven of the first round against the Leafs after being tangled up against the boards. He has yet to play in a game but was a full participant at Monday’s practice. Assistant Coach Jeff Halpern told the Tampa Bay Times “I don’t know if Monday was any indication… It was a light skate.” Point had 2G 2A 4P in seven games vs the Leafs and is a key piece for the Lightning skating with Steven Stamkos and Kucherov.
The Anthony Cirelli-Brandon Hagel-Alex Killorn line has been very impactful throughout the playoffs keeping 2 of the top three NHL goal scorers in check. They kept Chris Kreider to just 2 goals and Auston Matthews to 4 goals. They will have to be at their best as they will be up against the Nathan MacKinnon-Grabirel Landeskog-Valeri Nichushkin line who as a group have 44 points through 14 games.
Colorado vs Vasilevskiy
This is going to be a tall task for both the Avs and Vasilevskiy. The Avs have yet to face an elite goaltender in the playoffs, and it has shown as they lead the playoffs in goals per game with 4.6. The Colorado Avalanche are also averaging 40 shots per game in the playoffs. Not to say that the Avs have a world-class offense, but Vasilevskiy has been on another planet this year.
A 2.27 GAA and a .928 SV% are only where it starts with Vasilevskiy. His ability to steal games is second to none and he has done so in many series clinching games. A 0.77 GAA .974 SV% and six shutouts in series clinching games since 2020, Vasilevskiy has become one of, if not the most clutch player in the NHL.
As nice as it would be to see someone else win the Stanley Cup, the Tampa Bay Lightning have the experience and the team to do it all again.
Tampa Bay 4-2.