Will the Colorado Avalanche Francouz or Kuemper start the Stanley Cup Finals opener?
By Neil Becker
The Colorado Avalanche have a tough decision to make.
Days away from playing the back-to-back Stanley Cup champions Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals, it’s not a guarantee that number one goalie Darcy Kuemper will get the start.
Kuemper, who on July 28, 2021 was traded from the Arizona Coyotes to the Avalanche, is coming off a solid regular season which saw him go 37-12-4 with 4 shutouts and a 2.54 GAA.
During this current playoff run Kuemper suffered some bad luck starting in Colorado’s best of seven first round series which the Avs went on to sweep against the Nashville Predators.
In Game 3 of that series, Kuemper suffered during second period action a stick in the eye which sidelined him for the rest of that game along with Game 4.
Avs backup goalie Pavel Francouz came in to relieve and made a strong statement with his solid play.
Francouz came off the bench cold and saved 18 out of 20 shots in a 7-3 Avalanche win. Two days later, with Colorado going for the four- game sweep, this 32- year-old who in March signed a two-year extension, proved once again to be clutch as he saved 28 of 31 shots in leading Colorado to a 5-3 series sweeping win.
Showing to be a quick healer, Kuemper came back and played well in the Western Conference semi-finals against the St. Louis Blues. In the Game 6 clincher, he made 18 saves in what was a 3-2 Colorado series win which punched their ticket to the Western Conference finals.
Once again Kuemper had trouble staying healthy as he had suffered an upper body injury in the second period of the Western Conference opener against the Edmonton Oilers.
When Kuemper was replaced by Francouz, Colorado was holding a 6-3 lead. Once again Francouz was clutch as he stopped 18 of 21 shots in an 8-6 Avs win.
Embracing the spotlight, Francouz continued to shine as his finest moment came two days later when he made 24 saves during a 4-0 shutout win which left the Avs only two wins shy of going to the Stanley Cup finals.
This Czechoslovakian goalie remained undefeated this spring as he backstopped Colorado to a 4-2 Game 3 win followed by a 30 save performance in a 6-5 series sweeping win against the Oilers.
Entering the Stanley Cup Finals, Francouz is a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.86 GAA while Kuemper has also been impressive with a 6-2-0 record and a 2.44 GAA.
Kuemper was the back up for Game 4 of the Western Conference finals, and has declared himself to be healthy.
In retrospect the Avalanche coaching staff have quite the luxury of either going back to Kuemper who is 6-2-0 in nine games with a 2.44 GAA or staying with Francouz who is a perfect 6-0-0 with a 2.86 GAA.