TheAre down to the final two teams. The Western Conference champion Hosting the Eastern Conference champion The Stanley Cup Final Game 1 will be played on Wednesday8 p.m. ET, ABC and ESPN+).
Tampa Bay can be the first three-peat Cup winner since theThey won their third of the four straight Cups in 1982. Colorado hopes to claim its third Cup in franchise-history, and its first since 2001.
We have key players, goalie confidence ratings and more for the Lightning and Avs. Plus our picks for who will win the ultimate prize in hockey.
Note: Kristen Shilton viewed the Avalanche while Greg Wyshynski gave insights into the Lightning.
How did they get here? Defeated4-0 defeated 4-2, defeated 4-0.
Goalie confidence rating: 8
Colorado has either the best or worst goalie dilemma for this time of the year. Instead of one skilled starter, the Avalanche boast two.And . It's possible to argue for each player starting in Game 1 at the Cup finals. Jared Bednar will choose which coach to select, but that begs the question:
Francouz is the man with the hot hand and most likely the inside scoop on the all-important, confidence-boosting vote from Bednar.Francouz was named as the backstop for Colorado during its sweep of the Western Conference finals. Kuemper was back in Game 4 to play as a backup, and he confirmed last week that he is 100% healthy. Kuemper had already left the series against Nashville earlier in this postseason because of Starting at Francouz was able to close out the Preds. Francouz was not retained by Francouz's starter's crease, although Bednar doesn't think so.
Francouz and Kuemper are the only two playoff teams that can be separated. Kuemper's record is 6-2-0 with a.897 save percentage, 2.65 goals against average and a 2.65 goals per game. Francouz is 6-0-0 and has a.906 SSV% as well as a 2.86 GAA.
Francouz has not suffered a loss in the postseason, and he also has more playing experience due to Kuemper's injury. While Colorado hasn’t played a single game since June 6, Kuemper isn’t playing in any since June 1. This is a long time for goalies.
Kuemper, how much are you owed for a great season? Francouz should be credited for the strong playoffs. Colorado is in good health. It's not a bad decision; goaltending should be an asset regardless of what.
We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason
. What we have learned is that How good.
The Avalanche is more than a talented, fast, and deep team. They are opportunistic and resilient, and seem to be unaware of any limits. Even when the end seems certain, such as when they were two goals down to Edmonton in Game 4 – they continue to execute. The Avalanche has no quit, to borrow the Rangers' playoff motto. They will give their best until the last buzzer goes off.
We have also seen Colorado as more than just the sum of its stars. Naturally(22 points in 14 matches). (18 points) The success of the Avalanche was due to 17 points. It's not enough. Who is the leader of the team in scoring game-winning goals? It's Colorado needs help scoring. Veteran It is a way to shepherd young people They have had an amazing postseason. Colorado has also lost a key player And they didn't miss one beat (at least, so far). The Avs' philosophy is built around the notion of “next-man-up”.
The team is almost too deep to be called “deep”. The Avalanche seem to have grown stronger throughout the playoffs. They are more comfortable trusting themselves and embracing whatever is thrown at them. Colorado has been as efficient in single-goal games as it has been in 8-6 barn burners. This is a testament to Bednar and the Avalanche leadership group.
Colorado's great run has been defined by the ability to see all of these elements in the playoffs.
This player will be the key to the series
Makar will be the center of attention. Makar is a defenseman that cannot be overlooked.
He is Colorado's best all-around player. He is active for more than 27 minutes each game, including 5-on-5, the power play and the penalty kill. Colorado's best defense against Tampa Bay is to keep him on the ice for as many minutes as possible.
It's not about the offensive players Tampa Bay boasts. It's also the fact that the Lightning have one of the NHL's finest — and most crafty — veteran defensemen.. Since then? And In the 2001 Cup finals, two Norris Trophy winners faced off in this match-up. For all the talk about a MacKinnon in Colorado's previous series, here it is. Matchup aside, the key to this Final's success could be Makar's ability to keep up with Hedman's pace.
A player who is ready to take the next step
Let's get to it!.
In the postseason, he has been a solid defense forward for Colorado. He also scored five goals and nine assists in 14 games. After scoring 52 points in 62 regular-season games, that's not all. Nichushkin wasn't able to get much praise for his numbers. The next step could be.
Kadri suffered a broken thumb and was unable to play in Game 4 against Edmonton. Bednar managed his top six forwards, and placed Nichushkin next MacKinnon on the Avalanche’s top line. This is a huge task for any player but it worked well. It speaks volumes about Nichushkin and all that he has to offer.
We've already discussed how incredible Colorado's depth is. Nichushkin needs to make more noise in the arena. While he shouldn't abandon his defensive skills that have made him so successful, Nichushkin needs to be more aggressive in this series where goals may be more important. With talents like MacKinnon, Landeskog, riding shotgun should be a benefit. Nichushkin is free to participate in the lighting of the lamps, or as a playmaker.
What are their solutions??
This is the series-defining query. How can you beat the best goalie on the planet? Do it four times.
It all starts by making Vasilevskiy feel uncomfortable. He's going stop any pucks he sees; Colorado has to make sure he doesn’t view all of them. This means creating traffic in front and behind the net, cycling and wearing down Tampa Bay’s defense, carving some shooting lanes and firing early and often in order to set a tone.
Easy, right? Well, no.
The Lightning are an excellent defensive team. They are a solid defensive team and do a great job blocking Vasilevskiy. Colorado must capitalize on the opportunities it finds to combat this.
Sometimes the Avalanche have too many touches and too much waiting for the perfect shot. It won't work against Vasilevskiy (or Tampa Bay). Colorado needs to quickly make decisions, get into the zone fast and not let Vasilevskiy settle.
Colorado has the tools to stop even the best goaltenders. Now, all it needs to do is show it.
How did they get here? Defeated4-3, lost 4-0 defeated 4-2.
Goalie confidence rating: 10
Andrei Vasilevskiy will remain a legend in postseason hockey, no matter what happens in Stanley Cup Final.
Vasilevskiy, after a rough first round against Maple Leafs, has a.939 save rate and a 1.81 goals-against 5-on-5 average in the 10 games since. His save percentage was.955 in the series against the Rangers.
His legendary clutch play is now legend. Vasilevskiy has won 13 series-clinching championships and has stopped 219 out of 221 in his eight series-clinching victories. He is the reason that the Lightning have a chance to win a Stanley Cup third-peat against a playoffs-best offensive team.
We've learned a lot about this team in the postseason
Lightning are still Lightning
They're still the team with stars such as(15 points), Victor Hedman (14 point) and Victor Hedman (23) have both made an impact on this playoff run.
They still have heroes likeThe series was won by, whose two wins against the Rangers were a major factor.
They still have Vasilevskiy.
They're still the team that can beat your opponent 5-4 or 1-0 and look just as comfortable doing so under the guidance of Jon Cooper, their head coach.
We also learned that the Lightning know how to find reinforcements. After last season, Tampa Bay lost its entire check-in line. With holdovers, it created a new one.And Trade deadline pickup .
Forward Nick Paul is another deadline pick. He has been a solid scorer as well as a dynamic penalty killer. VeteransAnd The last summer's contracts signed by the settlers created some chaos.
Since 1983, no team has won back-toback Stanley Cups. They have never advanced beyond the second round.. There is a reason that this one has.
Key players for the series
The series will hinge on how the Lightning manage Nathan MacKinnon’s line. That could be achieved by Killorn, Killorn and Cirelli checking the line.
These three men were deployed against the Rangers top lineNew York's even strength goals have dried up. They've seen. They've seen it all. . They will no doubt see MacKinnon's band.
“The coach had a lot confidence in us, putting us against those lines. It's been amazing. Killorn explained that next is a very big job, the largest we've ever had in the playoffs.
A player who is ready to take the next step
He scored four points in seven games, before sustaining a lower-body injury against the Maple Leafs in Game 7. Cooper stated that Cooper is working to get him back to full strength and will likely be playing in the Stanley Cup Final.
He's one the NHL's most skilled two-way centres, with more goals (30) in postseason than any other NHL player. He is the X factor in this series.
How can they slow down Cale Makar's growth?
First, let's agree it's about slowing down Makar and not stopping him. Makar scored 22 points in 14 postseason games. This is a brilliant offensive defenseman.
The Lightning was however faced with a very formidable challenge in the Rangers' past round.. Their best defense was an offense. They got pucks behind New York's defenders, forcing Fox to defend and not lead the offensive attack. While this is one way to slow Makar down, it doesn't stop him.
Cup champion predictions
Kristen Shilton: Avalanche in seven. This series is the most difficult to predict. It is hard to place a bet on the champs. It also feels like Colorado's year.
Greg Wyshynski, Avalanche: Six in six Although I long for a three-peat I'm willing to accept the Avs' speed, depth, and rest against Lightning. It's going be one of most competitive Stanley Cup Finals ever.