Stanley Cup Finals are decided by more than just star players. It's also about star players. These are the ones that we expect and many times those we don’t.
TheThey know this better than anyone. Two-time Stanley Cup champions are back in Final, and they will be facing a hot opponent. Since 2001, no team has appeared in the Final.
Both sides have big-name players that will be crucial to the series' outcome. Each lineup also has valuable secondary contributors, the X-factor guys who have flash but are crucial in supporting their team's success.
There's also the goaltending.
He is undoubtedly the greatest netminder in the world, and he has been Tampa's (and maybe the entire NHL) MVP this postseason.
Colorado relies on its deep innet to win, and it has succeeded in front startersBackup . Kuemper sustained an upper-body injury during the Avalanche Western Conference finals series. He says he is 100% healthy now. Francouz did a great job in Colorado's sweep against the Oilers with a.908SV% score and 2.81 GAA (including an out).
Kuemper played as a backup for Francouz during Game 4 of the conference finals. Colorado then taps Francouz to start Game 1 against Tampa Bay.8 p.m. ET Wednesday, ABC and ESPN+It remains to be determined.
We know the goaltenders. We also know the stars. We'll also look at some other players who could impact the final decision on Lord Stanley's fate — and who might be disappointed.
It doesn't matter what Cirelli does on the scoresheet. It's his ability to keep other players from it.
Cirelli only has one goal and five assists during the postseason but he is still the Lightning's top shutdown centre. His line withThis was a significant problem for In the Eastern Conference Finals, there are fewer chances for It was frustrating to every forward it was up against.
Gerard Gallant, Rangers coach, was annoyed by questions about Zibanejad’s low production in the face of Cirelli's ferocious checking line. Cirelli's hard work was no match for New York’s top offensive generators. That's why he will be so dangerous in the Cup Final.
Colorado is home to a number of top producers, and they are an offensively stronger team than the Rangers. Cirelli will need to put in more effort to ensure that the Avalanche gamebreakers don't get rolling in any matchup he has.
It was difficult for Tampa Bay to not haveAvailable since Game 7 in its first-round series. . Cirelli is one of these players who has shown great promise. Cirelli has not been perfect, but he can be trusted on any ice surface and will not be intimidated by any other skater.
There are many ways to make money.Colorado has a huge hole. Compher will be relied on for its filling.
Kadri's availability to the Cup Final is still uncertain. Last week, the center underwent surgery for a broken thumb.In Game 3 of the Western Conference finals, he was boarded by him. Kadri is possible to return in the Cup Final. However, it is not certain. Kadri also had a similar procedure, and his condition further hinders Colorado's ability to be as deep upfront.
Compher is likely to play a greater role. Compher started the postseason slowly, with only two assists and zero goals in Colorado's first nine matches. Compher was not able to turn the corner until the Avalanche’s second-round series.. He lit the lamp twice during Colorado's Series-Clinching Game 6 win. In Colorado's last six games, he scored five goals, including the winning goal against Edmonton in Game 3.
It doesn't matter how you begin, it's how you finish. Compher is needed in Colorado to help them stay on the right track. Compher will be an offensive force that can offset some of the Avalanche losses due to Kadri being out. Compher also seems to know how he could improve. According to him, his defense has been too defensive. He said last week that he is now more aggressive on the frontcheck and creating more opportunities.
All of Colorado must channel this mindset to Tampa Bay's top talents. Compher will lead the charge.
We have the ultimate playoff X-factor.
Johnson is Colorado’s longest-tenured player. He dates back to the 2010-11 seasons. Johnson has seen some of the worst things in his time with the Avalanche. There has been disappointment, underachievement as well as sweeping highs followed by grounding lows. It's not just about the team. Johnson has also struggled in recent times, missing four of the six 2020-21 games due to a concussion. His playing days could be over.
Johnson, now 34, is an integral part of the Colorado machine that reached the Cup Final. He will get the chance to show his best.
This season, the veteran was paired with a 20-year oldTheir postseason performances together have been especially strong. When the Avs are on the ice, they have nearly twice the scoring opportunities than their opponents. They also hold the second-highest goal percentage of any defensive pairing in postseason.
Johnson scored a crucial goal for the Avalanche against St. Louis in Game 4. Jared Bednar, coach of the Avalanche, stated that these were Johnson's best performances since his 2016 arrival behind the bench.
Johnson is known for being a strong leader. Johnson is not only a strong anchor for the blue line, but he also provides stability to a young team that has less postseason experience than the Lightning. Johnson is expected to give his all for Colorado's cause, even if the puck does not drop in this Final.
Colorado GM added the versatile Lehkonen to its trade deadline team.. This postseason has shown how easily Lehkonen fits into the Avalanche’s system.
Lehkonen's reputation has been built on his high-end defensive skills that allow him to play in all situations. Lehkonen has been an offensive player in the playoffs, playing a secondary role.Kadri, then Following Kadri’s injury.
Lehkonen leads Avalanche's three-round playoff run with three game-winning goals. None were greater than his overtime win in Game 4 against Edmonton, which sent Colorado into the Cup Final. Kadri was also in Colorado's top power play unit and Lehkonen filled in for him. He went 2-for-2 during Game 4. Coincidence? It could be. Lehkonen is able to elevate the performance of his teammates like this. It is part of his uniqueness.
Lehkonen, a highly-characterized member of Colorado's team, has so many positive aspects. Lehkonen will play in the Cup Final for the second year consecutively. This is a valuable experience, considering that most Avalanche have never advanced to this point.
We are not referring to all the top-tier stars in this series. Nevertheless, there are some that cannot be avoided.
This is a momentous occasion for MacKinnon. This is the Western Conference finals matchup againstThere was more hype than heat. The Cup Final is a different beast altogether, especially when it features, oh! For example, This is spicy! MacKinnon will be inspired to perform once more.
In 14 games, the top-flight forward has scored 11 goals and 18 point in his first season. MacKinnon has shown that he is capable of dominating by himself (see the coast-tocoast goal-scoring ability against St. Louis in Game 5). He's a clutch performer (see: Game 4 against Edmonton, which saw him score the game-winning goal). MacKinnon's defensive skills have improved in the postseason, which is crucial.
MacKinnon, regardless of his opponent, is prioritizing details within his own end to make great passes, break out quickly, and limit the other team’s cycle game. In the Cup Final, the Avalanche will be looking for more from him. Because it shows when a player like MacKinnon plays defense well, it rubs off onto everyone else.
MacKinnon will score goals, of course. Colorado's offense is largely dependent on its top players, regardless of how many. MacKinnon's all-around ability is the X factor. He's not a one-note wonder.
Yes, Makar is another Avalanche star. Makar is important to Colorado, much like MacKinnon. Makar is more than just the X factor. The factor. He is a factor in almost all the Avalanche's activities.
He has averaged more than 27 minutes per game during the postseason. Makar is available at 5-on-5 on the penalty kill and power play. Makar is an elite defense presence in any situation, regardless of score or scenario. Makar has scored five goals in 14 games and scored 22 points. Makar's abilities are what make him so similar to Bobby Orr. Makar-level influence on both ends of the ice is rare. But he does it every time.
Makar is sure to be a problem for the Lightning and vice versa. Tampa is the best team Colorado's seen so far. They are talented, experienced and deep. Makar has made a lot of room for himself and his teammates during the playoffs. The Lightning will likely limit that space. Makar will need to rise again. It will be crucial to keep the puck out of the hands of Tampa Bay's top players and into the Avalanche's.
It's possible that every shift taken by a player who plays as well as Makar could actually be a swing in Colorado’s favor.
Tampa Bay had to leave McDonagh out of Game 5 against New York for 13 minutes after the veteran defender suffered an injury.
It was only five minutes before regulation ended when McDonagh returned. McDonagh's return was praised by the Lightning players. It was just after McDonagh's return that the Lightning scored the game-winning goal.
McDonagh could have stayed in the dressing room for those final minutes. McDonagh could have saved his money for the next match. McDonagh doesn't do that. Jon Cooper, the Lightning coach calls him the team's ‘warrior. McDonagh is important, but it's not possible to quantify or qualify his importance using numbers.
It's all of the little things McDonagh does that could cause trouble for Colorado. McDonagh, who averages 7.44 blocks per sixty minutes, is a shot-blocking pro and a forceful player (registering 4.22 hits per match), has been praised for his determination to win over the rest of his team. McDonagh's postseason total of four points — one goal, three assists — is not enough to show his true worth.
Tampa Bay will face a new generation of defensive talent when it takes on Colorado. Do not underestimate the impact McDonagh (and Johnson) will have on this team. McDonagh's one-shift shift could make all the difference when you least expect it.
Palat is like Lehkonen for the Avs.
He's also attracted to scoring the dramatic, game-winning goal. The Lightning wouldn't exist without him.
Tampa Bay's first win in conference finals was achieved by Palat, who scored the decisive goal with just 41.6 seconds left in regulation. The series-shifting goal gave the Lightning momentum they would never give up. Palat was not satisfied with his performance. With only 1:50 left in regulation, Palat scored the game winning goal in Game 5.
It's most likely that Palat will be the one who puts a dagger into Colorado.
Palat has been the first NHL player to score game-winning goals within the last two minutes of multiple postseason games. This is a great distinction.
Palat is more than just a goal scorer. He skates for nearly 17 minutes each contest, and is averaging almost a goal per game in the postseason. Palat has been a great even strength player and leads the Lightning with shooting percentage. He is as balanced a forward as Colorado will be seeing in this series. Palat can make a difference by staying hot.
You can see Sergachev’s ability to tip the ice in Game 5 against New York.
Tampa Bay trailed 1-0 in the second period. Then Sergachev scored his first goal of this postseason at an important juncture. They would finish the third tied at 1-1. It was Sergachev's goal blast that Palat edged pastHis team scored a decisive win.
We could wax poetic about this all dayHe would be a great choice, and it is a good thing. Hedman has shown his game-changing abilities time and again. He could be a key player in the Final.
Sergachev's sneak attack is more like that of the Lightning. He moves in the play and makes things happen. Tampa Bay was not playing well in Game 5. To get out of a mini-slump, the team needed an X factor. Sergachev offers that X factor. While he might not be able do it every night, his game-changing capabilities are unmatched.
It would be easy for us to see this Cup Final as offensive and only focus on the potential goal-scoring potential. There is also a lot of defensive talent. Sergachev is active for over 21 minutes each game and makes appearances on both special-teams units. Cooper is more likely to call Sergachev out in crucial moments because of the confidence he has gained during this postseason. Sergachev demonstrated why he has more responsibility after McDonagh's exit in Game 5 by sticking in with Hedman to ensure that the Lightning did not miss a beat.
Sergachev will play with confidence heading into the Cup Final. This could spell trouble for Avalanche.
The Lighting and Rangers had a huge reunion, and Stamkos was literally in the middle of it.
Cooper brought his captain back to the table with Kucherov, Palat after Tampa Bay fell behind by 2-0. The results were swift and decisive.
Cooper has not used this unit often. Stamkos used this trio sparingly both in the regular season as well as during the first round series against Toronto. Stamkos was particularly impressive when he reunited with the Lightning. He scored three points in Tampa's third game, was outstanding in all three areas and even dropped his gloves.The end of Game 5 It felt as if a new side of Stamkos was being revealed.
Stamkos has been an asset to the Lightning in these playoffs. He's clearly one of their stars, but not in the same manner as Kucherov. Stamkos represents all that Tampa Bay has learned over the last few years. He's strategic. He's even-keeled. He is a confident leader with a skill set that has not been diminished by his years.
All these factors add up to Stamkos being the player who may lie in the weeds a while and then get back on his feet and move the ice towards Tampa. That's exactly what the Lightning will need for this Cup Final. Stamkos is not expected to be a contributor, but he'll be opportunistic. His conduct could have a significant impact on Tampa's success.