Game: Tampa Bay Lightning @ Colorado Avalanche
Time: 8:00 p.m. ET
Odds: Lightning +140, Avalanche -160
The Tampa Bay Lightning are no strangers to the Stanley Cup Finals. They have won the Cup in each of the last two seasons and could become the first team since the 1980s New York Islanders to win more than two consecutive. The two-time defending Stanley Cup champions travel to Colorado to take on the Avalanche in Game 1 tonight.
The Avalanche had the best regular-season record in the Western Conference and the second-best overall. Colorado has been the favorite to win the Cup for most of the 2021-22 NHL season. The Avs have done it with offense averaging nearly five goals per game so far in the postseason. Colorado has swept two of its three series thus far and is 12-2 this playoff season.
Colorado is loaded with talent including two favorites to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the Finals MVP. Defenseman Cale Makar and center Nathan MacKinnon have combined for 16 goals and 24 assists (40 points) so far in the postseason. Plus, the Avs will get Nazem Kadri, Andrew Cogliano, and goalie Darcy Kuemper back from injuries. Kuemper missed Colorado’s last three games and is expected to start tonight in Game 1.
Tampa Bay is led by Steven Stamkos who scored a team-high 42 goals during the regular season. The Lightning will also get Brayden Point back from an injury and Tampa Bay has a pair of Conn Smythe favorites of its own. Nikita Kucherov is tied for fourth in points (23) in the postseason and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy is the defending Conn Smythe winner.
Vasilevskiy gives the Lightning a distinct advantage in goal this series. In this postseason, Vasilevskiy is 12-5 with a 2.27 goals against average and a .928 save percentage. What makes him special is that he gets better as a series goes on. In Tampa Bay’s last eight series-deciding games, Vasilevskiy is a perfect 8-0 with an unheard of 0.25 goals against average and a .991 save percentage. In six of those eight games, Vasilevskiy shutout the opponent.
The one saving grace for Colorado is that Vasilevskiy doesn’t start a series all that well. In the three series openers in this postseason, the Lightning’s netminder has allowed 12 goals on 100 shots. He’s 1-2 in those three games.
The challenge for Colorado will be dealing with a nine-day layoff. Tampa Bay struggled with the same issue in its series with the Rangers. The Lightning had nine days off and then came out flat in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals. The Avalanche would like to avoid that. The Avs are 12-2 SU in their last 14 games at home and 5-0 SU in their last five overall.
Tampa Bay is 10-2 SU in its last 12 games and they have had success against Colorado. The Lightning are 6-3 SU in their last nine games against the Avalanche. Tampa Bay is also 5-1 SU in its last six trips to Colorado.