NHL Playoffs: Stanley Cup Finals Preview & Predictions

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    SeedTeamReg. Season
    To Win East
    R1 / R2 / R3
    To Win Cup
    R1 / R2 / R3
    Colorado Avalanche56-19-711912-2+270 (R1)
    -120 (R2)
    -240 (R3)
    +320 (R1)
    +210 (R2)
    +120 (R3)
    Tampa Bay Lightning51-23-811012-5+500 (R1)
    +300 (R2)
    -190 (R3)
    +1100 (R1)
    +650 (R2)
    +230 (R3)

    C1 Colorado Avalanche vs. A3 Tampa Bay Lightning
    Series Odds: Avalanche -175 / Lightning +150
    Game 1: 8:00pm EST – Wednesday, 6/15 (@COL)

    Key Injuries:
    – C Brayden Point (TB) sustained a lower-body injury in Game 7 of Round 1 and missed all of Round 2 & 3 but it’s expected that he’ll suit up for Game 1.
    – C Nazem Kadri (COL) had surgery to repair the broken thumb he sustained in a hit by Edmonton Oilers’ Evander Kane in Game 3 of the Western Conference Finals. It’s currently unknown if he’ll play but it’s believed he’ll give it a go.
    – G Darcy Kuemper (COL) hasn’t played since Game 1 of the WCF but is reported 100% healthy and should start Game 1.
    – LW Andre Burakovsky (COL) sustained another WCF injury, he hasn’t played since blocking a shot off his hand in Game 1.
    – D Samuel Girard (COL) suffered a broken sternum in Game 3 of Round 2 and is out for the remainder of the playoffs.

    Regular Season Meetings (Colorado 2-0)
    October 23 – Colorado W 4-3 SO on the road
    February 10 – Colorado W 2-0 at home

    NHL Playoffs: Team Stats Leaders
    Points (Goals / Assists)
    23 – TBL Nikita Kucherov (T4) – 7G / 16A
    22 – COL Cale Makar (6th) – 5G / 17A
    18 – COL Nathan MacKinnon (7th) – 11G / 7A
    17 – COL Gabriel Landeskog (T8) – 8G / 9A
    17 – COL Mikko Rantanen (T8) – 5G / 12A
    16 – TBL Ondrej Palat (T11) – 8G / 8A
    15 – TBL Steven Stamkos (16th) – 9G / 6A

    TBL Andrei Vasilevskiy – 2.27 GAA (4th) / .928 Sv% (4th) – 17GP
    COL Pavel Francouz – 2.86 GAA (9th), .906 Sv% (T11) – 6GP
    COL Darcy Keumper – 2.65 GAA (7th), .897 Sv% (16th) – 8GP

    Road to the Cup
    Colorado advanced to the Stanley Cup in record breaking fashion. Their 12-2 playoff record is the best ever since the NHL changed all 4 playoff series to the best-of-7 format in 1987. In Round 1 they swept the Predators, handled the Blues in 6 as -400 series favorites in Round 2, then swept the Oilers with 22 goals in 4 games (5.5 GPG). It only took Tampa Bay 3 extra games to get here but everyone made it through with a clean bill of health plus Brayden Point had some extra time to bounce back from his Round 1 lower-body injury. Tampa’s Round 1 matchup with Toronto should have been an ECF series but they survived a hard fought 7 games coming back from a 3-2 series deficit. Round 2 was arguably the most impressive series from a dominance perspective these playoffs as they swept the President’s Cup Trophy winning Florida Panthers by a 13-3 goal aggregate. Then they won 4-straight against the Rangers after going down 0-2 in the series with Vasilevskiy outplaying the Vezina favorite Shesterkin.

    Series Outlook: Paul Bissonnette would call this the Battle of the South (IYKYK) and what a Stanley Cup we’re getting — these are no doubt the best teams in the NHL right now. Kucherov, Stamkos, MacKinnon, Makar, Landeskog, Rantanen, Hedman, Kadri, Palat, Point (I’m not crying you’re crying — plus I need to stop somewhere). The Avalanche earned home ice with 9 points more regular season points than the Lightning. Each owned 2 of the best home records in the NHL (32-5-4 for Colorado and 27-8-6 for Tampa). They’ve only lost a combined 7 games during the playoffs with 3 on the road (2 COL / 1 TBL). This series will tilt if/when an away team throws the first punch. The Lightning are looking for the rare Stanley Cup 3-Peat (last to do so were the Islanders who won 4-straight from 1980-1983), while the Avalanche could win their 3rd in franchise history (last in 2001 led by GM Joe Sakic).

    Colorado hasn’t suited up since Monday, June 6th — 9 days since Game 1’s puck-drop on the 15th. The last time they’ve gone that long without playing was December 16th through January 2nd but that started a stretch of 19-straight games without a regulation loss (17-0-2). The classic go-to ‘rest vs. rust’ debate won’t apply to this team. Even though Tampa’s series went longer, they still got a welcomed 4-days off which must feel like a month given the every-other-day NHL playoff schedule.

    In Round 2 Vasy saved 98.1% of shots faced with a 0.75 GAA, shutting down the NHLs leading regular season scoring team (337 goals – 4.11 per game). He completed the Game 4 sweep with 49 saves, a new NHL record for a playoff shutout regulation win. After surrendering 6 goals in Game 1 to the Rangers, some hockey analysts thought his magic had run out or that all the extra playoff games over the past couple seasons were catching up to him. Nope — he would go on to dominate the rest of the series with 1.40 GAA through 5-games, frustrating the Rangers offense and tendy counterpart Shesterkin.

    Regular Season Roundup: The first matchup took place within the first 2 weeks of the season (Oct 23) with each team trading goal-for-goal until things were settled in a shootout, Colorado won 4-3 on the road. The usual stars scored the goals; Landeskog, Rantanen, Stamkos, MacKinnon, Point, and Makar (shootout winner). Giving up 3 goals to these offenses isn’t terrible, exactly what starters Vasy and Kuemper did. Both teams were absolutely buzzing by the time of their second and final regular season matchup (Feb 10) with Tampa owning a 30-10-6 record just behind Colorado’s NHL best 32-8-4. This game had big time playoff energy, they came out firing with 3 combined goals in the 1st then things settled down a bit with 2 in the 2nd and none in the 3rd. It was Colorado that jumped out to the early 2-0 lead and was able to hang on for a 3-2 win, surviving a 10-shot onslaught by Tampa with Vasy pulled with 3 minutes left in the 3rd period.

    Final Word: All signs point to Point being a go so Tampa comes into this series fully healthy and with no goalie controversy whatsoever; these are both key things to monitor for Colorado. Darcy Kuemper is reported 100% healthy but Pavel Francouz has filled in more than admirably since he left with injury (6-0 record). Kuemper will get the nod if he truly is 100%, but it’ll be interesting to see how head coach Jared Bednar handles the situation at the first sign of stress. Colorado would greatly benefit with a Kadri return who had surgery to repair a broken thumb. As it goes with hockey, it’s vague whether or not he’ll be available for Game 1 and how effective he’ll be (but honestly if he plays he’ll be just fine — reference Leon Draisaitl’s playing through a sprained ankle). Overall this is an incredibly even matched series with a pair of powerhouse offenses; what an absolute snack for us hockey fans.

    Series Predictions

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