The Tampa Bay Lightning are returning to the Stanley Cup Finals to play the Colorado Avalanche as they go for their third straight Stanley Cup.
This is a best from the east versus a best from the west matchup. There was not a fluky puck bounce, and no team got hot and pulled some upsets along the way to sneak into the finals that didn’t deserve to be there. This Matchup will feature the best two teams in the NHL battling it out for Lord Stanley’s Cup.
The Lightning faced much stiffer competition than the Avalanche on their way to the finals. The Avalanche swept the number eight seed Nashville Predators without their number one goalie Jusse Soros.
The Avs then beat the St. Louis Blues in six games. Again the Avalanche played the Blues without their number goalie Jordan Binnington who was injured in game three when Nazem Kadri ran into him. The Avalanche would then face backup goalie Ville Husso for the rest of the series.
The Avs would sweep the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals 4-0. The Avs faced a 40-year-old Mike Smith in goal for Edmonton, who was wildly inconsistent throughout the playoffs.
The Lightning earned their way to the Cup final by taking out the Atlantic Divison winners and number two seed Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games. The Bolts’ season was on the brink as they trailed the Leafs after two periods in game six. However, they came back to win the game in the final 20 minutes and won a very tough seven on the road.
The Bolts then stymied the best offensive attack in the NHL, sweeping the number one seed Florida Panthers, allowing their high-powered offense to score three goals in four games.
In the Eastern Conference Finals, the Lightning Fell behind 0-2 to the New York Rangers before winning four straight games to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals. Igor Shersterkin is the second-best goalie in the league and made some unbelievable saves to keep the games close in that series.
Now the Matchup is here that everyone wants to see—the Tampa Bay Lightning against the Colorado Avalanche.
The Matchup will be a big step up in competition for the Lightning from their last two cup finals matchups, where the Bolts faced the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens.
The Avalanche are averaging 4.64 goals in the playoffs, led by Nathan MacKinnon with 11. In addition, the power play is clicking for the Avalanche as they convert at a rate of 31.1 percent.
Defensemen Cale Makar is the leading scorer for the Avs in the postseason with five goals and 22 assists.
The Lightning is averaging 3.06 goals a game. But with the way Vasileviskiy has been playing in the net, they haven’t needed a ton of scoring.
The Lightning has gotten scoring from every line and will get Braydon Point back at some point in the series. If not game one, possibly game two.
Alex Killorn is the only forward that has not scored a goal in the postseason, although he has contributed in other ways.
Nikita Kucherov leads the Bolts with 23 points in the postseason, followed by Ondrej Palat with 16 points and Steven Stamkos with 15.
Vasilevskiy has again proven why he is the best goaltender in the world. He is giving up 2.27 goals a game, with a .928 save percentage, and has a shutout in the postseason.
His play has also put him back in the conversation for the Conn Smyth Trophy.
So how will the Lightning beat the Avalanche to win their third straight Stanley Cup?
-Andrei Vasileviskiy continues to play at the level he is playing.
-Keep the game a five-on-five Matchup. don’t take unnecessary penalties.
-Slow down Colorado’s offense with a similar game plan that the team used against the Rangers.
Andrei Vasileviskiy or Darcy Kuemper. Who do you want as your goalie with the game on the line? I’ll take my guy Vasileviskiy all day, every day.
Vasi has gotten better in each round after the first couple of games. If you’re going to get to Vasileviskiy, get to him early on in the series because the longer the series goes, the better he will be.
The penalty kill has been excellent for the Lightning in the postseason allowing ten goals on 56 chances for an 82.5 kill percent.
After allowing six goals in game one of the Ranger series, they allowed just three even-strength goals the rest of the series.
The Lightning is the best at making adjustments, and they have proven it in every playoff series this season.
You can only hope to slow down and contain the Avalanche’s offensive attack. It will be a difficult task to shut them down completely. I would be shocked if this was a repeat of the Florida series with the Avalanche scoring just one goal per game.
The Lightning will need to give the best defensive effort it has given this playoff run to slow down the Avalanche.
Tampa’s goaltending is better. Vasilevskiy is better than Kuemper. There should be no argument about that.
On the blue line, I’ll take Hedman, Sergachev, Cernak, and McDonagh over Cale Maker, Jack Johnson, Josh Manson, and Nazem Kadri (if he plays in the series).
Makar is one of the best offensive defensemen we have seen in a while, as he has 22 points in the playoffs. But the Lightning defensemen will also contribute offensively. Victor Hedman has 14 points, and Mikhail Sergachev has seven points. And the Bolts have gotten goals from Erik Cernak and Ryan McDonagh.
This will be another long series.
I like the Lightning to beat the Avalanche in six games to win their third straight Stanley Cup.