The Heavyweight Matchup Is Set in the Stanley Cup Finals
Last night, the Tampa Bay Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers to advance to their third straight Stanley Cup Final. There they will meet the Colorado Avalanche who have been patiently waiting for an opponent after they swept the Edmonton Oilers.
Despite Tampa Bay’s record, these are the two best teams in the league. Colorado has been on a mission all season long. Nathan MacKinnon knew the pressure was on to get a Stanley Cup. Now, he has a chance at it and to cement his legacy as one of the greats.
The road won’t be easy, though. Tampa Bay has all the experience. They are back-to-back Stanley Cup Champions and they’re going for their third straight. Not only that, they’ve been in every situation possible with a good chunk of this squad. They know how to handle any adversity.
Colorado has experience in the playoffs as well, but up until this year, they have always been eliminated way too early on. They finally took that next step.
Both teams have great lineups from top to bottom. Both teams have solid goalies, though Tampa’s Andrei Vasilevskiy would get the slight edge over Colorado’s duo in Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz. Vasilevskiy is arguably the best goalie in the entire NHL, so that gives Tampa Bay a slight edge.
I think the craziest thing about this all is that the Avalanche have only lost two games during this entire playoff run. Game 1 will be interesting to see with the rest vs rust. The Lightning had that problem when they swept the Panthers in the second round. They came out flat against the Rangers and quickly went down 0–2. They woke up and ended up winning the next 4 games.
The Avs average 4.64 goals per game. They’re 7–0 away from Denver. They are the Ivan Drago in this situation, despite Tampa being the defending champs.
Colorado’s biggest ace up their sleeve isn’t even Nathan MacKinnon — it’s a 23-year-old defenseman, Cale Makar. Makar leads the team in points these playoffs with 22. MacKinnon is second with 18. Makar is a dangerous two-way defenseman with explosive speed to enter the zone and take it to the net if he has to. He has the savvy of a 10-year veteran when he’s on the ice. He’s truly a joy to watch.
On the other side, Nikita Kucherov is a guy who has proven to get it done in the big moments. He’s their point leader with 23. Defenseman Victor Hedman for Tampa has been super reliable with 14 points. The Lightning is set to get back center Brayden Point sometime soon. That will be a huge boost to that lineup.
The heavyweight title fight will face off in Denver on June 15th at 8:00PM ET on ESPN and ABC.