Tampa Bay Lightning vs Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup Finals Series Preview

Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning vs Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup Finals Series Preview

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Tampa Bay Lightning vs Colorado Avalanche 2022 Stanley Cup Finals Series Preview

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Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

The Rundown

Colorado powered its way to the top seed in the Western Conference tallying 119 points in the regular season. The Avalanche took on the Nashville Predators in the first round but Nashville provided little resistance for the Avs as Colorado swept the Predators, winning by multiple goals in three of the four games.

Colorado would move to the second round where they would face the 2019 Stanley Cup champion St. Louis Blues. St. Louis would give the West’s best team all it could handle. The Blues kept the series close forcing overtime in game one, winning game two, and an elimination game five in overtime before ultimately falling on a last-second goal by Colorado in game six.

The Western Conference Finals saw Colorado face Connor McDavid and the Edmonton Oilers. With all the hype surrounding the Oilers, Colorado simply went about its business and swept Edmonton. The Avalanche once again proved it was superior to the entire Western Conference in every aspect of the game.

Tampa Bay entered the 2021-22 season as the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. The Lightning faced the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. The Leafs threw everything in its arsenal at Tampa Bay with the home team winning each of the first six games. Tampa Bay played in and won its first game seven of its impressive playoff-series win streak eliminating the Maple Leafs on home ice.

The President’s Trophy winning Florida Panthers awaited the Lightning in round two. The series was dubbed the playoff’s most anticipated but saw Tampa make quick work of the Cats. The Lightning flexed its muscles winning its tenth straight series sweeping Florida.

The Lightning would face the young, upstart New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals. The Rangers took both games one and two at Madison Square Garden before the series shifted to Tampa Bay. After a shaky first two games, Andrei Vasilevskiy took over. The undisputed best goaltender in the world shut down New York, evening the series at two. 

Vasilevskiy’s dominance would continue over the remainder of the series as he only allowed five goals in games two through six. Tampa Bay would win its eleventh straight series as Steven Stamkos’ two game six goals were enough to clinch a third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals birth.

The Matchup

The Avalanche have finally overcome its second-round speed bump and bring a mindboggling 12-2 postseason record into the Finals. Colorado brings a potent offense and power play coupled with solid defense and a constricting penalty kill. That defense includes young sensation Cale Makar who can not only shutdown superstars, but scores like a forward.

The only questionable area for the Avalanche is its goaltending. Darcey Kuemper has shown he can play at an elite level but has both been inconsistent and battled through injury this postseason.

The Lightning bring the same blueprint into the Finals as it seeks its twelfth straight series win. Tampa’s offense can roll four lines than can spring multiple goals in very little time and features a power play that scores at an absurd clip. Tampa Bay also features a solid defense core led by its own star, Victor Hedman, that plays well on both sides of the puck. Throw in a lively penalty kill and the world’s best goaltender and there’s little question on how the Lightning have put this run together.

Players to Watch

For the Avs, Cale Makar is the player to watch. The 23-year-old has shown his defensive abilities by clamping the league’s elite playmakers including an impressive showing against Connor McDavid last series. Makar gets it done on the offensive side as well as he leads Colorado with 22 points and 17 assists this postseason. The defenseman is arguably the frontrunner for the Conn Smythe award.

Unsurprisingly, Andrei Vasilevskiy is the Bolts player to watch. The 2021 Conn Smythe winner has kept up his stellar play. The 27-year-old is 12-5 with a 2.27 goals against average and .928 save percentage this postseason. The goaltender is only allowing 1.5 goals per game in Tampa Bay’s 12 wins this springs. Vasilevskiy could very well win his second consecutive Conn Smythe award if the Lightning wins its third straight Cup.

My Prediction

This is the series hockey fans have been wanting for over three years. The two high-powered offenses and shutdown defenses all but cancel each other out. I am calling the teams even offensively and giving Colorado a very slight edge on the defensive end. Tampa Bay undoubtedly holds the goaltending advantage in this series which may just push the Bolts over the top.

I am going against my preseason pick of the Avalanche and taking the Tampa Bay Lightning to win the Stanley Cup in six games. Andrei Vasilevskiy wins the Conn Smythe Trophy.

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