Tomorrow, the Stanley Cup Finals will finally be upon us!
A place where heroes are made, battles are fought, and legacies are engraved in history on the Stanley Cup. The Colorado Avalanche face the Tampa Bay Lightning in what may be the closest finals matchup we have seen in years. The first time these two teams have ever faced each other in a Stanley Cup Final, and the first time in NHL history two teams matching up don’t end in the letter S. Besides that fun fact, these two teams are both incredibly talented and are dynamic enough to make it all the way and fight for the chance to raise the cup. For the Avs, it would be the first time since 2001. For the Lightning, it would be the first time a team accomplished a three-peat since the New York Islanders between 1980-1983.
These two teams are the epitome of a Stanley Cup Championship caliber roster. Talent, depth, goaltending, you name it they have it. This will be the most hard fought Stanley Cup Final in a very long time, and it will be incredibly difficult to predict who is going to win it all. But before the Finals kick off tomorrow, I’m going to list three keys for each Team heading into the Stanley Cup Final
– Trust in the Depth of the Roster
– Try to solve Vasilevskiy
– Let the Star Power Take Over
1. Trust in the depth of the roster:
Colorado was probably the deepest team entering these playoffs. And calling this team “deep” is an understatement. The Avalanche have excelled with the stars leading the way, but it has been the role players who have really entered the spotlight when Colorado needed them most. Game winners have come from the likes of Josh Manson, Darren Helm, and Artturi Lehkonen who currently leads the team in game winning goals having scored three. Having guys like Valeri Nichhushkin and J. T. Compher who are amazing two way players who can give you a jolt offensively and also step up defensively are imperative to winning a championship. As long as they continue to persist and be active, the Avalanche are going to do well. Trust the depth and let them work their magic, because stars win you games but the team wins you championships.
2. Try to solve Anderi Vasilevskiy
It’s easier said than done to tell a team to try and beat the league’s best goaltender. The Avalanche’s offense has been their best strength throughout the entire playoffs. But everything changes once a team faces Vasilevskiy. Not to mention the Lightning are a defensively gifted team as well, as they’ve shown when they closed out the Eastern Conference Finals against the Rangers. The Avalanche are going to have to shoot a ton and crowd the crease to make life difficult for Vasi. With a team with as much offensive talent as the Avs have, oftentimes they try and get the perfect look. Vasilevskiy is hard to beat in any scenario, but when he has time and space with his excellent reaction time and lateral movement, it makes his life easy. Blocking sight lines and trying to score off of deflections and inclose opportunities off of rebounds are the best bet for the Avalanche. The Avs have the tools to give Vasilevskiy hell, they just need to be able to sustain it enough to win four times.
3. Let the star power take over
Cale Makar. Gabriel Landeskog. Mikko Rantanen. Nathan MacKinnon. All of these guys have been key performers for the Avalanche and have not shied away from the spotlight one bit when the going gets tough. The sum of their stars overshadows a lot of the teams that came into this postseason. Cale Makar, every game shows us fans how impactful he is as a defenseman and how much he can control a game. MacKinnon will wow you with his size and speed, weaving his way to the sweet spots and using his strength to protect the puck at an elite level all while making your goaltender look foolish. Rantanen and Landeskog dishing crisp passes and driving play in the offensive zone to keep pucks there and initiate scoring chances. All of these guys have accounted for a total of 74 points. When they’re on the ice, they are electric and shift games to their liking. They are going to put a lot of pressure on the Lightning, the most of which they’ve seen in this entire playoffs. Letting them rock will be huge for the success of the Avalanche.