The Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche are set to do battle in the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. The winner of the series will walk away with hockey’s ultimate prize.
The betting odds favor the Avalanche to beat the Lightning in the Cup Final. Tampa Bay is the two-time defending Cup champs, however, and won’t go down without a fight.
Before we make a prediction for Lightning vs Avalanche, let’s look at the schedule for the Stanley Cup Final:
Stanley Cup Final Schedule
Wednesday, June 15: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
Saturday, June 18: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
Monday, June 20: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
Wednesday, June 22: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
*Friday, June 24: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
*Sunday, June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
*Tuesday, June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET, 8 p.m. ET, ABC, CBC
* if necessary
The Stanley Cup Final gets underway on Wednesday, June 15th with Game 1 at Ball Arena.
Why the Avalanche Will Win
Colorado has been the most dominant team in the 2022 NHL Playoffs by a wide margin. The Avalanche are 12-2-0 and have outscored their opponents by a 65-40 margin. They hold a huge rest advantage over the Lightning after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final. Jared Bednar’s team has dominated puck possession throughout their entire run, posting a 57.7 CF% at five-on-five in the playoffs.
Hang this in the Louvre.#WallpaperWednesday #GoAvsGo pic.twitter.com/EU5r8NVO0L
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 8, 2022
Colorado is led by superstar defenseman Cale Makar and explosive forward Nathan MacKinnon. Both players are leading Conn Smythe candidates entering the Stanley Cup Final. Makar leads the Avalanche in playoff scoring with 22 points (five goals) in 14 games, while MacKinnon leads them in goals with 11 goals. Makar and MacKinnon both played key roles in Colorado posting a 3-0-0 record against the Lightning during the regular season.
Colorado will win the Stanley Cup Final by continuing their offensive onslaught and relying on their elite defense to shutdown Tampa Bay’s star forwards. 16 different players have scored a goal for Colorado in the playoffs, which is the most of any team. The Avalanche have the best defensive pairing in the NHL with Cale Makar and Devon Toews. The stud pairing has only been on the ice for 16 goals against in the playoffs and did a great job defending Connor McDavid in Round 3. If they have a similar effect against Tampa Bay’s first line, Colorado will be in great shape.
Why the Lightning Will Win
The Tampa Bay Lightning will win a third straight Stanley Cup by relying on the trademarks of their previous two successful Cup runs. It starts in the goalie crease for the two-time defending Cup champs. Tampa Bay has the best goaltender in the world in Andrei Vasilevskiy, who owns a .928 save percentage and 2.27 GAA in 17 postseason starts. Vasilevskiy can steal playoff games on his own and is a significant upgrade over Colorado’s two goalies, Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz. Considering the firepower of Colorado’s offense, Vasilevskiy is the true key to Tampa Bay winning the Stanley Cup.
Andrei Vasilevskiy enters god mode when the series is on the line. 😤#StanleyCup | #GoBolts | @NHL pic.twitter.com/RczJdXSFgx
— Sportsnet (@Sportsnet) June 12, 2022
Aside from goaltending, the Lightning also have one of the best first lines in hockey. Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat have played over 100 minutes together in the 2022 Stanley Cup Playoffs. This dominant Tampa Bay trio has scored 13 goals as a unit while only being on the ice for four goals against. All three players also play on Tampa Bay’s elite power play, which is another reason the Lightning could beat the Avalanche. The Bolts are operating at 22.6% efficiency with the man advantage in the playoffs and face a Colorado penalty kill that has only killed 75.7% of power plays faced.
Tampa Bay has one of the best defensemen in the NHL in Victor Hedman. The 2020 Conn Smythe winner has posted 14 points (two goals) in 17 playoff games while leading all Bolts defenders with a 54.1 CF%. Hedman will be tasked with shutting down Nathan MacKinnon, who scored in four of five Western Conference Final games vs Edmonton. Another player assisting Hedman in the shutdown of Colorado’s big guns is underrated two-way center Anthony Cirelli. The Selke contender has been matched up against Toronto’s Auston Matthews, Florida’s Aleksander Barkov and New York’s Mika Zibanajed in the playoffs so far. In 17 playoff games, Cirelli has only been on the ice for six goals against.
Stanley Cup Final Prediction
Making a prediction for the Tampa Bay vs Colorado Stanley Cup Final is a tall task given the talent on both rosters. The Avalanche have been the more dominant team in the playoffs, but the Lightning have the best goalie in Vasilevskiy. A good sign for Avs fans, however, is the fact Colorado has gotten at least three goals past Vasilevskiy in each of the last four meetings between the two clubs. If the Avalanche can get to Vasilevskiy early and not let them get into their heads, there’s a good chance they can win this series in five or six games.
Aside from having more rest and an edge in puck possession, Colorado’s home-ice advantage is also an important element of the Stanley Cup Final. It’s very hard for opposing teams to beat this Avalanche powerhouse in Denver. In their last 70 home games, the Avalanche own an impressive 50-13 record. Colorado’s only loss at Ball Arena in the 2022 Playoffs came against St. Louis in Game 2. The Lightning are certainly capable of winning games on the road in the Cup Final, but they haven’t beaten the Avs in regulation at Ball Arena since 2018.
Injuries are always a factor in a playoff series, but they shouldn’t have a huge impact on the Cup Final. Colorado and Tampa Bay are both dealing with a key offensive injury, which somewhat levels the playing field. Tampa’s Brayden Point (right leg) and Colorado’s Nazem Kadri (thumb) are both listed as questionable for Game 1. These two teams have shown they can win without each player in the lineup, but getting them back would bolster their offensive depth.
The Lightning have won 11 straight playoff series, but their run will come to an end against this Avalanche powerhouse. MacKinnon is a man on the mission, and the Makar-Toews pairing has proven they can shut down elite offensive talent. Goaltending is the area that greatly favors Tampa Bay, but Colorado has shown this season they can beat Vasilevskiy. Francouz and Kuemper, meanwhile, are both capable of getting the job done as long as the offense produces. With a distinct rest advantage alongside home-ice advantage, the Avs should continue to roll versus the Bolts. The official Stanley Cup Final prediction is Colorado over Tampa Bay in six games.
Prediction: Colorado in 6