The Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche will play for the Stanley Cup beginning Wednesday, and it will be a singular final series. In fact, never before have two teams with singular nicknames met the tallest piece of hockey hardware on the line. And both are forces of nature. Are the Minnesota Wild a force of nature? Or the Seattle Kraken?
One could argue that this singular matchup is the most compelling Cup Final in more than a decade, or since the Pittsburgh Penguins-Detroit Red Wings matchups in 2008 and 2009. I’d argue with that.
The 2016 and 2017 Penguins and the 1997 and 1998 Red Wings are the last two teams to win back-to-back titles. They flirted with the dynasties. But like the Chicago Blackhawks and Los Angeles Kings of the salary-cap era, they didn’t quite get there.
The New York Islanders of the 1980s won four Cups in a row. The 1970s Canadians won four in a row and six in nine years. The 1980s Oilers won four in five years and five in seven. It used to be a thing. Now, in a post-expansion era, the NHL is a very different league with a salary cap, an effective player union, parity, etc. Dynasties may be a thing of the past.
Or maybe Rayo, which could become the first team in 40 years to win three Cups in a row, will be the last.
All the Lightning have to do is beat the best in the league.
The Avalanches are great. They are the highest scoring team in the playoffs with 4.64 goals per game. They are incredibly fast and are also big enough to grind. After sweeping Connor McDavid’s Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals, they’re also the freshest team.
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Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar key to Colorado Avalanche
Their deep corps of forwards is led by superstar center Nathan MacKinnon, who has been on a mission since the Avs were eliminated in the second round last year. Its captain, Gabriel Landeskog, is a horse. His talented defense is led by Cale Makar, who is being compared to Bobby Orr. That’s right.
They think it’s their time. They are a lot like the 1984 Oilers, the team that ended the Islanders’ four-year reign and established their own dynasty. (Or do they look a lot like the 1983 Oilers, who got swept by the Islands?)
As for Lightning, they understand that they are on the other side of his peak. They have played 65 playoff games, more than any other team, in the last three years. How much is left in the tank?
The Bolts are also aware that there’s a “dynasty” tag here. Three in a row, no one does that anymore. They have 16 players on their roster who have won at least one Stanley Cup and 13 who wore lightning blue when they won it all last year.
They have matured to a point where they seem impossible to remove.
They seemed beatable in the first and third rounds and came back to win both series. His motto is “defend to the end”.
Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos is playing like he still feels underrated. In the decisive Game 6 against Rangers, Stamkos: beat world goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin from distance, sat in the penalty box and watched Rangers tie the game with a power-play goal, came out of the box and scored the play. winner.
That’s a star with a sense of the moment.
This series is difficult to call. In round numbers, Las Vegas bookmakers have Colorado as the 0.6/1 favorite and Tampa Bay as the 1.55/1 underdog. In percentage terms, roughly speaking, that’s 60-40.
If you think speed will prevail, go with the Avs. They are in a different warp class than the Maple Leafs and Rangers (and on par with the Panthers).
These Avs are far superior to the 2020 Dallas Stars and 2021 Canadiens, the teams the Lightning beat to win their last two Stanley Cups. These Avs also have the home court advantage.
However, I’m having a hard time choosing them.
Brayden Point return could be decisive for Lightning
An injury could tip the scales one way or another. Right now, it looks like Mr. Clutch Brayden Point will play again for Tampa Bay in the finals, while Nazem Kadri, a key piece for Colorado, and Andrew Cogliano remain questionable. Advantage, Bolts.
As for the intangibles: Just as Stamkos is motivated for a matchup with McKinnon, defenseman Victor Hedman is eager to share the ice with “Bobby Orr” Makar, the current favorite to win the Conn Smythe.
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And then there is Rayo goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevskiy, the best goalkeeper of his generation. He has won 11 straight playoff series with a 2.11 goals-against average and a .930 save percentage. His performances in close games are the stuff of legend.
During this postseason, the Avs have parted ways with David Rittich, Connor Ingram, Jordan Binnington, Ville Husso and Mike Smith. Which means they haven’t seen anything like Vasilevskiy yet.
Any hesitation about picking a winner in what will be a close battle of titanic tag teams ends in Vasilla-tion.
Lightning in six.