Stanley Cup Finals 2022: Five things to know before Lightning v Avalanche | Stanley cup

Advertisement

Tampa Bay: apparently still very good!

Well, here we are back where we started – and closer to having the answer to a question we asked ahead of this postseason. With a 2-1 win in Tampa Bay on Saturday night, the Lightning secured their third straight Stanley Cup Finals berth with captain Steven Stamkos scoring both goals and are now flirting with all-time greats.

Whatever you make of that winning goal, New York Rangers goaltender Igor Shesterkin is not to blame for the game or the series result. Shesterkin played a great series. Tampa only does this to teams: They’ve done it 11 straight times in the postseason in the last three years. Whether or not the Rangers were tired from the previous two series, both of which went seven games, Tampa made them see weary. After Games 1 and 2, Tampa outplayed, shot, passed, and eventually outscored the Rangers. New York has also been overtaken – as has happened to many teams competing against the Lightning lately. Jon Cooper is busy, but he’s also an effective communicator: more of a corporate executive than a classic hockey coach.

Anyway, here’s how it went on the ice: After becoming the first team to win against Lightning goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy in three straight years, Rangers stopped scoring. New York scored nine goals in their first two games but managed just five more in their last four — only one of which they scored with even strength. That just won’t do. Tampa Bay is just too disciplined a team, too willing to go for tough defense when it counts, and has a goaltender too good to rely on their power play to beat them.

You must be able to beat them in all situations. You have to be a team like the Colorado Avalanche.

Avalanche are an offensive machine

During the regular season, there were perhaps only two points where the Colorado Avalanche looked like a regular hockey team: at the very beginning, when they fought their way out of goal, and at the very end, when they went 1-6 in their last seven games. But that last stretch was either a fluke or an elaborate fake. Either way, we shouldn’t have been fooled. The reality is that the Avalanche are a marauding hockey machine.

Just look at what they did to Edmonton. My God. And yet here’s the thing: Even though the Oilers were swept, their offensive performance was pretty good! In most other situations, it probably would have meant winning the series. Check out this comparison by JFreshHockey from five-on-five to 60-minute situations.

5v5 Series Microstat Summary: #GoAvsGo Loss #LetsGoOilers

If you like nudges, especially off rush, this is the series for you. The Avs created a lot of…just about everything, and while the Oilers produced enough offensively to win most series, they couldn’t keep up. pic.twitter.com/J6O0Cxq25X

— JFresh (@JFreshHockey) June 7, 2022

In fact, Colorado is already a historic powerhouse. As Neil Paine wrote at FiveThirtyEight this week, this Avalanche roster ranks 10th in points per game among all Stanley Cup finalists through the finals, ironically tied only with the 1982-83 Edmonton Oilers for the second-best win percentage . The Oilers of 2022, for their part, are a pretty good hockey team. But the Oilers aren’t good enough to beat the Colorado Avalanche. The team good enough to beat the Avalanche must play very disciplined defensive hockey, have a strong goaltender, and be able to stop strong offense.

Oh, and one more thing: you must be able to get past Cale Makar. Not an easy thing, because if we’ve learned anything from the Avalanche Oilers series, it’s that…

Makar can see the matrix

The NHL’s best player debate usually revolves around two players: Auston Matthews and Connor McDavid. Understandable given their respective goal-scoring skills and general sorcery. Colorado forward Nathan MacKinnon also enters this chat from time to time. But perhaps the best player is actually his teammate, defender Cale Makar.

Recall that Cale Makar treats the NHL like a Tuesday night beer league, casually sandbagging divisions and eating cookies on the bench. 🍪 pic.twitter.com/USEvehgrhE

– Bring Hockey Back (@BringHockeyBack) May 4, 2022

In his 14 playoff games leading up to the finals, Makar has 22 points. That includes 10 points in the Nashville Predators’ first round, the most by a defenseman in four playoff games. That includes the five he had in Colorado’s last game against the Oilers, a tally not achieved by a defenseman in the playoffs since Al MacInnis in 1994. but through 20 games. He didn’t take anything from Fox, nor was he assigned to cover for McDavid. Makar was. And without breaking a sweat.

Makar sees the matrix and bends it to his will. Makar is the one.

A touch of history

There is a superstition surrounding NHL conference championship trophies: if you touch either the Clarence Campbell Bowl (West) or the Prince of Wales Cup (East), your team will be doomed to the Stanley Cup. It’s also common for the team, when posing with one of the trophies, to do so with straight faces. The logic, if you want to call it that, is that it’s not the real thing. The theory is nonsense, of course: many teams that touched both trophies have won the Stanley Cup. But tradition reflects the fact that nobody really cares about conference championships in ice hockey. Only the Stanley Cup counts. But it’s still fun to watch a real-time team debate about whether or not to collectively choose superstitious beliefs—or which version of it.

Joe Sakic clearly doesn’t care for the superstitions. But can other coincidences matter? As previously mentioned, this Avalanche team has the best playoff win record since the Oilers reached the Finals in 1982-83. Coincidentally, these Oilers faced the New York Islanders — and were swept. It was the Islanders’ third straight Stanley Cup win, the last time a three-peat happened.

Prior to the Spring 1983 series against the Islanders, Oilers general manager Glen Sather told the New York Times, “I don’t see that we’re very different from the Islanders. Except that they have gone much further than we have. And we’d definitely like to replace them.” Years later, as the Oilers reflected on their loss, they saw what the differences really were. “They were a little more disciplined than us and probably had a better work ethic,” Grant Fuhr said in 2019. “As we walked past the Islander room this year, we realized how hard it is to win. said Wayne Gretzky. “They didn’t even celebrate, I was like, ‘You’re exhausted, I think there’s more to give.'” Paul Coffey said.

The Lightning proved this postseason why they’re the first team since those Islanders to play for a third straight trophy. Now come the Avalanche: a high-scoring, fast, dynamic team from the West. The 80’s vibes are strong right now.

Do we get a three peat?

I’m bad at predictions most of the time, but this matchup that’s been feeling since the postseason started — maybe because it feels like the guard is changing. But is it now the time? Colorado will present Tampa Bay with its toughest challenge yet. They will be rested and they will be hungry. They’re arguably the toughest opponent the Lightning faced in the finals: they’re a much better team than either Dallas or Montreal. The Avalanche can do whatever it takes to defeat the Lightning, no question. But I don’t think they will. Tampa feels like the deeper team mentally. And with Brayden Point likely to return, they’ll also be deeper offensively. Tampa will find out Colorado — or at least Vasilevskiy, and that might be all that matters.

A few months ago my money was in Colorado. Well I think Tampa Bay will have three peats. But before that, we’ll see six games of great ice hockey.

You May Also Like