Lightning vs Avalanche Stanley Cup Preview and Free Pick [Game 1]

Tampa Bay (0-0) at Colorado (0-0)
When: Wednesday, June 15th 2022
Where: Ball Arena,
Denver, CO
Time: 8:00 ET | TV: ABC
Opening Odds: Colorado -170/6

The Tampa Bay Lightning have started on the road this entire postseason and will do so again this Wednesday night in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals at the Colorado Avalanche. The Lightning finished the regular season behind the Toronto Maple Leafs and were an overtime goal from being eliminated in the first round. They ended up winning that game and Game 7 in Toronto to advance to the second round, where they swept the best team in the league – the Florida Panthers. Tampa Bay then rallied from a 2-0 series deficit in the Eastern Conference finals to win the next four against the New York Rangers. The Lightning are seeking their third consecutive title. No team has done that since the great Islanders teams of the early 80’s.


Meanwhile, the Avalanche have had a much easier time rolling through the postseason and last played on June 6 when they eliminated the Edmonton Oilers in four games to win the Western Conference finals. It was Colorado’s second sweep of the playoffs bookending a second round series win over the St. Louis Blues in six games. The Avs are seeking their first title since winning in 2001 and so far have looked the best of any team this postseason. They were 32-5-4 at home during the regular season including 12-2 in their last 14. Colorado is a -160 favorite in Game 1 and -175 for the series. The total for the series opener is 6.


The Avalanche took both meetings between these teams in the regular season, winning 4-3 in a shootout in Tampa Bay on Oct. 23 before winning 3-2 at home on Feb. 10. Brayden Point led the Lightning with three points (2G, 1A) in the season series, while Nathan MacKinnon (1G, 2A) and Gabriel Landeskog (2G, 1A) led for Colorado. The Lightning have won five of their last six in Denver and the Over is 4-1 in the past five.

Tampa Bay definitely holds the edge in playoff experience and they have been carried by goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Last year’s Conn Smythe winner is 12-5 with a 2.27 goals-against average and .928 save percentage in this postseason. In Tampa Bay’s last eight series-clinching games, Vasilevskiy is 8-0 with a 0.25 GAA, .991 SV and six shutouts. With Braydon Point out of the lineup since Game 7 of the first-round, Nikita Kucherov has led the offensive attack with 23 points (7G, 16A) in 17 games. Ondrej Palat is second on the team with 16 points (8G, 8A), while Steven Stamkos has a team-high nine goals.

The Avalanche will have had nine days off prior to Game 1, which allows them to get a little healthier, but could lead to rust as we saw with Tampa Bay in the last round against New York. Regular goalie Darcy Kuemper missed the final three games of the conference final after suffering an upper-body injury in Game 1. He is available to play Wednesday, but the Avs could go with Pavel Francouz, who started and won Games 2, 3 and 4 against Edmonton. Kuemper started both games against Tampa in the regular season, going 2-0 with a 2.40 GAA and .929 SV. So far this postseason, Francouz is 6-0 with a 2.86 GAA, .906 SV. Colorado’s offense is led by Nathan MacKinnon (11G, 7A) and Cale Makar (5G, 17A), who have combined for 40 points.

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Colorado has looked terrific this postseason, but Tampa Bay has the Cup experience. Also, the Avs might have some rust after being off so long. Colorado should not be this big of a favorite against the two-time defending champions.

Pick: Lightning +145