NHL Stanley Cup Final 2022: Early Comments, Preview for Lightning vs. Avalanche

Joe TanseyJune 13, 2022

TAMPA, FL - JUNE 11: Steven Stamkos 91 scores the first goal during the NHL Hockey Eastern Conference Finals Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Playoffs between Tampa Bay Lightning and the New York Rangers on June 11th, 2022  at Amalie Arena in Tampa Florida (Photo by Andrew Bershaw /Icon_Sportswire)
Andrew Bershaw /Icon_Sportswire

The Tampa Bay Lightning will attempt to win their third Stanley Cup in a row against their toughest championship series opponent in the three-year swing.

The Colorado Avalanche seem poised to win the Stanley Cup with Nathan MacKinnon and Cale Makar leading the team.

Colorado lost twice in three playoff rounds. Both of those defeats came against the St. Louis Blues in the second round.

The Avalanche possess the better young talent in MacKinnon and Makar, and they are well rested after their sweep of the Edmonton Oilers.

Tampa Bay can't be counted out of the Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning flexed their championship-winning experience by coming back from an 0-2 deficit and a two-goal disadvantage in Game 3 against the New York Rangers.

Tampa Bay has more games on its legs from a seven-game first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs and the recently concluded six-game set in the Eastern Conference Final against New York.

The two-time reigning Stanley Cup champion could receive a boost to deal with the Avalanche's talent. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said that Brayden Point is "extremely probable" to participate in the series, per Sportsnet's Elliotte Friedman.

Point has not played since Game 7 of the first-round series against Toronto. He can be the difference-maker that puts Tampa Bay ahead of Colorado throughout the series.

The Canadian Press' Joshua Clipperton outlined the impact Point has made in postseason games, (h/t TSN):

"Point, 26, recorded 28 goals and 58 points in 66 regular-season games. In seven playoff games, he had two goals and four points. With 30 career playoff goals, no player has scored more goals over the past three NHL post-seasons."

Tampa Bay could be favored in the series with Point on the ice and Andrei Vasilevskiy in net.

The Athletic's Joe Smith noted that Vasilevskiy is the toughest netminder that the Avalanche have faced this postseason:

"The fact that Brayden Point is 'extremely probable' to play in the series helps Tampa Bay, as does the fact that Vasilevskiy will be the most formidable goalie the Avs have faced in the playoffs (after beating the Oilers’ Mike Smith and Mikko Koskinen in the conference final, the Blues’ Jordan Binnington and Ville Husso in the second round and the Predators’ Connor Ingram for the final three games of the first round after Juuse Saros was injured)."

While the Lightning are getting Point back, the Avalanche are unsure about Nazem Kadri's status after the injury he suffered against Edmonton.

ESPN's Kristen Shilton wrote that J.T. Compher could play a larger role for the Avalanche while Kadri is out:

"All that points toward is a larger role for Compher. The postseason started slowly for Compher, as he logged zero goals and just two assists in Colorado's first nine games. Compher didn't turn a corner until the Avalanche's second-round series against St. Louis. There, he lit the lamp twice in Colorado's series-clinching Game 6 victory. He has tallied five goals in Colorado's past six games (including the game-winner against Edmonton in Game 3)."

The Stanley Cup Final could have an unexpected star shine over the length of the series, but the championship round can also belong to the stars on each roster.

MacKinnon is tied for second with Edmonton's Zach Hyman with 11 postseason goals. He needs three to eclipse Evander Kane and become this postseason's top scorer.

Tampa Bay's Nikita Kucherov is fourth in points with 23. He needs 10 points in the Stanley Cup Final to tie Connor McDavid's leading mark.

Kucherov led the Lightning in goals, and Point had the most assists on the roster in last year's Stanley Cup triumph over the Montreal Canadiens.

Add in a healthy Steven Stamkos, who seemed to score all of the vital goals against the Rangers, and you have a tough team for Colorado to dethrone.

Colorado does have the best overall forward and defenseman left in the series in MacKinnon and Makar, and it owns home-ice advantage throughout the series.

The Avalanche need to overcome the drop-off in talent from Vasilevskiy to their goalies, but if they get to Tampa Bay early, they could set the tone for the series and beat Tampa Bay in the postseason, which is something no team has done in the last three seasons.