The Tampa Bay Lightning (63-28-8) will take the next step toward a potential third straight NHL title Wednesday when they visit the Colorado Avalanche (68-20-8) as solid road underdogs at sportsbooks monitored by Odds Shark for Game 1 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final. The Lightning vs Avalanche prediction has this as a dead-even championship matchup based on the predicted score with Tampa Bay listed as the top-ranked team.
Lightning vs Avalanche Odds & Analysis
The early money for Game 1 and the series has all come in on the two-time defending champion Lightning, who won four games in a row against the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference final after losing the first two following a nine-day layoff. The Avalanche have had an identical layoff after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the Western final, making some believe they could be a bit rusty as well to start this series.
The good news for Colorado, though, is that the team should be healthier, with goaltender Darcy Kuemper and centers Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano all expected to return. Kuemper missed the last three games vs Edmonton with an upper-body injury while Kadri and Cogliano both had hand surgeries but hope to be in the lineup. For Tampa Bay, center Brayden Point is expected back at some point too after missing a month with a leg injury. Point’s return is important for depth as the team’s second-leading goal scorer (28) during the regular season behind only captain Steven Stamkos (42).
Tampa Bay’s Championship Experience Invaluable Right Now
The Lightning have been here and done that for three years now, winning 11 consecutive series since getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets after earning the Presidents’ Trophy during the 2018-19 season. Meanwhile, it took their opponent 20 years to get past the second round and slightly longer to get back to the Stanley Cup Final.
The difference for Tampa Bay has again been the play of goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Conn Smythe Trophy a year ago and seems poised to pick up that hardware again along with the Cup. The Lightning clearly have an edge between the pipes in this series with Vasilevskiy, and his overall stats in the postseason (12-5, 2.27 goals-against average, .928 save percentage) do not tell the whole story.
The 27-year-old Russian gets better as the series goes on, and he is 8-0 with a remarkable 0.25 GAA, .991 save percentage and six shutouts in the team’s last eight series clinchers. However, in the three series openers this postseason, he has surrendered 12 goals on 100 shots with a 1-2 record.
Avalanche Hoping To Avoid Slow Start After Long Layoff
Colorado has had a relatively easy time in these playoffs, going 12-2 and not really being tested outside of its second-round matchup against the St. Louis Blues. Tampa Bay is easily the toughest opponent the team has faced to date, and vice versa.
The biggest challenge for the Avalanche will be trying to pick up where they left off and continuing to score at such a high rate. They are never out of a game due to their offense and just need to find a way to hold the opposition in check, whether it is regular starter Kuemper or backup Pavel Francouz in goal.
Colorado also features the two Conn Smythe favorites in defenseman Cale Makar and center Nathan MacKinnon, who have combined for 40 points (16 goals, 24 assists) so far. If Makar and MacKinnon can continue that pace here in Game 1, then the Lightning vs Avalanche prediction might look different heading into Game 2.
Lightning vs Avalanche Pick & Insights
Lightning: Keys To Victory
Vasilevskiy is the obvious choice as the biggest key for Tampa Bay. If he plays like he did in the previous series openers, then his team will likely suffer another loss in this spot and fall behind for the third time in four series. But if he can play like he did late in the series against the Rangers and help the Lightning steal one of the first two games, he will put them in excellent position to hoist their third straight Cup in the second half of June.
Avalanche: Keys To Victory
Not to be too picky, but Colorado has shown a tendency to take its foot off the gas at times this postseason. Fortunately for the Avalanche, that has not burned them yet. Unfortunately, their opponent this round is almost never out of a game either, especially if it is close in the third period. So the best bet for Colorado to win is to start fast and put pressure on Vasilevskiy by peppering him with shots early and often. If you are taking the hosts with your Lightning vs Avalanche pick, then you think they will be able to do that.
NHL Computer Pick: Lightning +1.5
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