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Stanley Cup Finals; Lightning vs Avalanche Preview

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The Stanley Cup Finals are set as the Tampa Bay Lightning are set to face off against the Colorado Avalanche. The Lightning is looking to be the first team to win the threepeat since the New York Islanders won four in a row from 1979-82, while the Avalanche is looking to win their first Stanley Cup since 2001.

Both teams fought hard to get here, both teams swept an opponent to knock them out, and both teams’ fan bases will expect a lot of them. So what could be expected of these teams, and who could the heroes be for either team?

Key Players: Avalanche

The Avalanche have made it to the Stanley Cup Finals after sweeping two separate teams in the Edmonton Oilers and the Nashville Predators, as well as knocking out the St. Louis Blues in a six-game series. Throughout the playoffs, the Avalanche have consistently been able to depend on superstar defenseman Cale Makar. So far Makar has been not only the Avalanche’s best defensive player but also a large asset in the offensive zone, as he holds 22 points in the playoffs, with 17 of those being from assists. As such, fans can expect to see this superstar young defenseman creating a lot of opportunities for scoring while also holding off scoring opportunities from his opposing players.

In terms of forwards, the Avalanche have been able to count on production from franchise forward Nathan MacKinnon, who currently leads the team with 11 goals, with five of these being on the power play. MacKinnon has been a consistent figure for the Avalanche and serves as a great leader for the team, leading from the front and playing on the top line continually. He has also been solid defensively, laying out big hits and playing well on the forecheck to keep the puck in the opposition’s defensive end.

Key Players: Lightning

The Lightning managed to sweep the Florida Panthers in the second round, shocking many, especially after having gone to game seven against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, and then going to game six against the New York Rangers in the third round. The key to the Lightning winning has come from their offensive production, their first forward line of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondrej Palat has a combined 54 points and fans can only imagine what would happen if Brayden Point hadn’t picked up an injury during the first round.

The other strong point for the Lightning has been their goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy. The Russian goalie has started every game for his team and has stayed in net the entire game while maintaining a .928 save percentage. His performances throughout the playoffs have him in serious consideration for the Conn Smythe trophy, with the winner likely being decided by who wins the cup final.

Possible Faults and Prediction

Both the Lightning and the Avalanche have had their faults during the playoffs, despite making it to the finals. The Avalanche’s goaltending situation has been a definite weakness for them, as both Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz have save percentages close to .900 and goals-against averages of over 2.6. While neither goalie has faced a lot of shots, they have not been the strongest in the net, and the defence in front of them has been able to manage to keep the pressure away from their goalies for the most part. That also is not a strategy that would be likely to work against the high-octane offence of the Lightning.

The Lightnings Achilles heel has primarily been their lack of consistency in performance, which could be seen by the difference from game to game, and from series to series, going from a seven-game series against the Leafs that honestly looked like it could’ve gone either way, into a sweep of the Panthers, and then back to a six-game series against the Rangers in which they lost the first two games due to weak defending and a limitation of offensive chances.

The Lightning and Avalanche are likely to be a fiercely contested event and are predicted to go to game seven, and will likely be decided by which team can stick it out the longest. The predicted result is Avalanche in seven, if only because the team has had more time to rest between series, while the Lightning has had to play continually, and Vasilevskiy, in particular, is predicted to be a key factor into if the result will go as expected, due to how many games he has had to start without relief.

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