The Stanley Cup Final is scheduled to begin Wednesday night, with two powerhouse teams in Tampa Bay and Colorado set to face each other for the first time in the postseason. HabsWorld’s writers weighed in with their predictions for this series, stating who they believe will raise Lord Stanley’s Cup at the end.
Stanley Cup Final
Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning
Naqeeb Shaikh predicts: Avalanche in 6 games
Norm Szcyrek predicts: Avalanche in 7 games
Ken MacLeod predicts: Lightning in 5 games
Allan Katz predicts: Avalanche in 7 games
Kevin Leveille predicts: Lightning in 6 games
Brian La Rose predicts: Lightning in 6 games
(Naqeeb) Both teams have gotten to the Final in different ways. The Avalanche have not trailed in a series since the start of the playoffs but they have battled through their own adversity. Losing Sam Girard in the 2nd round and then Kuemper/Kadri in the 3rd round were setbacks that did not derail the Avalanche from moving forward in the playoffs partly because of their team depth but mostly due to their maturity and the impact that their trade deadline acquisitions have had to ensure stability in the lineup. These factors have made them into a resilient team and the adversity has made them better for it.
But the Avalanche have not faced an opponent yet quite like the Lightning. If we are talking about a resilient team, then the Bolts can arguably be considered the definition of resilience during these playoffs. In Round 1, they came back from a 3-1 series deficit vs. Toronto and in Round 3, being down 2-0 in the series against the Rangers did not deter them or shake their confidence.
To say the Lightning have a ton of playoff experience would be an understatement, but in this series, they will be facing an opponent unlike the ones they have defeated to get to the Stanley Cup Final. One that is just as skilled – offensively/defensively with no lack of motivation whatsoever and they have a ton of speed throughout the lineup. The only difference might be just the amount of playoff success the Avalanche have not had in the past, but I think that is something that will drive them to put that criticism to rest. It will be interesting to see how the Lightning are able to handle the Avalanche’s speed and intensity, does all the wear and tear from all those playoff games the Lightning have played finally catch up to them?
(Norm) I expect this will be a very entertaining series that will go the distance. The Lightning are obviously very experienced having won the last two championships. They appear to have an edge in goal when it comes to Vasilevski. They have a strong defence and depth at forward. Tampa lost key center Brayden Point in the playoffs but it does not seem to have impacted the team very much. Head coach Jon Cooper is one of the best in the league.
Colorado is such an exciting team, led by superstar Nathan MacKinnon who bested the Edmonton Oilers superstars in the last round. Their goaltending is less stable than Tampa’s, since starting goalie Kuemper was injured in the last round. Backup goalie Francouz stepped up in a big way and helped the team continue to win in Kuemper’s absence. Superstar defenceman Cale Makar has also been outstanding in the first three rounds, and the rest of the team’s defenders have been excellent.
Although Colorado does not have the experience Tampa boasts, they can prevail over their opponents. They will need to focus on the games in the last round where the Rangers showed that Vasilevskiy can be beaten. The Avalanche must be aware of that and study what that took in order to incorporate that into their game. I believe this has the potential of a very exciting series, much like the 2019 playoffs when St. Louis defeated Boston in seven games. In the end, the Avalanche will win this series in seven games, to put an end to the Lightning’s winning ways.
(Ken) I predict the Tampa Bay Lightning will win the 2021-22 Stanley Cup in five games over the Colorado Avalanche, despite being missing their best forward, Brayden Point. The Lightning learned all about what it takes to win after being the top team in the regular season that ignominiously flamed out against the Columbus Blue Jackets in the opening round of the 2019 playoffs. Since then, it’s been two straight Stanley Cups won by the team that has risen to the occasion each and every time a series was on the line. Tampa Bay is actually getting better as the playoffs roll on and Conn Smythe-defending goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy appears more than ready to face Colorado’s high-flying group of forwards. But it’s less clear that whoever takes the net for the Avalanche will be able to match him. I suspect this series might be the one that Colorado has to lose before it learns what it takes to win against the best.
(Allan) Tampa versus Colorado let the comparisons begin; Every expert of every level of quality talks about this being experience versus youth. They discuss the superior goaltending of Tampa, the burgeoning talent of Makar. After all of this navel-gazing, the consensus is 50/50. So how do I pick a winner? Point out issues no one points out. Tampa is so muggy this time of year that the insects are the size of rodents. The touted escape from this unbearable wet heat is the air conditioning of the highest-rated strip clubs in America. Tampa is in Florida the kookiest state in the nation, their fans don’t deserve another championship and I say this with no definitive proof whatsoever. According to the research I have done Tampa can be lovely and is safer than the average city in the U.S. of A.. Don’t worry I intend to be as vicious against the city of Denver.
Denver is in one of the most beautiful states anywhere. Driving outside the city you can explore the stunning vistas of sheer rock climbing out of the earth up into the sky. The Rocky Mountains inspire awe, much like the talents of Makar and MacKinnon. The city is gorgeous and has a vibrant cultural scene. Colorado has great skiing and is worthy of having a hockey team. They have Artturi Lehkonen and a stunning firepower offence. The city has pollution issues. So those things balance out between the two cities.
Kadri’s injury concerns the team and goaltending is not gold-plated. Tampa did not have a great season but they are having a great playoff season.
Colorado finished second in the league in points, Tampa finished 8th. Colorado scored 25 more goals and gave up one more goal than Tampa.
Picking Colorado to win at home in Game 7. Yet, at the end of the day, there might be an even bigger winner, the game of hockey. Possible epic series ahead!
(Kevin) This final match has all the ingredients of a classic. Plenty of star power to go around and good coaching; I think it won’t be long until we get good sound bites out of both sides too. On paper, the goaltending edge definitely belongs to the Lightning. After a subpar first round, Vasilevskiy has turned it on and now sits with a shiny 2.27 GAA. Kuemper isn’t far back at 2.65 but doesn’t bring the big game pedigree like Vasilevskiy.
The forward group is as evenly matched as possible. Both teams feature star scorers as Stamkos, Point, and Kucherov take on MacKinnon, Rantanen, and Landeskog. Both teams have reached out to feature a former Hab clutch performer in Corey Perry and Artturi Lehkonen. Both teams have great depth up front.
If the Lightning can bank on Vasilevskiy in the blue paint, the Avalanche will have to continue to get impressive production from their blue line to be competitive. Cale Makar has an impressive 22 points. That’s a whopping eight points ahead of Hedman, who is trailed by Devon Toews by only a single point. I think the Lightning have the better blue line to play shut-down hockey though, so it’s going to be tough for the Avalanche.
Considering all of these factors, I’m once again stuck in the conundrum where my head is saying one thing and my heart another. I want the Avalanche to win, but believe that for this to be possible, they’ll have to do it quickly and I don’t think that happens. The longer the series goes, the more the big-game experience of the Lightning factors, so, unfortunately, I am forced to predict a three-peat for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they handle the Avalanche to win on home ice in six games.
(Brian) There are two factors that I keep coming back to when assessing this series. The first is goaltending. Everyone else above has already covered it so I won’t go into much detail here but can a goalie that’s closer to league average play well enough to shut down a pretty strong Tampa Bay attack?
The other factor is the injury situation. Each team finished last round without a key centre – Nazem Kadri for Colorado and Brayden Point for Tampa Bay. Point will be back in this series – perhaps in the opener – while Kadri won’t be. Add that to the loss of Sam Girard and the Avs are missing two key pieces.
I think Colorado decisively loses the goalie battle in a couple of games in this series and that will be the difference in this one as Tampa Bay finds a way to make it three straight Cup titles.