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Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche Game One Preview and Game Day Thread

The Stanley Cup Final is starting tonight!

Tampa Bay Lightning v Colorado Avalanche Photo by Michael Martin/NHLI via Getty Images

Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche: Game One

Location: Ball Arena

Time: 8:00 PM EST

Broadcast/Streaming: ABC, CBC, TVAS, SN, ESPN+

Opponent’s SBNation Site: Mile High Hockey

For the first time in several years (no offence to the Dallas Stars and the Montreal Canadiens) we’re getting the Stanley Cup that many fans have dreamt about. A showdown of two NHL heavyweights, two teams, which were considered as favorites before the start of the season and are arguably two of the best NHL teams in the recent years. The two teams, however, are entering this matchup in different positions — the Avs busted into the Stanley Cup losing just two games on their path and sweeping two opponents, while the Bolts (who also happened to sweep the Florida Panthers in the second round) faced probably more adversity than they did during their previous two Stanley Cup runs, managing to save two series, where they were close to be eliminated.

For the fourth time in a row this postseason, the Lightning don’t have a home ice advantage in the series, opening the Stanley Cup Final in Denver. Out of their four previous appearances in the final, the Lightning lost three times in Game 1, most recently against Dallas in 2020, but still ended up winning two of those three series. This postseason the Lightning lost two of their opening games, but as you can see that didn’t stop them to advance to the Stanley Cup final. On the road, the Lightning have a 5-4 record this year. Despite the Lightning’s ability to bounce back in the series, winning on the road would be pivotal for the team as getting out of 2-0 hole against the Avalanche would be extremely difficult. Meanwhile the Avs don’t seem unbeatable on the home ice, suffering both of their postseason losses there.

Brayden Point have been practicing with the team during the past week and seems to be ready for the final. He was mostly skating on the third line with Nick Paul and Ross Colton, switching positions from center to left wing. He also appeared on the first power play unit, during the last practice, which is another positive sign ahead of Game 1. Playing on the third line would lighten his usage, allowing him to adjust better to the game pace after missing two previous round due to the injury.

The Lightning’s coaching staff also didn’t want to break their two top lines, which worked out pretty effectively against the New York Rangers. The Anthony Cirelli line had been especially dominant in the previous round: shutting down the opponent with 66.67 CF% and 76.80 xGF at 5-on-5 and not allowing a single goal against. The line was also pretty good at creating offence off of cycle and forecheck possessions with all three members being in the top-5 in this category in the third round.

After yesterday’s practice Jon Cooper also confirmed that there’s a chance that Brayden Point will be in the line-up for Game 1.

Brandon Hagel and Corey Perry alternately missed two of the previous practices, but it seemed like a body maintenance day for them. In their absence, Riley Nash skated as a replacement on their lines, meaning that if everyone are healthy, the Bolts are returning to the forward core, which started this postseason more than one month ago.

Speaking with the media on Tuesday, the Avalanche GM Joe Sakic confirmed that their goaltender Darcy Kuemper is 100 percent healthy, so we can expect him to start the final series against the Lightning. Kuemper opened a Stanley Cup campaign for the Avalanche as a starting goalie, but suffered an injury in Game 1 of the Western Conference final against the Edmonton Oilers, missing the rest of the series. Pavel Francouz replaced him in the net, winning the remaining three games against Edmonton. Despite recording six wins each, both Francouz and Kuemper hadn’t been very sharp this playoffs. According to Evolving-Hockey, both of them are negative in goals saved above expected even with the Avalanche facing just 1.97 xGA/60 at 5-on-5 — the lowest number amongst the NHL teams participating in this year’s playoffs. The goaltending is the biggest Colorado’s weakness so far and with Andrei Vasilevskiy the Bolts have their ace in a hole.

Tampa Bay Lightning Potential Lines

Forwards

Ondrej Palat — Steven Stamkos — Nikita Kucherov

Brandon Hagel — Anthony Cirelli — Alex Killorn

Nick Paul — Ross Colton — Brayden Point

Patrick Maroon — Riley Nash — Corey Perry

Defense

Victor Hedman — Jan Rutta

Ryan McDonagh — Erik Cernak

Mikhail Sergachev — Zach Bogosian

Goaltenders

Andrei Vasilevskiy

Brian Elliott

Colorado Avalanche Potential Lines

Forwards

Gabriel Landeskog — Nathan MacKinnon — Mikko Rantanen

Artturi Lehkonen — Valeri Nichushkin — Andre Burakovksy

Alex Newhook — JT Compher — Nicolas Aube-Kubel

Andrew Cogliano — Darren Helm — Logan O’Connor

Defense

Devon Toews — Cale Makar

Jack Johnson — Josh Manson

Bowen Byram — Erik Johnson

Goaltenders

Darcy Kuemper

Pavel Francouz