2022 Stanley Cup Finals Preview


Conner Keough, Staff Writer

There’s nothing like playoff hockey, and after three rounds the Tampa Bay Lightning (12-5) and Colorado Avalanche (12-2) have emerged from the Conference Finals to meet in the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay is coming off back-to-back Stanley Cup wins in 2020 and 2021 and is hoping to be the first team to “threepeat” since the New York Islanders from 1980-1983. Colorado, on the other hand, is new to playoff success. This is their first Stanley Cup Finals since they won the cup in 2002. As game 1 nears, the Colorado Avalanche are favored in this series with (-190) odds, but will Tampa be able to win this third cup as underdogs?


If you are new to hockey or not a fan, don’t worry. I’ll be previewing this series and breaking down all the important aspects of the game as well as giving my prediction of who wins this series. 


Goal Differential:

Goals For Per Game:

Colorado: 4.64

Tampa Bay: 3.06


Goals Against Per Game

Colorado: 2.86

Tampa Bay: 2.41


Consensus: Normally I wouldn’t be concerned with the goal differential in this series, but I wanted to point it out to highlight the differences in the teams’ play styles. Colorado is a team that can score at will while Tampa plays a more well-rounded and disciplined game where every player does what it takes to win. Ultimately, both teams have low goals against, with Tampa leading with .4 goals less against per game. These different play styles show us the differences between the teams. The team that gets to play their style more effectively will win the series. 


Top Forwards:


Nathan MacKinnon: (14-11-7-18)

Mikko Rantanan: (14-5-12-17)

Gabriel Landeskog: (14-8-9-17)

Nazem Kadri: (13-6-8-14)

The Avs have an elite offense that scored the second-most goals in the regular season. The playoffs have been no different for Nathan Mackinnon, who’s leading the way with 11 goals this postseason. Another forward, Gabe Landeskog, the Avalanche’s captain, has imposed himself as a physical force and a great defensive player. Nazem Kadri, who scored a hat trick in Game 3 against St. Louis, has been very effective. He suffered a hand injury in Game 3 against Edmonton and did not return. He is likely to return for Game 1 of the series. 

Mackinnon goes coast to coast 



Steven Stamkos: (17-9-6-15)

Nikita Kucherov: (17-6-17-23)

Ondrej Palat: (17-8-8-16)

Brayden Point: (7-2-2-4)

The Lightning offensively woke up in the last few games against the Rangers. The line of Stamkos, Kucherov, and Palat was exceptional, scoring 5 points combined in the final game. Stamkos had both the goals for the Lightning in a 2-1 win. Palat scored two very clutch goals late games this postseason. Brayden Point is going to make a return for the Finals after suffering an injury in Game 7 against Toronto in Round 1. His line, which will likely be with Cirelli and Killorn, will probably be matched against the Nathan MacKinnon line.  

Palat scores late in Game 3

Consensus: Overall, I would give the forward edge to the Colorado Avalanche. In the 2022 postseason, the Avalanche have scored an average of 4.64 goals per game compared to Tampa Bay’s 3.06. They have a decided advantage in the forwards category because of the style of hockey they play. The Avalanche are a high-flying offensive team, which will generally lead to more scoring. The way the Avs play is such that they are fine with beating you 8-6, which they did against Edmonton in Game 1 of the Conference Finals. Tampa Bay, on the other hand, can play any style of hockey needed to win. Tampa has some talented forwards, like Steven Stamkos, who heated up in the series against the Rangers, scoring 5 goals in those 6 games. However, Tampa also can adapt to play a defensive style that sacrifices their offense. Ultimately, Nathan Mackinnon and the Avalanche have the edge here.  


Top Defensemen:


Cale Makar: (14-5-17-22)

Devon Toews: (14-5-8-13)

Josh Manson: (14-2-4-6)

Erik Johnson: (14-1-4-5)



Victor Hedman: (17-2-12-14)

Ryan McDonagh: (17-1-3-4)

Erik Cernak: (17-1-0-1)

Mikhal Servachev: (17-1-6-7)


Consensus: Similar to the forward core, the Avalanche have a decided advantage in scoring from their defenseman. Cale Makar might have dethroned Victor Hedman as the best defenseman in the league. Makar has scored more points than everyone in this series besides Kucherov, not to mention he is excellent defensively, and his partner Devon Toews has been fantastic. The key difference with the Lightning’s blue line is that they aren’t one-trick ponies like the Avs. Players like McDonagh and Cernak are so solid and will do anything to win which includes blocking shots, physical play, and pitching in offensively. But, ultimately, the main role of a defensman is to keep the puck out of your own net. The Lightning have the advantage here because they will limit Colorado’s high danger chances much better than Colorado can do to them. 

Makar and Towes defensive clinic

Mcdonagh blows up Accari in the open ice




Darcy Kemper: (6-2 2.65 GAA .897%)

Pavel Francouz: (6-0 2.86 GAA .906%)


Andrei Vasilevskiy: (12-5 2.27 GAA .928%)

Brian Elliot: (0-0 0 GAA .1000%)


Consensus: The Lightning have the advantage in net with the 2021 Conn Smythe (playoff MVP) trophy winner in Andrei Vasilevskiy. He looked human in Round 1 against Toronto, but once Tampa’s back was against the wall in Games 5 and 6, he played amazingly. Following a loss in the last 3 years, Vasilevskiy has an under 1 GAA.  Kemper is the starter for the Avalanche but Francouz had to come in when Kemper got injured against St. Louis. Both goalies have played fine, but the Avalanche have outscored their problems in net. I will be interested to see if Colorado’s PK and goaltending will be able to stop Stamkos and the Lightnings’ power play. Overall, the Lightning have the better goaltending. 


Vasy denys Lindgren on a cross-crease attempt


Important Depth Players:


JT Compher: (14-5-2-7)

Darren Helm: (14-1-2-3)

Logan O’Connor: (11-1-2-3)


Nick Paul: (17-3-4-7)

Ross Colton: (17-5-3-8)

Corey Perry: (17-5-3-8)


Consensus: Ultimately, despite Colorado’s improved depth, I feel the Lightning get more value out of their third and fourth-line forwards. The third line of the Lightning, which consists of Paul-Colton-Perry, has been very effective. Nick Paul has done everything for this team; he kills penalties, scores clutch goals, and blocks shots. And, New Jersey native Ross Colton has a really great snapshot that can contribute big goals from the third line. I like the Avalanche’s depth too, but I think they are a little more reliant on Makar and Mackinnon while Tampa can win games even when Stamkos isn’t firing on all cylinders. 

Compher out-muscles Bouchard and scores coming out of the Penalty Box

Colton nets late game winner on feed from Kucherov


Special Teams:

Power Play:

Avalanche: 31.1%

Lightning: 22.6%

Penalty Kill: 

Avalanche: 75.7%

Lightning: 82.5


Consensus:  The Lightning penalty kill was excellent against the Rangers in Games 5-7, where they blanked the number 4 ranked power play in the regular season. They limit their opponents high danger chances significantly and will get in as many shooting lanes as possible to block shots. However, the Avalanche power play has much better puck movement than the Rangers. Everything for the Rangers moved from the backend where they tried to go from a defenseman to Panarin and have him cross it to Zibanejad for a 1 timer and maybe get a tip-in from Kreider. It was predictable. The Avalanche can move the puck so much better than previous opponents have. The Avalanche like to move the puck around up high with Makar and MacKinnon in the bumper positions and have them fire at the net through traffic. If something isn’t there, Landeskog isn’t afraid to leave the front of the net to support as a passing option down low. When the forward in front of the net does this it makes the penalty-killing unit’s structure start to collapse, usually leaving one open player in the slot between the killers. But that’s not all. If the puck gets cleared out, don’t be surprised if Makar does a fast breakout from his own end or they send Compher down ice for a cherry-pick. Ultimately, I think the Avalanche’s power play will be the most important in the special team battle because of the crazy variety of ways they can be effective. 


A typical Avalanche power play



Consensus: I think John Cooper and the Tampa Bay Lightning have the advantage here. Cooper has won a Jack Adams Award as the NHL’s coach of the year and has won back-to-back Stanley Cups. Jared Bednar is an excellent coach as well for Colorado but I think Cooper will deploy his lines more strategically and prefer specific matchups. In Round 1 against Toronto, he had Brayden Point’s line matched up against Auston Matthews. Overall, I think that was a good matchup for the Lightning. While Matthews scored a tip-in goal in Game 6, he was completely blanketed in Game 7. If Cooper sticks to his matchups when he has home ice, I expect a defensive specialist like Anthony Cirelli to be matched up against Nathan Mackinnon.  



Consensus: I think the Avalanche have the advantage here. Colorado has come off a 4 game sweep of the Edmonton Oilers and have home ice in this series. Games 1 and 2 will be played in Colorado and there is a chance Colorado can jump out to an early 2-0 series lead. Not to mention the Avalanche have a perfect 6-0 record away from Ball Arena this postseason. If Tampa lets Colorado take a 2-0 lead, this series could be over quickly. 



Intangibles could either be really important or nonexistent in a series. If the intangibles do come into play, it will most certainly favor the Lightning. Most people on this team have won 2 Stanley Cups and know what it takes to win. If intangibles come into play, I expect it to happen in a Game 7 situation or in an overtime situation where a flashier and more skilled team like Colorado might not have the clutch gear a battle-hardened team like Tampa Bay has. The way Colorado neutralizes Tampa’s winning pedigree is by playing their game and overwhelming Tampa offensively. If Colorado gets off to a fast start, the series could roll on quickly. But, the more Tampa weathers the storm, the more likely the Avs are to get frustrated and make a mistake on which Tampa will capitalize.


Overall Pick:

This cup final might be the best one since 2019, when the St. Louis Blues defeated the heavily favored Boston Bruins in 7 games. I’m making the “risky” pick here and betting on the favored Colorado Avalanche to win this series in 7 games. Normally betting against the Lightning is a bad idea. I learned my lesson in the second round when I predicted the Florida Panthers would beat the Lightning in 6 games. In reality, the Lightning swept the Presidents Trophy winners. While Tampa Bay checked off more of the boxes and had the decided edge in goaltending, coaching, depth, and intangibles, the Avalanche’s offensive is just so impressive and hard to bet against. The Avs have steamrolled everyone they have met in the 2022 playoffs and they look like a team that’s on a mission and they won’t be denied. Still, I expect Tampa Bay to make this a close series. Get your popcorn ready because we as fans are in for an amazing Stanley Cup Final!