Can the Lightning or Rangers Defeat the Juggernaut Avalanche?
The Colorado Avalanche ran through the Western Conference, and they await the winner of the New York Rangers and Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals. This Avs team has shown us a lot more than they have in prior seasons, pushing through the second round which they had not been able to do in their past three attempts.
Colorado won the Western Conference on Monday, coming from behind multiple times before Artturi Lehkonen sent his team to the Stanley Cup Finals for the second consecutive season with an overtime winner. Lehkonen and the Avs defeated the Nashville Predators in four games, the St. Louis Blues in six, and the Edmonton Oilers in four on their way to the finals.
Colorado got over the hump impressively, sitting in a tie for the fewest losses while making it to the Stanley Cup Finals since 1987 with two.
Whether the Rangers or Lightning make the final, either team will have a tough time against this powerhouse Avalanche team. Heading into Tuesday, the Rangers hold a 2-1 series lead in the Eastern Conference Finals.
Nazem Kadri‘s injury in Game 3 against the Edmonton Oilers put a damper on things for the Avs, and it’s expected he’ll miss the remainder of the postseason. His absence is a significant loss, primarily because Lehkonen and Mikko Rantanen gelled with him. Andre Burakovsky completed that trio on Monday, but it will be interesting to see if Jared Bednar switches things up with a lot of time off to prepare for the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Avalanche have steamrolled through their competition, and a lot of that credit can go to their top pair on the back end, Cale Makar and Devon Toews. The duo has been playing upwards of 25 minutes a night and finding ways to contribute on both ends of the ice, specifically Makar, who’s tallied 22 points in the postseason run. With the mobility and offensive flare these defensemen possess, it will be hard to solve this Avs team when one of the two defenders is on the ice for nearly half the game.
The recipe for defeating Colorado might not be complicated, and it’s something the Rangers and Lightning have, goaltending. Igor Shesterkin has been the Rangers MVP in these playoffs and has a .930 save percentage through 17 starts, while Andrei Vasilevskiy has a .922 save percentage this postseason. Vasilevskiy has proven what he can do in a playoff run, winning the Conn Smythe Trophy last season. If either New York or Tampa Bay hopes to stop the Avalanche, goaltending will play a big part. Pavel Francouz played admirably against Edmonton after Darcy Kuemper left Game 1 with an injury, but there should be a sizeable advantage in net for whichever team advances from the East.
The Lightning should have an advantage over the Rangers because of their playoff experience. If the Lightning can advance and Brayden Point returns, they might be able to take advantage of a Kadri-less Avs.
Regardless of the matchup, one thing is clear, the Rangers or Lightning will have a tough time beating this version of the Avalanche. Colorado is currently a big favorite to win the Stanley Cup at -230.
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