How the Lightning and Avalanche match up in the Stanley Cup Final
Brayden Point is expected to return from injury as the Lightning try to become the NHL's first threepeat champions since the New York Islanders won the Cup four times in a row from 1980-83.
The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning face the best in the West Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final beginning Wednesday in Denver.
Tampa Bay is the first team since Wayne Gretzky’s Edmonton Oilers from 1983-85 to make the final in three consecutive years. The Lightning are also looking to be the NHL’s first three-peat champions since the New York Islanders won the Cup four times in a row from 1980-83.
The Lightning could get a boost with the return from forward Brayden Point.
Point has missed the past month after injuring his right leg in Game 7 of the first round against Toronto. Coach Jon Cooper says things are trending toward Point playing in this series opener.
Point took part in the Lightning's final full team practice before Game 1 skating like he was never injured. He was Tampa Bay's leading goal-scorer in each of the past two Cup runs.
Steven Stamkos has scored a team-leading nine goals in 17 games this postseason for the Lightning, including a pair in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 series-clinching victory over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.
At 32 and wrapping up his 14th season, Stamkos is no longer one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers or even the second- or third-best player on his own team. The six-time All-Star and two-time Richard Trophy winner as the league’s leading goal scorer is the undisputed leader of the Lightning, though, and one of the reasons they are four wins away from the first three-peat in 40 years.
The Avalanche — who will need to shake off the rust from more than a week between games — are going for the franchise’s first championship since 2001.
Colorado’s core led by Nathan MacKinnon used depth and speed to break through to the final for the first time after several disappointing playoff performances.
HOW THEY MATCH UP:
Tampa Bay Lightning (51-23-8, third in the Atlantic Division) vs. Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7, first in the Central Division)
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Avalanche -158, Lightning +135; over/under is 6
BOTTOM LINE: The Colorado Avalanche host the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the Stanley Cup Final. The teams meet Wednesday for the third time this season. The Avalanche went 2-0 against the Lightning in the regular season. In their last regular season matchup on Feb. 10, the Avalanche won 3-2.
Tampa Bay has a 22-14-2 record on the road and a 51-23-8 record overall. The Lightning serve 11 penalty minutes per game to rank second in the league.
Colorado has a 56-19-7 record overall and a 31-5-3 record on its home ice. The Avalanche have gone 14-2-5 in games decided by a single goal.
TOP PERFORMERS: Victor Hedman has 20 goals and 66 assists for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos has seven goals and four assists over the last 10 games.
Nazem Kadri has 28 goals and 59 assists for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon has six goals and six assists over the last 10 games.
LAST 10 GAMES: Lightning: 8-2-0, averaging 2.9 goals, 4.9 assists, four penalties and 8.8 penalty minutes while giving up 1.7 goals per game.
Avalanche: 8-1-1, averaging 4.4 goals, 6.8 assists, 2.7 penalties and 5.4 penalty minutes while giving up three goals per game.
STANLEY CUP FINAL SCHEDULE:
Game 1: Wednesday at Colorado, 8
Game 2: Saturday at Colorado, 8
Game 3: Monday at Tampa, 8
Game 4: June 22 at Tampa, 8
*-Game 5: June 24 at Colorado, 8
*-Game 6: June 26 at Tampa, 8
*-Game 7: June 28 at Colorado, 8
WUSF staff writer Carl Lisciandrello contributed to this report.