Lightning have one advantage over Avalanche

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The 2022 Stanley Cup Finals get underway at 8 p.m. ET on Wednesday night with Game 1 between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche at Ball Arena in Denver. The Avalanche check into the series as a -175 favorite to win the Stanley Cup and are currently sitting at -160 to win the curtain-raiser.

Despite the fact that they are the betting favorites to win Game 1, there are some reasons to be a little skeptical that we’ll see Colorado’s best effort on Wednesday night. For one, the Avs will be coming off a nine-day break after sweeping the Oilers in the Western Conference Finals.

Stanley Cup Finals Game 1 odds, pick (8:00 PM ET, ESPN)



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Since 2012, there have been 17 series where one of the teams in the matchup was coming off a sweep in their previous best-of-7 matchup. That team is 7-10 in Game 1 in the next round. Of course, Colorado accounts for one of those wins when they beat St. Louis in Game 1 after sweeping the Predators, but it’s pretty clear that a long interruption does level the playing field a bit when it comes to the NHL. That is good news for the underdog.

And it could be particularly good news for the Lightning in this kind of matchup. We know that the Avalanche are an offensive juggernaut, so anything that throws the Avs off their rhythm and allow Tampa Bay to establish a slower tempo is a big plus for the Bolts.

Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal.
Andrei Vasilevskiy in goal for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg

The biggest advantage in this matchup, however, is in goal. Andrei Vasilevskiy remains the NHL’s best goaltender and has done nothing in this postseason to suggest otherwise. After a slow start in the Eastern Conference Final, Vasilevskiy bounced back into form to lead the Lightning to four straight victories against the Rangers. Vasilevskiy allowed just five goals in the Lightning’s last four wins and only one of those tallies came at 5-on-5. Vasilevskiy has skated to a .928 save percentage and posted a +12.7 Goals Saved Above Expected (GSAx) in 17 games this postseason.

Colorado’s goaltending situation provides more questions than answers at the moment. Darcy Kuemper has been announced as the Game 1 starter, but he’s been injured twice in the postseason and hasn’t impressed when he’s been on the ice. Kuemper has skated to an .897 save percentage and -4.4 GSAx in 10 games and now will have to deal with getting back into form after nearly two weeks off. 


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With Vasilevskiy playing behind an in-form Tampa Bay defense at the other end of the ice, there’s very little margin for error for Kuemper in this game. That should be a little worrying for the Avs as their goaltender has yet to come close to his regular season form this spring.

It’s hard to remember a team putting together a more dominant run to the Stanley Cup Final than what we’ve seen from Colorado. The Avs have swept two teams, are 12-2 overall and have averaged 4.64 goals per game. Colorado has closed as the favorite in all 14 contests it has played thus far. And yet, there are enough signals here — including the most important one — pointing to Tampa Bay being a live underdog in Game 1.

The Bet: Tampa Bay Lightning +135 or better

Odds via BetMGM



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