Lightning vs.  Avalanche (June 15)

Lightning vs. Avalanche (June 15)

Lightning vs. Avalanche Game 1 Odds

Lightning Odds +125
Avalanche Odds -155
Over/Under 6 (-120 / +100)
Time 8 p.m. ET
TV ESPN
Odds through BetMGM. Get up-to-the-minute NHL Odds here.

Game 1 of what has become one of the most highly anticipated Stanley Cup Finals in recent history will go Wednesday night at Ball Arena, where the Colorado Avalanche will host the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Tampa Bay will enter this series with the opportunity to do something that has seemed next to impossible in the salary-cap era and finish off the league’s first three-peat since the Islanders dynasty in the early 1980’s. The Lightning will enter as considerable underdogs, though, as Colorado’s near perfectly constructed lineup has clearly been the most dominant team in hockey.

What can we expect from Game 1 of this powerhouse matchup?

Lightning Are Underdogs for Three-Peat

Tampa Bay’s run to this 2022 Cup Final has quite realistically been its most impressive one yet, knocking three really strong club’s in the Leafs, Panthers and Rangers.

The Lightning have done so mostly without one of the league’s top two-way centers and a massive piece of the last two title victories in Brayden Point, although it sounds quite likely he’ll return early in this series. The kind of difference Point will be able to make at less than 100% remains to be seen, but his return has the potential to offer a massive boost for the Bolts.

Tampa saw first hand early in the Rangers series that too much time away from game action does have the ability to cause some rust. The Bolts will be hoping that narrative plays out early on in this series.

Coach Jon Cooper commented after the Lightning finished off the Rangers that the extra rest his team received after finishing the Panthers off in four games may have played a big role in his club’s considerably sharper play at the end of the series.

Tampa Bay has controlled play to a 55.46 xGF% throughout 17 games this postseason. Beyond that, it clearly has a strong understanding of the intricacies it takes to win playoff hockey games.

The Lightning are very comfortable in the defensive zone. As we saw against Florida, they’re strong at keeping bodies behind the puck and looking to avoid the kind of breakdowns which lead to scoring chances Andrei Vasilevskiy is simply not supposed to stop.

That’s an important note entering this series. It’s reasonable to expect Colorado to control a greater share of the overall run of play with its up-tempo style and plethora of elite talents.

Vasilevskiy has played to a +12.7 GSAx rating with a .928 save percentage so far this postseason. He’s the main argument why Tampa Bay can pull off the three-peat over a spectacular Avalanche team.

Avs Facing Toughest Postseason Test

Even without two elite pieces in the lineup being Nazem Kadri and Samuel Girard, Colorado still has one of the deepest rosters we’ve seen in recent history entering this contest.

The Avalanche have a ridiculous 12-2 postseason record, playing to a 60.67 expected goals rate.

The Avalanche have probably relied less upon its starting goaltenders en route to this final than we have seen from any team in recent history, which could certainly be taken as both a pro and a con entering a series with the Lightning.

Darcy Kuemper has battled through two injuries in the playoffs and has altogether offered quite shaky results, playing to a -4.4 GSAx mark with an .897 save percentage in 10 games.

Given that he has been the Avalanche’s number one all season, he’ll likely still get the start of Pavel Francouz in Game 1, although Francouz has arguably offered better play this postseason.

The Lightning are no doubt the best team the Avalanche have played this postseason. I think it’s reasonable to expect Colorado, led by Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon’s otherworldly form, to again carry more of the overall run of play.

However, breaking through with goals seemingly at will should prove far more difficult than we have seen in previous rounds versus far softer defensive teams and net-minders.

At some point, Kuemper/Francouz will likely be needed to come up with some timely saves. That may be the biggest question mark surrounding the Avalanche entering this series.

A huge argument as to why Colorado may succeed in this series is what has likely been the league’s best defensive pairing this season being the tandem of Makar and Devon Toews. Makar and Toews have played to a 59.5 xGF% in the postseason, and were tremendous in the Oilers series playing against Connor McDavid’s unit.

When possible, Avs coach Jared Bednar will want that pairing line matched against the Lightning’s top offensive unit of Kucherov-Stamkos-Palat. Holding the last change at home for Games 1 and 2 could prove advantageous in that regard.

Lightning vs. Avalanche Pick

There are enough question marks surrounding this game that I do not see any value in jumping on the Avalanche as a heavy favorite, so I lean toward the Lightning as a side in Game 1 considering the price.

Looking towards the total, I see the most value.

We know if Tampa Bay plays true to form, it could be quite tough for even the Avalanche to break through with a big total off of Vasilevskiy.

Colorado has been tremendous defensively all season. If Kuemper can provide a reasonable start we should have a good chance of seeing a lower scoring contest in Game 1. Colorado has played some notably high scoring hockey this postseason, but a matchup with the Lightning compared to the Blues or Oilers could certainly change that significantly.

With the total opening at 6 and us getting close to more money on the under, I see enough to make a play. I would play that down to -115.

Pick: Under 6 (-105, play to -115)

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