After 21 long years, Lord Stanley will finally return to the Mile High City. The Colorado Avalanche secured their franchise’s third Stanley Cup by defeating the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games. This Stanley Cup Final promised a fun series between two hockey powerhouses. It did not disappoint. Even though it didn’t go seven games, each game was endlessly entertaining. The Avalanche were able to claim the throne, knocking off the two-time defending champions. For the Avalanche, it’s the culmination of a long journey. For the Lightning, it’s a bitter end to a dream of a threepeat.
— Colorado Avalanche (@Avalanche) June 27, 2022
Colorado Avalanche vs Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup Final Recap
Colorado’s Speed Wins the Day
The main weapon of Colorado through these playoffs was their speed and attack. Tampa Bay plays an outstanding trap game and is as defensively sound as they come. It was going to be the ultimate test for Colorado’s offence and put their big guns on notice. While they weren’t able to put up numbers as they did in the previous series, the Avs did what was needed. They scored when it mattered and overwhelmed Tampa’s defence. This was their most impressive showing by far.
Their magnum opus was in the third period of Game 6. Leading by one goal against the Bolts is a tough position to be in. In the minds of many, one goal would not be enough to put Tampa away. The Avalanche made sure it was, by only allowing four shots in the final frame. The Avs played a very aggressive approach and kept Tampa under siege. This kept the Lightning from pressuring Darcy Kuemper, securing Colorado’s win. This is the style that has brought the Avalanche success. They have unmatched speed and skill, so they use it to their advantage. This was the key factor in knocking down that immovable object.
Darcy Kuemper Stepped Up in the Clutch
The big question for Colorado in this Final was the one in the net. Kuemper had a great regular season, posting a 37-12-4 regular season record and a .921 save percentage. However, he was shaky at times in the playoffs. He’d also been pulled a few times, leading some to question if he was the weak link on the team. Games 4 and 6 proved he can step up when needed. In Game 4, he had a .949 save percentage and helped push the game into overtime. He allowed only one goal in the decisive Game 6, securing the series win.
Kuemper answered the bell when needed. He came back from multiple injuries and stood tall. Tampa Bay had the advantage in the net from the start. The 32-year-old goalie wasn’t asked to outduel Andrei Vasilevskiy, but to keep Colorado in games. He did what was asked of him and then some. His biggest moment was saving a howitzer shot from Nikita Kucherov in the final moments of Game 6. Avalanche fans owe thanks, and a few apologies, to the Kuemperor. Because was a key factor to the Avs winning the Cup, and he delivered.
Tampa Bay’s Offence Underperformed
The Lightning’s strength has been their suffocating defence. However, to beat Colorado, they would need a strong performance from their offence. Unfortunately, aside from an explosive Game 3, the Lightning couldn’t match the Avs’ production. In the other five games, Tampa was outscored 18-9. They failed to generate enough pressure to keep Kuemper on his heels. They got some key goals, but failed to produce when it mattered. The third period of Game 6 highlighted this. In the most crucial period of their season, the Bolts only mustered four chances against Kuemper.
A major reason why the Lightning failed offensively was their failures on special teams. They only scored two power play goals in the entire series. Going an abysmal 2 for 19 on the man advantage is a huge factor in Tampa’s defeat. Their penalty kill wasn’t much better, giving up a 37.5% on the penalty kill, against a team that already had a 31.3% power play coming into the Final. In a series where they were already at a disadvantage on offence, taking penalties made it worse. It did nothing to help Vasilevskiy, who did all he could to win this series. The Bolts did not take advantage of the opportunities given to them. While defence is key to winning titles, the offence must pull their weight, especially against a team like the Avalanche.
Cale Makar Wins the Conn Smythe
Cale Makar was awarded the Conn Smythe Trophy as the top player in the postseason. Makar elevated his play in these playoffs, with eight goals, 21 assists for 29 points. The week prior, he won the Norris Trophy as the league’s top defenceman. At only 23 years old, Makar has established himself as an elite defenceman and one of the top players in the NHL. Colorado may have lost the draft lottery in 2017, but it’s greatest loss they could’ve ever hoped for. Makar has become the franchise defining talent the Avalanche have sorely needed on the back end for years. These playoffs proved why he is so highly touted.
Even when he wasn’t scoring goals, Makar provided a defensive presence. He was effective on the forecheck and made life easier for Kuemper and Pavel Francouz. He was also a stalwart on the penalty kill, which was a major factor in this Cup Final. If this is a sign of things to come, the Avalanche will be a contender for years to come. A nucleus of Nathan MacKinnon, Gabriel Landeskog, Mikko Rantanen, and Cale Makar will keep the Avalanche in the Cup conversation for a long, long time.
The Colorado Avalanche Stanley Cup dream is now a reality. They have finally completed their long, hard journey. Lots of playoff heartbreak, doubt, and hard lessons learned have finally paid off. They are the new king of the mountain. They had to slay the ultimate dragon to do it, their finest achievement yet. Be proud of yourselves, Colorado Avalanche. The Stanley Cup is coming back to Denver.
Turn the Lights Off, Carry the Cup Home.