Thanks to Captain Steven Stamkos’s heroics on Saturday night, The Tampa Bay Lightning are headed to their third consecutive Stanley Cup Final, chasing history to be the first team to three-peat since the 1908-83 New York Islanders. Awaiting them are the Colorado Avalanche, who swept the Oilers and punched their ticket to the final for the first time since 2001.
Stamkos showed up to play as if, despite having 14 seasons under his belt, he was still underrated, beating world-class goaltender Igor Shesterkin twice to lift the Bolts to victory. Now, as the team stands on the verge of greatness, how can they get past the last obstacle on their way to eternal glory?
Nuts and Bolts -3 Major Points for Game 1:
A long break for the Avalanche might be the break The Lightning needs.
As we saw in the first two games in the Eastern Conference Final, having a long break after sweeping an opponent might not actually be a good thing, as the Bolts went down 2-0 in the series. The first game showcased how rusty the Bolts were as they slipped farther behind with each period. However, some last-minute heroics from Ondrej Palat helped the Bolts complete a comeback that arguably altered the course of the series.
With that being said, The Avalanche has had nine days of rest since sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference final, which is the same number of days The Lightning had after sweeping the Florida Panthers. However, despite the Avs having home-ice advantage, The rust could be taken advantage of if the Bolts come out of the gate swinging, which could lead to them taking a crucial two games before heading home to Tampa, where they are 7-1-0.
Staying out of the Penalty Box and playing a simple game leads to success
Knowing that the Bolts have scoring depth and a star-studded lineup, they pose a significant threat to any team they face. However, sometimes playing simple is best. The Toronto Maple Leafs almost went the distance with the Lightning because of endless turnovers on both ends of the ice, which Auston Mattews and co made them pay for. Although the Lightning’s Penalty Kill is 87.8%, five-on-five play is crucial. Colorado has a 43.8.% Powerplay compared to Tampa’s modest 21.6 %.
And the most important point of all, the return of Brayden Point
The most talked-about player this postseason for Tampa outside a possible three-peat is the speedy center Brayden Point. After coming up clutch in game 6 of the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs, when the Lightning had their backs against the wall, Brayden Point scored with 2 minutes left in OT to keep the Bolts alive and force a Game 7 in Toronto. However, in the early stages of that fateful game, Brayden would awkwardly go into the boards and return to the bench to support his teammates, to then be ruled out until now.
Thirty-one days later, Jon Cooper addressed the media and said “things are leaning towards him playing” in Game 1, but the decision will not be made until Wednesday. “We (aren’t) going to push anything,” Cooper said. “It’s all about how he feels. He felt pretty good (Tuesday). Let’s see how he responds (Wednesday). Brayden Point is an elite player in this league. And he will play his minutes accordingly to how he is responding,” Cooper said.
“It’s tough to not play and then jump right into a Stanley Cup final game. The great thing about our team … is guys have played with each other all over the place. So follow the system and they’re going to be in good shape regardless of who they play with. But I wouldn’t classify that Pointer is going to be sitting on the bench a whole lot. If he’s healthy, he’ll be out there.”
Point has 30 goals and 30 assists in the last three playoffs combined, so having a healthy Pointer back could be a gamechanger for this series. Although there is a whole series ahead of us, I personally am very hopeful and confident in this Tampa Bay team to get the job done. Regardless, keep checking back on our Stanley Cup Finals coverage and be sure to check out our Analytics piece on the 2022 finals here and Colorado’s Game 1 perspective here. You heard it here first, Bolts in 6.