June 15 — Counting the Contenders & Why Colorado Will Win

Last Night’s News 📰

A CHALICE FOR A KING: LeBron James spent time with the Stanley Cup before premiering the latest episode of his show “The Shop.” LeBron, known as King James, is a minority owner in the Pittsburgh Penguins as part of the Fenway Sports Group. 

BRUCE GOES TO VEGAS: The Vegas Golden Knights hired former Boston Bruins head coach Bruce Cassidy on Tuesday to replace Peter DeBoer, whom they fired after missing the playoffs this season. Boston fired the 57-year-old Cassidy on June 6, following six seasons with the Bruins.

HUTTON HANGS ‘EM UP: Carter Hutton has quietly announced his retirement. The 36-year-old goaltender, who hadn’t started a game since being sidelined by an ankle injury back in Oct. 2021, played in 234 career games for five different NHL teams.

TAKING A FLYER ON TORTORELLA: Last night, NHL insider Kevin Weekes dropped a gem by announcing that the Philadelphia Flyers are offering the open head coaching position to John Tortorella. No word yet on the terms of the deal or if Tortorella has accepted the position. 

FREE BEER FOR BARRY: In an attempt to get Barry Trotz to become the next head coach of the Winnipeg Jets, a local Winnipeg brewery is offering Trotz free beer for life if he signs with the Jets. With an offer like that, how can he possibly refuse?!

YOUR DAY WITH THE CUP: Have you ever wanted to have your day with the Stanley Cup? Now you can! Yesterday the NHL dropped the Stanley Cup Experience, an augmented reality (AR) that allows you to use your phone or tablet to take photos or videos with a three-dimensional, realistic Cup as if it were in the room with you.

Who Said It – 2022 Stanley Cup Edition

1) “They’re a team that’s looking to become a dynasty. We’re a team that’s looking to start a legacy.”

A. Nathan MacKinnon
B. Cale Makar
C. Gabriel Landeskog

2) “Our group is too good to not give ourselves a chance to compete for the Stanley Cup.”

A. Andrei Vasilevskiy
B. Steven Stamkos
C. Victor Hedman

3) “As a kid, I never watched the NHL. We didn’t have the right channel. All I remember is the pictures…All the Russians winning the Stanley Cup, I had those pictures on my wall. That’s something I wanted to do as a kid.”

A. Mikhail Sergachev
B. Nikita Kucherov
C. Valeri Nichushkin

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

Why the Avalanche Will Win the Cup

Yesterday’s newsletter made a case for a Tampa Bay Lightning three-peat. But while it’s hard to bet against the champs, what about the Western Conference juggernaut that has lost only twice since the 2022 Playoffs got underway (Tampa has dropped five games en route to the Final)? The Colorado Avalanche might be the most formidable challenge of the Lightning’s Cup run and the team that may ultimately dethrone them.

Here’s why it could be the Avs’ time:

Colorado Avalanche

Makar’s Ascension

In the Western Conference Final, the Edmonton Oilers might have had Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl. What they didn’t have, however, was the best player of the series. That distinction belonged to Cale Makar, the defensive sensation who has posted 22 points and a plus-11 through 14 games. How often has Tampa, anchored by Victor Hedman, had to contend with a better blueliner on the other end of the ice?

They’ve Got the Depth

Arguments about a forward corps headlined by Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, and Gabriel Landeskog versus one featuring Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point will dominate headlines. However, the teams’ depth beyond those star players matters just as much. And Colorado can hold their own, as they’ve shown, given the production of players like J.T. Compher, Artturi Lehkonen, and even Western semis Game 6 hero Darren Helm.

Everything Coming Together at the Right Time

Doesn’t this just kind of feel like Colorado’s moment? They’re well-rested, appear poised to get Nazem Kadri, Darcy Kuemper, and Andrew Cogliano back in the lineup, and should have significantly fresher legs than an opponent that has now endured 62 grueling postseason tilts over the past three years. From an intangibles standpoint, you’d also figure that an Avs team coming off three consecutive second-round disappointments might be a little hungrier than the two-time defending champions.

By the Numbers – Lightning vs. Avalanche

The time has come. Tonight brings the first game of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final, with the Colorado Avalanche taking on the Tampa Bay Lightning. Eight months of hockey comes down to this best-of-seven series. In preparation for Game 1, here are some notable numbers from these teams this season.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Colorado Avalanche (The Hockey Writers)

119 – Points the Avalanche finished the 2021-22 regular season with, the most in the Western Conference and second-most in the NHL (behind the Florida Panthers, who won the Presidents’ Trophy with 122). Tampa Bay ended the regular season with 110 points, tied for fifth-most in the Eastern Conference and seventh in the league. 

8 – Times the Lightning have qualified for the postseason in the nine full seasons under head coach Jon Cooper. In the year Tampa didn’t make it in (2016-17), the Lightning missed the playoffs by a single point. In six seasons under head coach Jared Bednar, Colorado has made the postseason five times.

28 – Goals scored by Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar during the 2021-22 regular season, most among defensemen. His 86 points ranked second at the position, with only Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators having more (96). This postseason, Makar has five goals (tied for most among defensemen) and 22 points (one point behind New York’s Adam Fox).

61 – Career playoff wins for Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, 14th-most all-time and second-most among active goalies (Marc-André Fleury, 92). To compare, Colorado goaltenders Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz have appeared in 40 career playoff games combined.

2 – Losses the Avalanche have this postseason, as Colorado sandwiched a six-game series against the St. Louis Blues in between sweeps over the Nashville Predators and Edmonton Oilers. Meanwhile, Tampa Bay has lost five total games, going seven in the first round against the Toronto Maple Leafs before sweeping the Panthers and beating the New York Rangers in six.

11 – Consecutive playoff series won by the two-time defending champion Lightning, which is the third-longest such streak in NHL history, trailing just the 1980-84 New York Islanders (19) and the 1976-80 Montreal Canadiens (13). If they beat Colorado in this series, they’ll be the sixth team in NHL history and first since those Islanders to win three Stanley Cup titles in a row.

Who Said It Answers

  1. Cale Makar
  2. Steven Stamkos
  3. Nikita Kucherov

Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket

Stanley Cup Playoffs Leading Scorers

Stanley Cup Final Schedule