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NHL - US Sports: Stanley Cup - Game 2 preview

18 June 2022 10:12:23 EST
Andrei Vasilevskiy could be a key figure

The Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and Colorado Avalanche got underway in Denver on Wednesday with the Avalanche winning 4-3.

Game 2 will again take place at Ball Arena on Sunday with the Avalanche now 1.23 to win the best-of-seven series and the Lightning 4.25 to be victorious and lift a third straight championship. 

Colorado's victory proved their growing belief that they can lift their first Stanley Cup championship since 2001, but the battle-tested Lightning have been here before and recent history shows, they won't give up their three-peat dream easily.  

Familiar story in Game 1

What: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Colorado Avalanche, Stanley Cup Final Game 2
Where: Ball Arena, Denver
When: 01:00, Sunday 19th June, 2022
How to watch: Premier Sports or Sports Live Streaming
Odds: TB Lightning 2.30, COL Avalanche 1.66

Colorado have won Game 1 in each of their first four series of the playoffs, whilst losing the opener hasn't been unusual for the Lightning.

They lost to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round and New York Rangers in the Western Conference Final before prevailing.

The two-time defending champions also lost Game 1 of the 2020 Cup Final against the Dallas Stars before coming back to win in six games. 

Overall, the Lightning have won the last five series' where they have been defeated in the opening game. 

Historically, though, Tampa Bay are up against it with teams that win Game 1 holding a series record of 62-20 (75.6 percent) in a best of seven cup final including 49-10 (83.1 percent) when they win it at home. 

Tampa Bay bounce back-ability 

No team, however, has played more playoff hockey than the Lightning over the past three seasons, and with 11 straight series wins to their name there will be no panic in their room but a desire to learn from their wrongdoings and again show their best following a disappointing outing.   

Prior to losing two straight games of the Eastern Conference Final to the New York Rangers, the Lightning were 17-0 following a defeat in the playoffs and sensationally netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy had five shut-outs with a .942 save-percentage and 1.47 goals-against-average. 

Even after losing their impressive streak against the Rangers, the Lightning responded by winning four-straight to clinch the Prince of Wales Trophy.

Avalanche the Lightning's biggest Final test 

Whilst the Lightning have won a lot over recent seasons, so have the Colorado Avalanche who finished first in the Central Division in the regular season (56-19-7), second to the Florida Panthers for the Presidents' Trophy which they won the season previous (39-13-4).

In fact, no team has won more games than the Avalanche over the past three seasons in the regular season and they are certainly the biggest challenge that the Lightning have faced for their crown (Stars and Montreal Canadiens previously).

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Colorado growing in playoff confidence

 The Avalanche are 13-2 in the playoffs so far and clearly believe that they can go all the way and win the ultimate prize after three seasons falling in the second round when expectations were for them to progress much further.

With questions mounting about whether the talented group could produce at the most important time of year, Colorado have railroaded their way through the playoffs growing in confidence with each step.

They swept the Nashville Predators, beat the St. Louis Blues in the problematic second round over six games and then also swept the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Final.

Avalanche looked rested

Due to their dominance of series past, the Avalanche entered the Final with nine days rest and in Game 1 looked refreshed rather than rusty taking an early 2-0 and then 3-1 lead in the first period. 

A quick turnaround from their six-game conference final was thought to likely help Tampa Bay with just three days between outings, but it was they who appeared the more sluggish of the two teams to begin.

Point a welcome return for Tampa

Tampa Bay welcomed back their top goal-scorer in each of the past two championship playoff campaigns, Brayden Point for Game 1 and the dynamic forward made an instant impact registering an assist in 17.59 minutes of ice time. 

He had missed ten games with a lower body injury and is sure to play a crucial role for the Lightning if they are to make history by becoming the first team since the New York Islanders in the 1980s to win three straight cups.

Kuemper wins on return

Colorado's number-one netminder Darcy Kuemper returned to action after missing the final three games of the Avalanche's sweep of the Oilers through injury.

Back-up Pavel Francouz went 3-0 after replacing him, and is 6-0 over the whole playoff campaign, but coach Jared Bednar gave the nod to Kuemper who made 17 saves on 20 Lightning shots to record his seventh win of the playoffs (7-2). 

Whilst his .870 save-percentage in the game wasn't particularly convincing, he made the big saves in the big moments and will likely again get the start in Game 2 and again give the Avalanche the chance to win again. 

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