MHH round table: Cup final predictions
Now that the Colorado Avalanche have a dance partner in the Tampa Bay Lightning the stage is set for the biggest series of the year and with the biggest prize at the end – the Stanley Cup. We offer some final thoughts and predictions ahead of tonight’s highly anticipated puck drop.
What must go well for the Avalanche to win their first Cup since 2001?
Adrian: If the Avalanche want a real shot at winning this cup, they’ll have to “trust the process,” as head coach Jared Bednar put it. They’re just one streak away from legitimizing this process in the eyes of the hockey world, but it won’t be easy. Tampa is by far the toughest opponent they’ve faced in the playoffs. If the Avalanche can stay true to their identity and play for each other, it’s parade time.
Evan: Attack Andrei Vasilevskiy and clean up mistakes. The Bolts have the best goalie in the world and he’s a monster on the ice. Of course we’ve seen what he can do in a knockout game and overall he’s been spectacular. If the Avs can get traffic in front of him and have redirects, it will be the best shot to beat him rather than score cleanly. And ultimately, if the Avs can keep the puck clean and dominate possession, they’ll have a phenomenal chance to lift the cup.
Jackie: This hasn’t been a big factor so far, and probably a reason for their success, but win the special teams battle and keep as much 5v5 play as possible. The Avalanche are also going to need a special moment or two from their special players. A lot of different guys have stepped up, and championship teams need that, but the big guns need to shine under the bright lights.
Ezra: The second line must produce offense. Whether or not Kadri can return, this team needs mid-roster production to finish this thing. Nate and Cale are going to have theirs, and Landy, Lehky and Toews are too, but which version of Mikko Rantanen and Andre Burakovsky shows up in this round is going to dictate who wins this series. Mikko woke up against Edmonton, but if he returns to St. Louis Rantanen and Burakovsky never shows up, the Avalanche will be in big trouble.
Eddy: Similar to the front row goal in the Conference Finals against Connor McDavid, Darcy Kuemper must do his best to break even with Andrei Vasilevskiy. Vasilevskiy will always be Tampa Bay’s biggest advantage over any other team and if the Avalanche are to have any chance of defeating back-to-back champions, they’ll need to do their best to minimize that threat. The best way to do this is for Kuemper to do his best to take on Vasilevskiy and for the players ahead of him to create and finish with as many chances as possible.
Jacob: Andrei Vasilevsky is talked about a lot in this series for good reason, he’s already one of the best big-game goaltenders of all time, but Avalanche goalies will be just as important, if not more so. The Avs have a bit more depth up front and a more dynamic back end, and if Darcy Kuemper and/or Pavel Francouz can get close to Vasilevsky’s exit in the net, that might be enough to neutralize the bigger advantage Lightning in this series.
Who will be one of the unexpected heroes in this final round of the playoffs?
Adrian: I said it before the start of the playoffs and after being fair, I repeat it. JT Compher is a big game guy who finds a way to make an impact inside of Colorado’s most impressive playoff wins. I say this trend continues. I could see him raising his game even more than he already has with the ultimate game prize on the line.
Evan: I think we’ll see something spectacular from Bowen Byram. He slowly improved as the playoffs progressed. I think he will score a big goal in this Stanley Cup Final propel his team to success. It’s his time to shine, and as a new 21-year-old, like many youngsters in their twenties, he’ll have all the confidence in the world to shake things up.
Jackie: I like Byram’s choice, I also think he has a big goal in him just waiting for the right moment. I will choose another Av who has not scored this post-season yet and that is Nicolas Aube-Kubel. He scored 11 goals in the regular season, so he has a bit of a random scoring touch that will come out when the opponent least expects it.
Ezra: Every bone in my body is telling me not to say that (yes, my bones are talking), but what if Jack Johnson had a hero moment? He shook there and I hoped to see Ryan Murray in his place literally every game, but what a story it would be if the PTO camp that everyone in the hockey media soaked on for years in New York and in Pittsburgh got a winning OT in Game 3 or something. … If that happens, each reader owes me $3 Venmo.
Eddy: Alex Newhook was in and out of the Avalanche roster throughout the postseason until injuries hit and he became a mainstay against the Oilers, where his teammates changed every game. Hopefully, in the Stanley Cup Finals, he’ll get some real stability and be able to keep his spirits up and play well, and if he does, he’ll be a problem for Tampa Bay. The Lightning have struggled with speed so far this postseason, depth in particular, and Newhook has all the ability in the world to take advantage of that and be a big player for the Avalanche this series.
Jacob: Bowen Byram is probably the best answer because you can argue he was the Avs’ second-best defenseman this playoff season, but I’ll pick the 4th line. They won’t be playing big minutes this series, but if Logan O’Connor, Darren Helm and Andrew Cogliano/Nico Sturm can continue their dominance on the other 4th lines, it could create just enough breaks to rock what should be a series. very tight decided. on the margins.
Call your shot – which team will win the Stanley Cup and who will win the Conn Smythe Trophy?
Adrian: IF Nazem Kadri is good enough to play and have an impact on the results, I will take him as the winner of the dark horse Conn Smyth. If he can’t go, my bet is on Nathan MacKinnon strictly because it’s his time. The one he has been fighting for for almost a decade of professional career. He knows that opportunities like this don’t come around often.
Evan: I don’t like the Avs’ chances – If they fall behind in the series. I don’t want to face a playoff Vasy because he will shut down the Avs like he does everyone else. That being said, if the Avs come out of the first two games with a 2-0 lead, they will win this series. Although I wish it was at home, I say the Avs win in six games with Cale Makar winning the Conn Smythe.
Jackie: I predicted six games in each round, but I could see this streak going the distance and providing the ultimate heart attack moment which is game seven for all marbles. The Avalanche slew the Game 7 dragon at home and won the Cup. I also choose Cale Makar as catalyst and starter Conn Smythe.
Ezra: The Lightning are already a dynasty and they are reaching their peak at the right time – it will take an incredibly deep and well-disciplined team to beat them. Luckily, the Avs are deep and disciplined throughout the lineup and extremely talented at the top. I’m also taking Colorado in seven games with Makar as MVP – and I think he’s scoring 14 more points on his way to the trophy. …you better Venmo me $8 if this one comes true. Let’s get spicy!!
Eddy: I believe this series is really a draw, so if I’m making a prediction here, I’d just pick the Avalanche to appease the crowd. I think if this team plays their best game, they’ll absolutely slay the dragon and win the Tampa Cup, and if they actually win, I think it’ll be in 6. As for Conn Smythe, there’s quite a bit of options to choose from. Cale Makar is the obvious answer here and if the Avalanche win the Cup, there’s a very good chance they’ll win it, barring an incredible streak from a MacKinnon or Kadri (if he comes back). A dark horse I picked for Conn Smythe is Gabe Landeskog, who is third on the Avalanche in points this season after battling a knee injury. If Landy has a good streak and gets close to Cale, don’t be surprised if he manages to lift both trophies.
Jacob: You can make a logical case for either team in this series, and the most surprising thing that could happen is if it lasts less than 6 games. But since this is an Avalanche blog, how can I not choose the Avs? Like the last time they made the Stanley Cup Finals, hosting Game 7 in the air will prove to be the difference, and Cale Makar will lift the Conn Smythe Trophy.