Stanley Cup Final 2022 – Can the Avs clinch at home? Preview of what could be a decisive game 5

The 2022 Stanley Cup Final could be decided Friday night in Denver, with the Colorado Avalanche holding a 3-1 lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Who needs to intervene for the Lightning to force the series back in Tampa? Who is Conn Smythe’s favorite? Will the Avs lift the Cup at home? We asked our hockey experts these questions and more before the possible decisive game.

Who will we talk about if the Avs win Game 5?

Kristen Shilton, NHL Reporter: Calé Makar. If Colorado wins the Stanley Cup on home soil, it will be largely because of Makar’s fantastic playoff performance. From start to finish he was always amazing. The Cup Final opener may not have been Makar’s best, but he adapted to the stifling style of the Lightning and reacted accordingly. He’s the third-leading scorer in the entire playoff field (seven goals and 27 points in 18 games) and is a force in every situation (see: scoring shorthanded and on the power play in Game 2).

The way he can keep the game alive with his superior skating and excellent awareness is just next level. We knew all that about Makar in the playoffs, but the defending Norris Trophy winner was even better than expected and will dominate the conversation if it ends in Colorado’s favor.

NHL Reporter Greg Wyshynski: Darcy Kuemper. Listen, I’m a real Kuemper. When I picked the Avalanche to win this series, I did so believing that goaltender Pavel Francouz would eventually win against the Lightning. For a minute, it looked like this: Kuemper was dragged into the Game 3 rout of the Lightning and recorded negative goals above expectations for the series. The huge advantage the Lightning had in goal with Andrei Vasilevskiy looked like it could rock the Stanley Cup Final. That is, until Kuemper made 37 saves in Game 4 and recorded more goals than expected (1.14) than Vasilevskiy (1.08). The Avalanche are now back at home, where their speed and forechecking helped Kuemper earn a Game 2 shutout. It could be a very good night for the goalkeeper and his teammates.

NHL analyst Victoria Matiash: Nazem Kadri. Playing just one game since June 4, the Colorado center might have the freshest legs, as well as an appetite to contribute after being starved for most of the month. So I particularly like his chances of being the ultimate difference maker, again, after scoring the OT winner in Game 4 (not that it affected the flow of the scoring game, but I hopes with the right number of Avalanche skaters on the ice this time). Plus, there’s Kadri’s return after surgery on his mashed thumb that initially seemed to keep him out for the rest of the playoffs. Even considering the magic of modern medicine, he must be in a lot of pain. Sports fans of all stripes love these stories, and for good reason.

Arda Ocal, NHL host: I think it will also be Kadri, but since Victoria chose him, I will take Valeri Nichushkin. He had an amazing post-season, and I could absolutely see him having a signature moment in Game 5. Overall, I think Cale Makar gets the Conn Smythe, but there are a lot of great bits – like Nichushkin – who have brought this team one game since their first title since 2001.

If the Lightning are going to return to this series, who is the only player scheduled to step in on Friday?

Shilton: Steven Stamkos. And I’m not just talking about the ice, although Stamkos could add more as well. Stamkos has just two points in the Cup Final, both in the Lightning’s 6-2 thrashing of the Avs in Game 3. He’s due for a more dynamic moment.

Beyond that though, Tampa Bay will need leadership from Stamkos to quickly turn the page on Game 4. The Lightning clearly – and perhaps understandably – had strong feelings about Nazem Kadri’s overtime winner. There’s just no time to waste those emotions if Tampa Bay intends to extend the series to Game 6. Stamkos is a respected voice. He’s been through a lot himself, personally and professionally. If anyone can share his wisdom on perseverance, it’s him. Not to say that the Lightning as a whole aren’t mentally strong enough to overcome the controversy of having too many men. It looks like a time when, when it would be easy to put their heads down, the Lightning will look to their captain for perspective.

Wyshinsky: Andrei Vasilevsky. He earned his status as one of the best playoff goaltenders in NHL history. He played brilliantly in Games 3 and 4 in Tampa, after that seven-goal horror show in Game 2 in Denver. But he hasn’t stolen a game in this series, and if the Lightning return to Tampa for Game 6, they’ll need the Big Cat’s best playoff showing. The Lightning know what’s coming in Denver. The Avalanche are back in front of their fans, with the latest line change, and they can enjoy the holiday champagne. They’re healthy as the Lightning’s injury list grows. If there was ever a time for Vasilevskiy to make a difference, it’s now.

Matiash: Victor Hedman. Not only on defense, working to slow down the Avs, but also helping the Lightning cause on offense. Tampa has one power-play goal this series, compliments of Corey Perry. A. That won’t be enough. The Lightning’s best unit has got to be better, starting with Hedman, who is second to Nikita Kucherov in playoff points with the extra skater. I suspect Friday’s officials won’t tuck their whistles as deep as they did in Game 4. Hedman and his team need to take advantage when the call comes their way.

Local: Give me a collection of Ross Colton, Ondrej Palat, Anthony Cirelli, Pierre-Edouard Bellemare, Mikhail Sergachev…lots of options here. I think a lot of people will point to Vasilevskiy, Nikita Kucherov and Stamkos, but if the Lightning are going to win Game 5, I think their depth will be the biggest factor. They’re going to need all four lines to stop the Avalanche and continue this streak

Will the cup be awarded after Game 5, or do we go back to Tampa?

Shilton: The Lightning started Game 4 hot, then faded sharply. The Colorado went from flat feet to flying high. What’s left in Tampa Bay in the reservoir? Vasilevskiy has been very good with the Lightning so far, while Kuemper had his best performance of the playoffs in Game 4. Looks like the stars are aligning for Colorado to win the Cup at home in Game 5 .

I think they can do it: 4-3 OT, Avalanche over Lightning.

Wyshinsky: To answer Kristen’s question, I don’t think the Lightning have much left in their tank, or at least not enough to hang out with the Avalanche in Denver right now. Overtime in Game 5 was eerily similar to Games 1 and 2, with Colorado carrying the game in terms of shot attempts and zone time while the Lightning desperately hoped for a backlash. The Avalanche can now set their matchups with the latest change, which means they can take Nathan MacKinnon away from Anthony Cirelli – if the control center plays, as he is one of the Lightning’s many walking injuries – and back. opposite the line of Stamkos. , whom the Avalanche forechecked into oblivion in the first two games.

I think it ends with Game 5 and convincingly: 4-1 Avalanche to win the Stanley Cup.

Matiash: It’s hard to choose against Stamkos & Co. after all the club has achieved in the past two years, but the Lightning looked like a lesser team for all but the first period in Game 4 – a contest they really needed to win. . And while everyone always says all the right things, the prospect of winning three straight games against such a quality Avalanche team to have to feel intimidating. It’s the most tired and fatigued the Lightning have looked at in quite some time.

Whereas I want a Game 6 — because it’s fun! – Friday is likely the end of the 2021-22 playoff road: 5-2 Avalanche.

Local: Congratulations to the Colorado Avalanche, your 2022 Stanley Cup Champions

Who is your Conn Smythe pick right now?

Shilton: Makar. I just don’t know, game by game, who can match what Makar brought for Colorado in the playoffs. MacKinnon was good, absolutely. But not at the same level as Makar. The defenseman averages more than 27 minutes of ice time per game in all situations, but seems tireless. When the Avalanche are at their best creating rushing chances, it’s Makar who gets a lot of them from the back. He’s been the Avalanche’s most consistent and dependable player while facing some of the toughest matchups (i.e. Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl) this playoffs had to offer. What’s more valuable than that?

Wyshinsky: Makar. There are three choices here. Nazem Kadri now has two of the most inspiring performances in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with his hat-trick in St. Louis after facing the abhorrent backlash to his collision with Jordan Binnington; and with its winner in overtime in Game 4 against Tampa Bay, in his first game after thumb surgery. But if any Avalanche forward gets the nod, it’s definitely MacKinnon, who has better numbers and the distinction of being Colorado’s ultra-intense leader off the ice. But none of them have the numbers of Makar, who also had an impact defensively (like against Connor McDavid’s line) and set scoring records for defensemen in the playoffs. The winner of Norris also wins the Conn.

Matiash: The boring and correct answer is the same as the other two, Makar. Alongside partner Devon Toews, the young defender effectively snuffed out some of the game’s best. Then there’s his own tally of seven goals and 20 assists in 18 games. It would take a lot to happen in the next few days for another top contender to emerge.

Local: I said it above, but it’s Makar – he’s a superstar. He is compared to Bobby Orr; which should tell you everything you need to know.

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