The Colorado Avalanche will play for their first championship since 2001, but will have to go up against the two-time defending champions as they take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals.
The Avalanche rate as the -180 favorite at FanDuel Sportsbook, with the Lighting commanding +155 odds to win a third straight Stanley Cup Finals.
Lightning credit rest in win over Rangers
Tampa Bay reached its third straight Finals by knocking off the New York Rangers by a 4-2 margin in the Eastern Conference finals. The Lightning won four straight after falling behind 2-0 in New York early in the series. Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said his team was more rested than the Rangers, and that may have made all the difference.
“The playoffs at time can be a war of attrition, and I think in the end the layoff helped us,” Cooper said of his team’s nine-day break between their sweep of the Florida Panthers and the series against the Rangers. “It didn’t early, but no layoff hurt them in the long series. These games are 2-1, 3-2, they’re all extremely tight games. They gave us everything they had.”
Colorado hasn’t faced much resistance so far in the playoffs. The St. Louis Blues managed to win twice in their second-round series, but the Avalanche bookended that contest with two sweeps, first of the Nashville Predators, then a stunning demolition of the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals.
This time around, it will be Colorado that enjoys a nine-day rest before the Stanley Cup Finals. Avalanche forward JT Compher told reporters that there won’t be any rust heading into the last series of the season.
“Coaches do a good job of making sure we’re working, getting the work in and it is good to get a little bit of a rest, but we’ve been through this already in these playoffs,” Compher said. “It’s just keeping your mind in it. You have a little time to relax, but just mentally making sure you’re refreshed and focused on the goal ahead.”
Colorado wary of Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup Finals experience
Both teams know what they face in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Lightning face the challenge of containing an electric Avalanche offense that scores in bunches.
“There’s no secret that they have some electric players,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos told reporters. “They have just an unbelievable mix of veteran presence, star power, grinders, goalie. So, a huge challenge for us, but we’ll put a game plan here together in the next couple days and, just as we do every series, try to execute it as best we can and give ourselves a chance.”
While the Avalanche come into the series as the favorite and the more talented team, they know they face an opponent who knows how to win titles. After all, the Lightning have won two straight Stanley Cup Finals, and have made it back to a third – a resume few teams in history can claim.
“They’re a real deep team. Highly committed team on the defensive side of things, dangerous offensively, great goaltending,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar told reporters. “I mean, they’re back where they are for a reason.”