Jun 15, 2022 - Sports

The Avs are after Stanley Cup glory

Illustration of two hockey sticks in front of the Stanley Cup on ice.

Illustration: Lindsey Bailey/Axios

It's showtime, folks. The Colorado Avalanche begin their quest Wednesday night to win the Stanley Cup for a third time.

State of play: Winning the title will require demolishing a dynasty in the making.

  • A victory in the series would prevent the Avs' opponent, the Tampa Bay Lightning, from pulling off a Stanley Cup three-peat, something that hasn't been done since the New York Islanders went back-to-back-to-back in the 1980s.

Catch up quick: The Avalanche were the betting favorite when this season started, with the Lightning the second choice to win it all.

  • NBC Sports had Colorado pegged as the legit title contender in a season preview, calling them "dominant even with some bad luck."
  • As a top seed, the Avs swept two of the three playoff series leading up to the Stanley Cup Final. The team has only lost twice during these playoffs.

What they're saying: "What you can expect is about the best hockey you're ever going to watch," Jake Shapiro, digital sports analyst for DenverFan.com, tells Axios Denver.

  • He added that the Avs have been regular contenders for the past few years, but what pushed the team into this final was a combination of experienced players and strong new additions.
  • Three players the Avs traded for this season — Andrew Cogliano, Artturi Lehkonen and Josh Manson — scored game-winning goals during the playoffs.
  • Crucially, Lehkonen hit the shot that sent the Avs to the Final (and resulted in a memorable announcer moment).
  • Nathan MacKinnon is undoubtedly Colorado’s star, someone whom Shapiro says has an "innate ability" to come up clutch. He leads the team in postseason scoring, with 11 goals.

Between the lines: This team likes to score, then trust that its defense and goalie will keep opponents in check.

  • Shapiro pointed to Cale Makar, 23, as the ace on defense. He's one of the league's best defenders, and his play led Wayne Gretzky — you know, the Great One — to compare Makar to Bobby Orr, often considered the best defensive hockey player of all time.

What we're hearing: The Avs are getting back into game mode after a break thanks to their sweep of the Edmonton Oilers last week. Tampa Bay will be back in action after finishing off the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals last Saturday.

  • ESPN's list of the 10 most pivotal players in the Stanley Cup Final includes Lehkonen, Makar and MacKinnon, plus winger J.T. Compher and veteran defenseman Erik Johnson.

The bottom line: If the Avs manage to beat the Lightning, this could very well mean the passing of the proverbial torch.

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