This is it. The final playoff series of the 2021-22 NHL season and it’s quite a doozy. In one corner it’s the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning looking for a three-peat (or, if you’re Pat Maroon, a four-peat) going up against the Colorado Avalanche, who finished with the second-most regular-season points and reached the fourth round losing only twice and earning two series sweeps.
It’s been a memorable postseason so far and this series will only add to the excitement and star power we’ve been treated to since the First Round. So how will this one go? Will the Avalanche finally reach the top or will it be the Lightning making history?
On to the the Pro Hockey Talk Stanley Cup Final predictions!
James O’Brien, NHL writer: Sticking with my preseason prediction: Avalanche in six games, but I can no longer force Nathan MacKinnon over Cale Makar. MacKinnon’s been a star; Makar’s been a celestial body. While I think the Lightning can slow some of the Avalanche’s all-world pace down, Colorado’s skating and breakout passing gives any team problems. Eventually. This isn’t just a clash of stars, it’s also a clash of styles, making this a treat both for nerds who become immersed in systems and casual fans who want to see highlight reel goals (and saves).
Sean Leahy, NHL writer: Lightning in 6. The way Tampa Bay took care of the Panthers in the Second Round really turned me around on their three-peat chances. But now they have their toughest test in the Avalanche, a team just as deep, and just as threatening as they. But getting Brayden Point back at some point will be massive, as will the continued hot play of Andrei Vasilevskiy. And that, to me, will be the difference here. Darcy Kuemper cannot match what Vasilevskiy offers the Lightning, so while the Colorado offense might be slowed by the goaltender in the other net, Tampa Bay has the weapons that will figure out ways to win the battle on the scoreboard.
[NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs 2022 schedule, TV info]
Adam Gretz, NHL writer: Lightning in 7. This is probably the best possible matchup in terms of putting the best teams against each other and it is probably going to go six or seven games. I love what Colorado has built over the past few years and I do think they will eventually get their championship with this core, but as this postseason has gone I have had a more difficult time betting against Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning. Just not sure if the Darcy Kuemper/Pavel Francouz duo can match what he does. That goalie matchup, combined with the fact that Vasilevskiy is already one of the all-time greats and absolute money in potential elimination games, is enough to make me go away from my season long pick of Colorado and say that Tampa Bay wins its third Stanley Cup title in a row in a close seven-game series.
Michael Finewax, NBC Sports Edge Senior Hockey Writer/Editor: The reign of the Tampa Bay Lightning will end Friday June 24 when the Colorado Avalanche win in Game 5. The Avalanche are stronger up front and on the blueline and while the Lightning have the edge in goaltending on paper, I think that Darcy Kuemper will lead the Avs to victory. Kuemper is my choice for the Conn Smythe. While Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon are the favorites heading into the Final, I expect Kuemper to be outstanding in the series.