The Stanley Cup will be in the building again on Sunday night as the Colorado Avalanche get another chance to win their first championship in two decades.
It is not going to be easy, though, as they try to knock off the reigning back-to-back champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning are looking to overcome what was a 3-1 series deficit and push the series to a decisive Game 7, and will have a chance to do so on home ice where they are 8-2 this postseason, with only one of those losses coming in regulation. They have the championship experience and the goalie that can help push them forward, but they are going to have to slow down one of the league’s top offenses to get there.
Here is everything to watch for in Game 6 of the series on Sunday night.
What to watch for in Game 6 of the 2022 Stanley Cup Final
• Same lineup for Lightning. That means no Brayden Point. Again. Point made a brief appearance in the Stanley Cup Final, playing in Games 1 and 2, but he was clearly not even close to 100 percent, recording just a single assist and one shot on goal in the two games. Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said it is a significant injury for Point and based on that it seems highly unlikely that he will be available even if the series goes to a Game 7 on Tuesday night.
Point has only appeared in nine games this postseason,. He was injured in Game 7 of the Lightning’s First Round win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
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• Andre Burakovsky could play for Avalanche. On the other side of ice, the Colorado Avalanche were hoping to get Andre Burakovsky back in the lineup after missing the past three games due to injury. He made a brief appearance on the ice at Colorado’s morning skate but did not return.
Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said “we will see” when it comes to Burakovsky’s availability.
Burakovsky had two goals and an assist in the first two games of the series, including the Game 1 winning goal in overtime.
He has three goals and eight total points in the playoffs so far. The Avalanche still have plenty of scoring depth without him (especially with Nazem Kadri back in the lineup) but having him back would add even more scoring punch to a lineup that has already carried the play for most of the series.
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• The goaltending matchup. This is going to be one of the biggest X-factors in this game and series. Colorado has carried the play through the first five games, having a decisive edge in terms of shot attempts, scoring chances, and expected goals. Given their dominance in those areas this series should be well within their control. But it’s not. Tampa Bay is still very much in this and they have their all-world goalie, Andrei Vasilevskiy, to thank for it.
These situations are typically when he lifts his play to an even higher level and is at his absolute best.
Vasilevskiy is a major asset for the Lightning in any matchup, but especially here against a team that has a major weakness in goal.
Darcy Kuemper had a fine regular season and has a strong NHL track record, but he has not been great in the playoffs. Colorado has not needed him to steal many games, but given who is playing at the other end of the rink he still has little margin for error. He has allowed more than a handful of questionable goals in this series and he is going to have to make some saves if the Avalanche are going to close this series.
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• Cale Makar‘s continued excellence. If Colorado does win the series it seems like a given that Cale Makar will be the Conn Smythe winner, which will wrap up an incredible season that already includes his first Norris Trophy. He is putting up historic numbers this postseason for a defenseman and continues to average more than a point per game for his career in both the regular season and playoffs. For a defenseman, those numbers are staggering.
He also already has three multi-point games in this series alone.
No defenseman has had four multi-point games in a Stanley Cup Final series since Brian Leetch during the 1993-94 playoffs as a member of the New York Rangers.
• Not many teams go down 3-1 and force a Game 7 in the Stanley Cup Final.
Via the NHL:
• Bednar does not want Avalanche to play safe. That was the word Bednar used to describe the Avalanche’s play in Game 5 of the series. He does not want them to play safe in Game 6 of the series, and instead play to their strengths. Which is attacking on offense. The wild thing about that is the Avalanche still has 37 shots on goal and were the better team for most of the game. If they can find an extra gear on top of that it is going to be a huge challenge for the Lightning.
• Lightning need to limit Avalanche power play. Colorado’s power play this postseason has been one of the best team-wide performances we have seen in the modern era, and it has played a significant role in this series. Not only are the Avalanche converting on more than 30 percent of their power plays this postseason, they have been especially productive on the road. Tampa Bay was able to limit Colorado to just two power play opportunities in Game 5 and did not allow a goal. The best penalty kill is staying out of the box. The second best penalty kill is having a great goalie. Tampa Bay has the latter. Just need to make sure it sticks with the former in Game 6 of the series.
2022 NHL playoff schedule: Stanley Cup Final
COLORADO AVALANCHE v. TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING (COL leads 3-2)
Game 1 – Avalanche 4, Lightning 3 (OT)
Game 2 – Avalanche 7, Lightning 0
Game 3 – Lightning 6, Avalanche 2
Game 4 – Avalanche 3, Lightning 2 (OT)
Game 5 – Lightning 3, Avalanche 2
Game 6 – June 26: Avalanche at Lightning, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
*Game 7 – June 28: Lightning at Avalanche, 8 p.m. ET (ABC, ESPN+, SN, CBC, TVA Sports)
* if necessary
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at email@example.com or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.