This year’s Stanley Cup Finals matchup is an intriguing one, featuring the two-time defending champion Lightning against this year’s consensus favorite, the Avalanche.
The Lightning sort of slept through the regular season and have turned it on during the playoffs, while the Avs used its explosive offense to steamroll through the league in both the regular season and playoffs. There is plenty of star power on both sides, with Tampa Bay featuring Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, and Victor Hedman, while Colorado counters with Nathan Mackinnon and Cale Makar.
It’s in the net where I believe the series will be decided. Again, all-world goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy has elevated his play to the maximum during the postseason for the Lightning after what some might call a down year in the regular season. Meanwhile, his counterpart, Darcy Kuemper has been hobbled with ailments throughout the playoffs.
I’m taking the Lightning in a tight series to three-peat, primarily due to its sizeable advantage in net.
We have reached the NBA Finals, pitting the Golden State Warriors against the Boston Celtics. The Warriors eliminated Denver, Memphis, and Dallas in six, six, and five games, respectively. Meanwhile, the Celtics swept Brooklyn, before surviving seven games series with the defending champion, Milwaukee Bucks, and Miami.
Boston turned its season around in January with a renewed commitment to first year coach Ime Udoka’s defensive philosophy. Indeed, the Celtics possess great length to bother shooters all over the floor and switch defensively better than any team in the NBA. , becoming, by far, the best defense in the league.
While I believe Boston’s defense will create problems for Golden State, I worry about the Warriors’ myriad of offensive weapons. While everyone is aware of Steph Curry and Klay Thompson, rejuvenated Andrew Wiggins and youngster Jordan Poole give the Dubs two more options to fill the basket. Four potentially elite scorers are something the Celtics have yet to face in this deep run to the Finals.
In the end, in what will be a classic series, Golden State’s ability to swing the basketball to finally find an open shooter will be the difference.
The Rangers have come from behind and stolen seven-game series from both the Pittsburgh Penguins and Carolina Hurricanes, with the key being goalie Igor Shesterkin, as New York has been outplayed by its opponents for significant chunks in the first two rounds. Their reward is home ice advantage in the conference finals, but at the price of the matching up with the Tampa Bay Lightning, the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion, who have seemed to find their footing after an uneven regular season.
Shesterkin and his Lightning counterpart, Andrei Vasilevskiy, are a juicy goaltending matchup, and each are more than capable of stealing a series. That said, at this point, the Lightning are the more complete team.
Colorado Avalanche over Edmonton Oilers 4-2
I admit I have the hindsight of knowing the result of the 8-6 shootout victory for the Avalanche in Game One. I predict more of the same high octane offense regardless of any counter measures each team will take to slow down the other. A interesting stat I read this morning stated that the Oilers have scored the most goals thus far in the postseason. Unfortunately, they have given up the most, as well. I expect more of the latter against Colorado.