One Spot Left in Final Four
Three of the four conference finalists have been determined in the Stanley Cup playoffs. That field was set after the New York Rangers outlasted the Carolina Hurricanes in Game 7 of their series on Monday night.
The Colorado Avalanche entered the postseason as the Stanley Cup favorite according to the NHL playoff odds and not much has changed.
Colorado checks in with +120 odds to win the Stanley Cup title. The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning are next at +250 followed by the Edmonton Oilers (+550). The NHL betting lines moved the Rangers ahead of Edmonton at +500 odds.
The Western Conference final begins on Tuesday in Denver with the two highest-scoring teams in the playoffs going head to head. Tampa Bay will start the Eastern Conference final at New York on Wednesday.
Here’s a look at the contenders.
Avalanche Team to Beat
How long has it been since the Colorado Avalanche won the Stanley Cup championship? It happened the same year when current forward Alex Newhook and defenseman Bowen Byram were born. That was in 2001 when Colorado defeated New Jersey in seven games.
Colorado has been in position to make a title run in recent years and a roster full of high first-round picks have had the Avalanche knocking on the door.
The No. 1 seed in the Western Conference, Colorado swept Nashville in the first round before being pushed to six games by Central Division rival St. Louis to reach the Western Conference final.
The Avalanche played for the Western Conference title five times in a six-year span ending in 2002. Since that time, they lost in the second round of the playoffs six times and were eliminated in the first round four other times.
Defenseman Cale Makar is tied for the team lead with 13 points in the playoffs. The top line of Nathan MacKinnon (eight goals, five assists in 10 games), Mikko Rantanen (one goal, 10 assists) and Gabriel Landeskog (six goals, five assists) can be unstoppable. A key has been the play of second-line center Nazem Kadri and first-pair defenseman Devon Toews. It is no wonder why the Las Vegas odds favor the Avalanche.
Goalie Darcy Kuemper had a scare when he suffered an eye injury in the Nashville series.
Never Count Out Lightning
The two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning had to win the last two games just to eliminate the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round. That was followed by a stunning four-game sweep of the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers as the Lightning have won 10 postseason series in a row.
The depth took a hit in the offseason with the departure of forwards Yanni Gourde, Blake Coleman Tyler Johnson and Barclay Goodrow.
Nikita Kucherov has been putting on a show in the postseason with four goals and 11 assists in 11 games. Defensemen Victor Hedman as well as forwards Steven Stamkos and Ondrej Palat are leading the way up front. The emergence of Ross Colton has been a huge key, especially when Brayden Point was forced to miss the series against the Panthers.
It was not a strong finish to the regular season for goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy, but he has turned it on in the playoffs.
Veteran Corey Perry is tied with Colton for the team lead with five goals in the playoffs. Nick Paul and Brandon Hagel were acquired at the trading deadline. Point and Hagel missed the most recent practice and there are plenty of concerns about Point’s availability moving forward.
No Brayden Point at start of @TBLightning practice. No Hagel either.
— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) May 29, 2022
High-Scoring Oilers Looking to Seal Deal
The last time the Edmonton Oilers got this far in the Stanley Cup Playoffs came in 2006. Edmonton would miss the playoffs in each of the next 10 seasons. In the previous four seasons, the Oilers failed to qualify for the postseason twice and won a total of one game in the two series they did play.
Edmonton needed seven games to eliminate the Los Angeles Kings before taking out Pacific Division champion Calgary in five games.
The last time a team from Canada won the Stanley Cup championship was in 1993, when the Montreal Canadiens topped the Kings in five games. Is this the season when the drought ends for teams north of the border?
The duo of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl have been absolutely sensational in the playoffs. They have 26 points each, which is 10 more than any other player heading into Monday’s Game 7 between the New York Rangers and Carolina Hurricanes. Evander Kane is the playoff leader with 12 goals while fellow veteran Zach Hyman has eight goals. They have added a different dimension to Edmonton, a team with plenty of high-end talent that would often fizzle when the stakes got higher.
Cody Ceci and former Stanley Cup champion Duncan Keith have paid dividends on defense to go with former top-10 picks Darnell Nurse and Evan Bouchard.
Rangers Look to Halt Lightning’s Three-Peat Bid
The New York Rangers picked the perfect time to win on the road. In a series where the home team won each of the first six games, veterans Chris Kreider and Mika Zibanejad combined for five points in a 6-2 win as the Rangers advanced to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Rangers haven’t advanced this far since 2015. Now they face the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Lightning, who have won 10 straight playoff series.
Aside from their +550 odds to win the title, the Rangers have a +155 series price against Tampa Bay.