Are the Colorado Avalanche ready to usurp the throne? According to Accuscore’s simulations – and plenty of statistics – they are.
The NHL Stanley Cup Finals have been ruled by the Tampa Bay Lightning for two straight seasons and here they are again, looking for a third in a row. It did take head coach Jon Cooper four seasons since their loss in the Stanley Cup finals of 2015 to bring his team back to win it twice in a row. Their challenger this time is the Colorado Avalanche, coached by Jared Bednar, who are now in their fifth straight postseason having lost three times in a row in the Conference Semi-Finals.
The Lightning are definitely the more experienced of the finalists and there’s no question they know what it takes to win the Cup. Having only performed decently in the regular season, finishing fifth in the Eastern Conference, Tampa were counted out by many when it came to another run for the Stanley Cup. But when the going gets tough, the tough get going and that is what the Tampa Bay Lightning does.
Lightning vs. Avalanche: Path to the Stanley Cup Final 2022
If the Lightning have been impressive in the playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche have been even more so.
After finishing off Toronto in a spectacular seven-game series, where the reigning champions were already down 3-2, the Lightning stepped up their game once more and swept the President’s Trophy winners, the Florida Panthers, in a dominating fashion, allowing only three goals in four games against the highest-scoring team in the league. The Conference Finals saw the up-and-coming New York Rangers take first blood, going 2-0 up at Madison Square Garden, but the Lightning struck four times in a row and eased their way to their third consecutive Stanley Cup Finals.
If the Lightning have been impressive in the playoffs, the Colorado Avalanche have been even more so. The team have been seen as a contender for a couple of seasons, but they have not managed to get past the second round of the playoffs. As we have seen with Tampa Bay, it takes a couple of tries, a couple of setbacks, before a team is ready. And the Avalanche definitely look ready.
Colorado took the regular season by storm, finishing on top of the Western Conference and only three points shy from the league-winners, the Florida Panthers. In the playoffs, the Avalanche steamrolled the Nashville Predators 4-0, gave no chance to the tough and persistent St. Louis Blues despite losing twice at home, and finally stopped the Edmonton Oilers and their two-headed monster of Connor McDavid and Leon Draisaitl in four straight games. Getting through to the Stanley Cup finals with only two losses (none on the road) is a remarkable feat and if there is a team to upend the Tampa Bay Lightning, it is the Colorado Avalanche.
Lightning vs. Avalanche: What do the statistics suggest?
It is unnecessary to make a case for either team based on their capability of winning the Stanley Cup, but let’s have a look at some differences between the two teams which might tip the scales one way or another.
The Avalanche average 4.64 goals scored and 2.86 allowed, against the Lightning's 3.06 goals scored and 2.41 goals allowed.
Colorado’s games have been remarkably higher-scoring affairs than those of Tampa Bay’s. The Avalanche average 4.64 goals scored and 2.86 allowed, while the Lightning’s numbers are 3.06 goals scored and 2.41 goals allowed. So far, Tampa Bay have been able to shut down the Florida Panthers, the highest-scoring team in the NHL, but they have struggled to score goals against better defenses.
The Avalanche have allowed marginally more goals (0.45) but have managed to score a remarkable 1.58 goals more than the Lightning through the playoffs. The question is, can the Avalanche keep scoring against the Lightning as they did against the rest of the West Conference?
Another key difference is the balance of shots on goal. The Avalanche take on average 40.7 shots per game, allowing 28.2 shots, whereas the Lightning shoots 32.5 times on goal, allowing a relatively high 31.9 shots on goal. Of course, it helps to have the 2019 Vezina Trophy winner Andrei Vasilevski in goal to stop those shots, but the 12.5 vs. 0.6 difference in their shots on goal balance can’t be ignored and that is where the Avalanche should gain an advantage.
The goalkeeping battle definitely favours Tampa Bay, with Colorado having lost their first-choice keeper Darcy Kuemper to injury. Pavel Francouz stepped in with confidence, shutting out the Oilers in his first start and winning the next two as well. Doubts still remain, though, and compared to the Lightning’s Vasilevski, arguably the best goaltender in the league, Francouz has a lot to prove - and is under massive pressure to do so. It is only fair to point out, though, that the situation would not be much different with Kuemper manning the goal, as his numbers are not exactly top-notch either.
To compensate, the Avalanche have the advantage in the depth of their roster. The Lightning are missing Brayden Point from the center, but Nazem Kadri’s injury almost evens up the absentees. So far in the playoffs, the Avalanche have gotten more support from behind the top guns and they’ve been able to spread their offensive responsibilities somewhat wider. The difference is not big, but it does exist. That being said, the Lightning have shown time and time again that they are capable of hitting anything the opponent throws at them and in the NHL every series is a battle of its own.
Accuscore analysis: Who will win the Stanley Cup Final 2022?
However, in Accuscore simulations, the Colorado Avalanche are now a clear favourite to win the Stanley Cup. Notably, in simulations run before the start of the postseason, it was Tampa Bay winning it all – even beating the Avalanche in the finals with a 53% probability.
But now, heading into the actual Stanley Cup finals, Colorado are a huge 72.8% favourite, leaving Tampa Bay at just 27.2%. Pinnacle’s odds of 1.591* for Colorado indicate a 62.9% probability and present extremely good value compared to Accuscore’s simulations.
Based on the simulations, there’s even nicer value in the -1.5 spread bet for the Avalanche. The odds of 2.290* for Colorado -1.5 indicate a 43.7% probability, while Accuscore’s probability is 54.2%.
The series results 4-0 and 4-1 have some value as well: 4-0 is at odds of 10.370* which is a 9.6% probability whereas Accuscore’s probability is 12.5%; while 4-1 is at odds of 4.560* which is a 21.9% probability whereas Accuscore’s probability is 23.1%.