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The 2022 Stanley Cup Finals have finally arrived. Mark Ross looks ahead to the matchup between defending champs Tampa Bay and Colorado.

Finally, we have reached the pinnacle of Ice Hockey. The Stanley Cup Final gets underway on Wednesday night in the United States of America and at 1 am on Thursday for us in the United Kingdom. Colorado is sending the Avalanche to try and stop the juggernaut that is the Tampa Bay Lightning. Between 1980 and 1983 the New York Islanders went to and won, the Stanley Cup four times in a row. In 2022, the Tampa Bay Lightning have the chance to get within one of that feat and win their third straight.

Colorado had the easier time of it as they advanced from the Western Conference. The Avalanche dominated throughout the playoffs and have only dropped two games so far. They eased past the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference Finals as they romped to a four-game sweep. Edmonton could do little to stop the Avalanche through the four games as Colorado scored at least four goals in each game. 8-6, 4-0, 4-2, and 6-5. Certainly entertaining to watch and will ill every Avalanche fan with confidence but it’s a different beast going up against the Lightning.

Tampa Bay, however, has made much harder work of getting to the finals. First up they faced the second-seed Toronto Maple Leafs in the opening round of the playoffs. Toronto pushed them all the way and even beat them 5-0 in the opening game. Luckily, the Lightning found their form in Game Two and then shared the spoils all the way to Game Seven where a 2-1 victory was enough to see them advance. Next up the Lightning had to face off against the best team from the regular season in the Florida Panthers. After coming through in seven against the second seed it would be fair to assume that the Lightning might struggle against the top seeds, but you would be wrong. The Championship mentality shone through as the Lightning swept the Panthers 4-0 and rolled into the Eastern Conference Finals.

New York sent the Rangers to try and stop the Lightning and advance to compete for the Stanley Cup. After beating the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Carolina Hurricanes, the Rangers jumped out to a 2-0 start against the Lightning. That would be the last game the Lightning dropped on route to the Finals. 3-2, -1, 3-1, and 2-1 in the following four games saw the third-seeded Lightning advance for the chance to win a third straight Stanley Cup.

This is shaping up to be quite the offence-filled Stanley Cup Finals. Colorado average 4.6 goals per game and has scored at least five goals in seven games throughout the playoffs. Points and goals have been flying in and Cale Makar and Nathan MacKinnon have certainly been making the most of it. This brings us to our first bet for the series.

In Game One offer 4/1 on Cale Makar getting over 0.5 goals and over 0.5 assists. The rate at which the Avalanche score goals this could be secured by the end of the first third. Throw in Nathan MacKinnon at over 0.5 goals for 13/10 and you will be off to a great start.

But don’t count out the Lightning. Let’s not forget that they will be used to the pressure and the bright light shining from the largest trophy in sports. The Avalanche are playing in their first finals since 2001, Tampa Bay basically lives in the finals. Yes, the Avalanche have been piling in the goals but the Lightning is more than capable themselves. Nikita Kucherov leads the way with 23 points while Steven Stamkos has the lead with nine goals. Tampa Bay has the experience and the firepower to keep up with the avalanche and for that reason, my favourite bet for Game One comes from the Lightning.

Best Tips

BetVictor are offering 9/2 odds on the Lightning winning Game One and going on to secure their third Stanley Cup. At 12/1 you can get Nikita Kucherov and Cae Makar to both have over 4.5 shots in Game One. Both teams are going to come out flying in Game One as they hope to get their campaign off to a great start. Unfortunately for the Avalanche, it doesn’t matter how good you are if you let the pressure get to you. Tampa Bay is used to this, they live for this, we are yet to see how the avalanche will cope with the pressure.

Tampa Bay has won the last two Stanley Cups by scores of 4-1 (against the Montreal Canadiens), and 4-2 (against the Dallas Stars). The Finals haven’t gone to a Game Seven since 2019 when the St Louis Blues beat the Boston Bruins 4-3. This year with the way the playoffs have gone it’s unlikely that we will see a Game Seven but you never know. It’s 12/5 that the series will in fact go the distance. For this to happen the Avalanche have to get out to an early lead and not let the Lightning sit back and defend a league. Something they are very good at doing.

Whatever happens it is sure to be a fascinating series with both teams looking to lift the enormously gigantic trophy. I wonder what the odds are on someone dropping it on the ice???

Odds are correct at the time of posting

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