Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final Wednesday night at 6 p.m. mountain time at Ball Arena.
That much was determined tonight when the Lightning eliminated the New York Rangers in six games of the Eastern Conference finals. Game 1 will be Wednesday, Game 2 Saturday in Denver, then Games 3 and 4 in Tampa on Monday and Wednesday.
The Lightning, in case you’ve forgotten, are the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions. They have a great goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy, and that will be the Avs’ biggest challenge to win the Cup in my opinion. The Avs have been fortunate to face three pretty mediocre goalies so far in the playoffs (accounting for the injury to Jordan Binnington against St. Louis), but there is nothing mediocre about Vasilevskiy.
The Cup Final between the Avalanche and Lightning would have started in June 18 if the Rangers won tonight, but it’s the 15th now. Injured Avs players such as Nazem Kadri and Andrew Cogliano now have three fewer days of healing time for the broken bones in the right hand.
Darcy Kuemper is likely to be the starting goalie for the Avs in Game 1, but note the word “likely” and not “definite.”
The Avs will play in their third Stanley Cup Final since 1996. The Lightning will play in their fifth. Tampa Bay is 3-1 in the Cup Finals, the one loss coming to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. The Avs are 2-0 in Cup Final appearances.
All the games for the Avalanche and Lightning series will be broadcast on ESPN. The Avs have been off since June 6 after sweeping the Edmonton Oilers in the Western Conference finals. The Lightning is likely to fly into Denver on Monday to begin preparations for the series.