This was, perhaps, the matchup we were destined for all along: the dynasty-in-waiting against the current dynasty. The Avalanche enter well-rested and on a serious roll, having won 12 of their 14 postseason games thus far. The Lightning, despite earning a third-seed for the postseason, are gunning for their third straight Stanley Cup championship. No major professional sports team has three-peated since the Lakers from 2000-02, so it is quite impressive to see Tampa Bay in this position.
So who has the edge? The Lightning know about rust, having struggled early against the Rangers following a long layoff. Ultimately, the Bolts rallied to win four straight, which is what the Avalanche did against the Oilers in the Western Conference Finals. Colorado has barely broken a sweat this postseason, but showed some moxie when it was pushed a bit by the Blues in the second round.
Home-ice advantage has proved important to both teams, with the Avs losing just once in their home arena and the Lightning dropping just two games at Amalie Arena. My hunch is Colorado will keep rolling at home but struggle in Tampa. These teams are very evenly matched, with Tampa’s experience offsetting whatever talent edge Colorado may have. If you’re going to knock out a two-time defending champion, it’s going to take a maximum effort. Pick: Avalanche in 7.