Well, it appears I owe the Colorado Avalanche a mea culpa. Contrary to my prediction, they defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning in six games and hoisted the Stanley Cup as champions of the 2021-22 season. While I’m on the apology tour, I also owe a big one to Darcy Kuemper, but that’ll come later.
What a Stanley Cup Final. What a Stanley Cup Playoffs. The storylines, the overall entertainment, this year’s postseason was fantastic for hockey as a whole. This Weekly Lost & Found will be recapping the Cup Final, and it’s evident which team is “Lost” and which is “Found,” so we won’t wait to get into it. We’re diving right in.
Lost: Tampa Bay Lightning Fall Short of 3-Peat
The Lightning fought hard, but ultimately fell in six games to the Avalanche, just two wins short of the 3-peat. One of the biggest differences in the series was special teams. The Lightning scored on just 2-of-19 power plays, or 10.5%, while their penalty kill struggled and killed just 10-of-16 for 62.5%. They scored 15 goals in the series and allowed 20, so 30% of Avalanche goals came on the power play, and they even added a shorthanded goal.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was supposed to be the difference-maker, and he didn’t have as strong a series as he needed to. He finished with a .905 save percentage (SV%). It’s not what we’re accustomed to seeing from him, but it’s hard to place the blame solely on his shoulders. Everyone’s legs seemed to have run out after all the hockey they’ve played the past three seasons. That, coupled with injuries and the Avalanche speed, was too difficult to overcome.
Brayden Point only managed to get into two games this series due to injury. Despite averaging 17:20 time on ice, he managed a lone assist, though considering he was out for most of it, it’s hard to fault him. Nikita Kucherov tallied a goal and four points, while captain Steven Stamkos scored two goals and four points. They got on the scoresheet, and it’s likely Kucherov wasn’t playing at 100%, but the team could’ve used more from their big duo.
The Lightning really don’t have much to hang their heads about. They’ve been to four Stanley Cup Finals since the 2014-15 season and have won two. Not to mention two additional Eastern Conference Final (ECF) appearances where they ultimately fell short. It’ll be interesting to see what they decide to do in the offseason, but at this point, they probably need rest above all else.
Found: Colorado Avalanche Win First Stanley Cup in 21 Years
I was wrong. I didn’t think that Kuemper could lead the Avalanche to victories over Vasilevskiy and the Lightning in close, one-goal games, and what happened in Game 6? The Avalanche won a one-goal game, 2-1. Their 72 wins between the regular season and playoffs are tied for the most in NHL history, nine playoff road wins are second-most in NHL history, and their 10 comeback wins this postseason is also tied for the most in NHL history.
Here is my formal apology to Kuemper. The numbers may not be the prettiest. However, his .907 SV% and one shutout, not to mention the necessary four wins, all topped Vasilevskiy. He finished the postseason with a 10-3-1 record, 2.57 goals-against average (GAA), .902 SV%, and that shutout in 16 games. Pavel Francouz gets a shoutout, too, for going 6-0 in eight games, with a 2.81 GAA, a .906 SV%, and a shutout.
What a year for Cale Makar. He scored 28 goals and 86 points in 77 regular-season games to secure his first James Norris Trophy (likely of many) as the NHL’s top defenseman. How did he follow it up? With eight goals and 29 points in 20 games to win the Conn Smyth as the playoff’s most valuable player.
Nathan MacKinnon may have been more determined than ever to hoist the Cup, and it showed and paid off. After all, roughly a season ago, he addressed just how much he’d won to that point in his NHL career. He led the Avalanche with 13 goals this postseason and was third in scoring with 24 points in 20 games while holding a plus-11 rating. He added a goal and an assist in the deciding tilt, first a game-tying goal and then a game-winning primary assist. It gave him two goals and six points in the six-game series.
What a year for the Avalanche. They have a slew of unrestricted-free agents to deal with this offseason, but that’s a problem for another day. The team and their fans should take the necessary time to enjoy this achievement.
The Colorado Avalanche are your 2021-22 Stanley Cup champions. Thank you to our faithful viewers throughout the season. There may be one or two Weekly Lost & Founds before a break for the offseason, but for now, you know what to do. Check out the plethora of content from the incredible team at The Hockey Writers. Next up is the 2022 NHL Entry Draft, so read up on our FREE draft guide to get ready.