The 2021-22 NHL season wasn’t the greatest for the Arizona Coyotes. The ‘Yotes finished the season with a 25-50-7 record. The team is now looking forward while having the No. 3 overall pick in the upcoming NHL Entry Draft.
And adding insult to injury, one player who used to mind the net in the Valley is just four wins away from a Stanley Cup championship.
Colorado Avalanche goalie Darcy Kuemper has made it to the Stanley Cup Final in only his first year with his new team. He had been with the Coyotes the previous four seasons. It’s a remarkable change of fortune for Kuemper, who could become the key reason the Avalance win the franchise’s third Stanley Cup.
From the desert to the mountains
The Arizona Coyotes traded Kuemper to the Colorado Avalanche for a first-round pick, defenseman Conor Timmins and a conditional 2024 draft pick. And in his first year in Colorado, Kuemper was able to help the Avalanche reach the Stanley Cup Final after three straight years of being eliminated in the conference semifinals.
Kuemper helped lead Colorado to the best record in the Western Conference by winning 37 of his 57 starts, tied for the fourth-most in the league during the regular season. He finished fifth in save percentage (.921) and tied for fourth with five shutouts.
His high level of play has transferred into the postseason. Kuemper has started ten games in the 2022 Stanley Cup playoffs, winning 6 of them. However, Kuemper got hurt during Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers. He hasn’t played since. Pavel Francouz came into the game in relief, helping the Avalanch secure the four-game sweep.
Despite the injury, Kuemper is the presumed Game 1 starter for the Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Final against the defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning. However, it might have to wait until game-time before a starter is officially named. If Kuemper can play, Colorado just might be able to walk away as champions.
2022 Stanley Cup Finals Preview
This is a classic case of the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. The Colorado Avalanche have been a force from start to finish. They opened the season as the betting favorite to win the title. And that remains the case today. AZ Sportsbooks have the Avalanche favored to win the Stanley Cup with odds at .
Kuemper has been great all year. However, the “avalanche” that comes from Colorado’s offense is what really puts other teams away. The Avs have averaged 4.6 goals through the postseason.
Meanwhile, the Tampa Bay Lightning remain the immovable object that just won’t go away. The team enters as the winner of 11 straight playoff series and, more importantly, as back-to-back Stanley Cup champions. Some may argue they are already a dynasty. However, a third consecutive championship would undoubtedly cement that legacy.
The Lightning look to become the first team to win three straight Cups since the New York Islanders of the 1980s, who won four straight from 1980 to 1983. Despite their championship pedigree, Tampa Bay is a underdog to win the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay opened the season with the third-best odds to win it all.
As for the Conn Smythe Trophy, which is given to the MVP of the entire postseason, the race is relatively wide open. Colorado defenseman Cale Makar is the current favorite according to DraftKings Sportsbook at +180. His teammate Nathan MacKinnon is right behind him at +210. The next two are Tampa Bay players Nikita Kucherov and Andrei Vasilevskiy, both listed at +400.
If you’re looking to bet the Avalanche to win the Cup, it might be best to wait. If Tampa Bay wins one of the first two games on the road, better odds will be available on the Avalanche.
2022 Stanley Cup Finals – Game 1
Tampa Bay Lightning at Colorado Avalanche
Series tied 0-0
Date: Wednesday, June 15
Time: 5:00 p.m. MST
Location: Ball Arena – Denver, Colorado
TV Coverage: ABC