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Avalanche hero Valeri Nichushkin could be the best $850,000 Joe Sakic has ever spent. During the first game of the Stanley Cup Finals, he reminded everyone why.

But a $850,000 salary cap tip given three summers ago by Avalanche general manager Valeri Nichushkin, a deal that has aged like the finest wines. "You know, I think about it (sometimes)," Nichushkin, the two-way forward - whose kissing court for Andrew Burakovsky in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals... (Author: Gardener)

Valeri NichushkinDENVER, CO - JUNE 15: Jan Rutta (44) of the Tampa Bay Lightning defends Valeri Nichushkin (13) of the Colorado Avalanche during the second period on Wednesday June 15, 2022. Picking a favorite steal from Joe Sakic is when one would have to pick a favorite child. But a $850,000 salary cap tip given three summers ago by Avalanche general manager Valeri Nichushkin, a deal that has aged like the finest wines. "You know, I think about that (sometimes)," reflected Nichushkin, the two-way forward - whose kissing court set up Burakovsky's game-winning laser for Andrew Burakovsky in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals - earlier this week. Feels good, y'know?” Avs 4, Lightning 3. “He was great,” defenseman Bo Byram said of his Russia teammate, who scored and assisted in Game 1 with six team-high shots. "[Nichushkin] is a playoff player." On the NHL's deepest list, the 27-year-old winger keeps finding ways to stand out — and it's not just because he's 6-foot-4 in flip-flops. Once the Stanley Cup turns on that spotlight, there's nowhere to hide. The moment finds you. Only Nathan MacKinnon (11 goals), Gabe Landeskog (nine) and Artturi Lehkonen (seven) have lit the lamp more times in this playoff run than the No. 13 with six goals. The Peanut Gallery on Twitter will tell you that any schmo would look salty on a line that also has MacKinnon and Landeskog alongside it. But coach Jared Bednar's move to keep Nichushkin as the right wing of this top flight has seen aces on at least two fronts of late. For one thing, moving Mikko Rantanen to the second line of Avs gave the latter more firepower. While Rantanen and center Nazem Kadri forged a relationship that seemed almost telepathic at times, Nichushkin has improved nearly every combination he's been involved with on the ice over the past six weeks. "He's a huge X-Factor," Bednar said of Nichushkin after Game 1. "He's been doing things (like that) for us for a couple of years now. (What) an incredible season he's had so far. He was a difference maker for us almost every night.” Big Val has always had the physical attributes – size, speed, vision, defensive ability, soft hands – to turn the script around in a snap. Even for the two-time defending champion of the Stanley Cup. He is tall. He's physically fit," Byram said of Nichushkin, who netted a career-high 25 goals in the regular season. "He was definitely one of our best players for the playoffs. Nichushkin, like Kadri, is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the end of that magic carpet ride. And like Kadri, it's hard to imagine the Avs dancing this far without him. "It was amazing," Nichuskin said of Avs fans. "I like to go for walks a lot. And when I go outside I feel like everyone knows me... it feels good.” It feels like home. A guy the Dallas Stars once left on the street like an old sofa has since proven to be a trusted, integral piece of furniture here. "(He) had some really good chances for himself." And set up a scoring chance for Burakowski. Of course, keeping Big Val in Burgundy will cost a lot more. Although after Wednesday it's hard to argue that it wouldn't be worth every penny.

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TV, live stream for Game 1 between Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning

The two-time defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning plays the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals. Here's what you should know about Game 1. (Author: Gardener)

Game 1Colorado Avalanche defenseman Cale Makar has a perfect way to gauge the Stanley Cup Finals game against the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Lightning are attempting to become the first NHL team to win three straight championships since the New York Islanders won four straight from 1980-83. From NFL games to college sports scores, all the top sports news you need to know every day. Here's everything you need to know for Game 1 of Wednesday's Avalanche-Lightning Stanley Cup Finals: Game 1 will be shown nationally at 8:00 p.m. on ABC. ET Wednesday from Denver's Ball Arena. Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals can be streamed live on ESPN.com and ESPN+. Streaming is also available on FuboTV. The Avalanche swept the Nashville Predators, defeated the St. Louis Blues in six games, and defeated the Edmonton Oilers. The Lightning got past the Toronto Maple Leafs (seven games), Florida Panthers (four games), and New York Rangers (six games). Defense Attorney Cale Makar, Avalanche: Wayne Gretzky compared him to Bobby Orr. Makar is an elite skater who is quarterbacks on the power play and is also solid defensively. He is a top contender for the Conn Smythe Trophy as playoff MVP. Forward Brayden Point, Lightning: He missed 10 games with a lower body injury but was a full participant in Tuesday's practice, including on the third row and the top power play session. He has led the league in playoff goals for the past two seasons. When he plays, he gives the Lightning an advantage down the middle against an Avalanche team that is missing Nazem Kadri. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Stanley Cup Finals: TV, live stream for Game 1 between Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning

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Colorado Avalanche vs. Tampa Bay Lightning Stanley Cup Final Game 1 odds, tips and betting trends

The Colorado Avalanche hosts Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Watch the game Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC. Colorado claimed a 6-5 away win over the Edmonton O... (Author: Gardener)

ColoradoThe Colorado Avalanche hosts Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Watch the game Wednesday at 8:00 p.m. ET on ABC. Colorado clinched a 6-5 away win over the Edmonton Oilers in its last game on June 6th. Tampa Bay won its last game on June 11, 2-1 at home to the New York Rangers You must know about Wednesday's Stanley Cup Finals. Place your legal sports bets on this game or others in CO and NJ at Tipico Sportsbook. Colorado has won 67 of the 91 games it has played as a moneyline favorite this season. In 75 games with moneyline odds under -158 this season, the Avalanche have won 57 times. There is a 61.2% chance of Colorado winning this contest according to the moneyline. Colorado's games this season have gone over 6 goals 59 of 98 times. In the last 10 matches, the Avalanche have gone 8-1-1 and earned 85.0% of possible points. They have scored 31 goals in that span. Defensively, the Avalanche have conceded 17 goals (1.7 per game) in those 10 meetings. This season, the Lightning have 11 wins in the 22 games in which they have been an underdog. Tampa Bay is 2-1 if the odds makers have listed them as underdogs of +135 or more on the money line. Based on the money line for this matchup, odds makers have implied that the Lightning have a 42.6% chance of winning. Tampa Bay's games this season have gone over 6 goals on 55 of 106 chances. In their last 10 games, the Lightning have taken 80.0% of possible points with a 7-2-1 record. They have scored 37 goals in this phase. Defensively, the Lightning have given up 25 goals (2.5 per game) in those 10 meetings. Wednesday, June 15, 2022 Gannett can earn income from Tipico for viewer recommendations on betting services. Tipico has no control over, nor is such revenue in any way dependent on or connected to the newsrooms or reporting.

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Colorado Avalanche or Tampa Bay Lightning?

The Tampa Bay Lightning are looking to win their third straight Stanley Cup, but the Colorado Avalanche are standing in their way. USA TODAY staff make predictions. (Author: Gardener)

ColoradoTampa Bay Lightning captain Steven Stamkos thought his team would face the Colorado Avalanche at some point during their three straight runs to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avalanche has finally come through this season after several early eliminations and is looking forward to taking on Lightning. "To be the best you have to beat the best and these guys are defending back-to-back Stanley Cup champions so we're excited," said Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog. Although the Lightning have the advantage at the net with Andrei Vasilevskiy, each team has a Norris Trophy finalist, high score lines and plenty of depth. Colorado left wing Gabriel Landeskog takes a shot at Tampa Bay goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. USA TODAY Sports NHL staffers predict who will win the Stanley Cup Finals: Avalanche in seven: Everything tells me to pick the Blitz, especially with Vasilevskiy at the net and Brayden Point looking like he could play early in the series. But I can see this streak going a long way, which means Colorado's Nazem Kadri could return as well. I think the dynamic defender will make all the difference in a hard-fought series. Blitz in Six: I chose Tampa Bay over Colorado before the season started, so I feel compelled to stick with that choice now that they have the Stanley Cup with history at stake. The Avalanche are a fantastic team and have been knocking on the door for a while, but the Bolts have a crucial advantage at the net that will prove crucial if they secure the three-peat. Lightning in Six: The Lightning are a well-oiled machine and poised to win their third straight Stanley Cup, cementing them as one of the greatest NHL dynasties of all time. When it rolls, this Tampa team will be hard to stop, although the Avalanche will certainly do whatever it takes to stop them with their own brand of electro hockey. In the end, however, this Lightning team - backed by the best goalkeeper of our time, Vasilevskiy - will win in a tight, exciting series. This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Who will win the Stanley Cup: Colorado Avalanche or Tampa Bay Lightning?

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Andre Burakovsky plays the playoff hero again, scores the OT winner to lead Colorado Avalanche to Game 1 victory in the Stanley Cup Finals

(Author: Gardener)

Andre BurakovskyDENVER — Andre Burakovsky was like a kid on Christmas morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. Colorado's big winger scored the winner in overtime to lead the Avalanche 4-3 past the Tampa Bay Lightning and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Burakovsky is one of only two Colorado players, along with Darren Helm, to have won a trophy with the Washington Capitals back in 2018. "I was kind of nervous, had a little trouble sleeping last night," Burakovsky said. "I woke up at 6am and couldn't wait for the game. I feel like I've been there before and I know the situation and what's at stake." Gabriel Landeskog, who also scored in Colorado's win and was on the podium with Burakowski at the post-game press conference, couldn't help but gently mock his teammate's enthusiasm. "Just wait until you have kids," Landeskog said. Burakovsky knew before Game 1 he would have an expanded role for the cup final, playing 12:34 in a matchup packed with special teams. Nazem Kadri is still sidelined with a broken thumb sustained in the Western Conference Finals, the same series in which Burakovsky deflected a shot off his leg and missed Games 2 and 3. He was back for Game 4, replacing Kadri in Colorado's second line. Burakovsky said earlier this week that he hadn't felt anywhere near healthy until recently, but it bodes well for the upcoming series. It helped that Colorado had eight days off between beating the Edmonton Oilers in the conference finals on June 6 and Wednesday's puck drop. While the Avalanche beat Tampa Bay early and went 3-1 up after 20 minutes, the two-time defending champion hit back in the second period to equalize. The regulation ended in a 3-3 knot on the sides, and it took Burakowski under 90 seconds in that extra frame to finish the job. T.] Compher gets the puck through the neutral zone and wins fights,” he said. "And I was trying to get out as fast as I could, and then Val [Nichushkin] obviously put the puck back in and made a great game to me, it was up to me to shoot it." It was only Burakovsky's second goal of the postseason and his first since lighting the lamp in Game 4 of Colorado's first-round series against the Nashville Predators. Burakovsky's lack of production resulted in him being scratched for two games in the second round of the Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues. He overcame those adversities, as well as the recent injury, and coach Jared Bednar liked what he saw from Burakovsky in Wednesday's win across the board. "I thought he was really solid tonight," said Bednar. "He managed the puck really well. Was always above pucks. He's an excellent scorer and when he gets chances he can put the puck in the net. All-around game for him tonight. Burakovsky might not score much, but historically his post-season contributions are quite timely.When Washington was on his cup run, Burakovsky scored two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- also against Tampa Bay -- that secured the Capitals a ticket to the Finals.Now he's back become a playoff hero and took Colorado three wins away from winning the cup."It was kind of a crazy feeling," he said. "I'm just ready to be here in this final and help the team win a game , and it was definitely a nice feeling."

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Never doubt a sports entertainer

Road Rager showed Chris Jericho holding his hair against Ortiz, the Young Bucks won the tag titles in a ladder match, Christian Cage showed his true colors building for the Forbidden Door PPV. Break it up with us here. (Author: Gardener)

Road RagerAEW Dynamite (June 15, 2022) departed from Chaifetz Arena in St. Louis, MO. The Road Rager show featured Chris Jericho holding his hair against Ortiz, the Young Bucks won the tag titles in a ladder match, Christian Cage showed his true colors building for the Forbidden Door PPV. Catch up on all the Dynamite details with Claire Elizabeth's superb play-by-play. Just as Chris Jericho was leading people to believe he was going to be bald by the end of the night, he dabbled in his bag of tricks, snuck into the hype segment of the Forbidden Door Main Event and announced his own match for the PPV. This man is a sports entertainment genius. Jericho's first task was to face Ortiz in a hair-to-hair grudge match. The Jericho Appreciation Society and Eddie Kingston were at ringside. Ortiz immediately went on a rampage and ran towards Jericho. The wizard saw it coming and tried to finish quickly with a lionsault. Ortiz pulled his knees up and took control, brawling outside the ring. Jericho was back on the stretch with a painful suplex off the apron to the floor. Jericho took a break from the action to entertain, flexing his muscles and floofing his hair. The match was back and forth with big moves like Ortiz powerbombing Jericho off the turnbuckles and Jericho dodging a corkscrew to land a codebreaker. Le Champion was close to victory as he countered a hurricanrana into the walls of Jericho. Ortiz dramatically reached the ropes for the break. Cool Hand knocked Ortiz's hand off the rope so Kingston charged. Kingston slipped into the ring and surprised Jericho with a spinning backfist. Ortiz did the cover. no Jericho shocked the crowd with a kickout. This allowed Fuego del Sol to rush in and hit Ortiz with a baseball bat. Jericho made the easy pin to win. Afterwards, Fuego removed his mask to reveal himself as Sammy Guevara. Despite the harassment, Ortiz, a man of his word, paid off his debts by cutting his own hair. Kingston added that this feud is not over yet. This match was a lot of fun. Jericho and Ortiz had great in-ring chemistry to run smoothly with counterattacks and dramatic teasing. At first I thought it was actually Fuego del Sol and shrugged, thinking he'd been squeezed into a story where he wasn't needed. I was a bit disappointed that they took the cheap route to end the entertaining match. Then, when Sammy took off the mask, the moment grew into a grandeur of grandeur. He has the Inner Circle background to support Jericho. With Sammy banned from the TNT Championship image while Scorpio Sky holds the belt, this reunion gives him meaning and new enemies to feast on. Credit to AEW for listening to fans' reaction to Sammy and acting accordingly, rather than forcing him to babyface. Jon Moxley will wrestle Hiroshi Tanahashi for the AEW Interim World Championship on June 26th in the Forbidden Door Main Event. Of course, AEW had to hype the competition on TV with a face-to-face. Moxley spoke about big game hunting in NJPW for three years. Moxley considers himself the best professional wrestler in the world. However, Tanahashi will refer to Moxley as Ace after they fight. Moxley handed the microphone to Tanahashi. Just as Ace was about to speak, Jericho cut him off. Le Champion claimed Moxley was in his place. Chaos ensued as Jericho officially inducted Sammy and Tay Conti into the JAS, Lance Archer and Desperado (on loan from Minoru Suzuki) ambushed Moxley and Tanahashi, and Jericho's battle for the Forbidden Door. Jericho, Guevara and Suzuki will wrestle Eddie Kingston, Wheeler Yuta and Shota Umino in PPV. Kingston and Yuta ran to make the baby faces stand upright. AEW really needs to sell Tanahashi to those who don't know him like me. Nothing happened to Tanahashi to create the urgency to purchase the PPV. Jericho wasn't the only sports entertainer to make his mark on the show. The Young Bucks are two-time AEW tag champions. They used their brand of funky sports entertainment in a ranked match to dethrone Jurassic Express. In addition, Christian Cage betrayed his young steed to end the show. The main event had the kind of athleticism and bravado one would expect from the contestants. Jungle Boy hit a hurricanrana off the apron, sending Matt Jackson through a table. Nick Jackson powerbombed JB off the apron through a table. Nick then jumped at Luchasaurus for a Canadian destroyer and followed the dino through a table for a 450 splash. They stumbled over a ladder and crashed Luchasaurus through a tabletop pyramid. A BTE trigger flattened Jungle Boy and the Bucks climbed unabated to claim the tag titles. This match was intense. The pace never let up, yet they built up waves of action to end with wild spots. All four men exposed their bodies to the pain. I appreciate that the Bucks won of their own accord. It was the kind of win that increases her legacy in AEW. The Jacksons won convincingly, so there's no room for doubting their excellence. After the match, Christian assisted the medical staff in tending to Luchasaurus and Jungle Boy. When it was clear that the Dino Pal was unable to protect him, Christian made his move. Christian's awaited heel turn was executed like a true sports-entertainment pro. Never doubt sports entertainment veterans. Just as fans were about to sack Jericho, the Bucks and Christian, they both seized the moment to take the spotlight. Let's go through the rest of Dynamite. Wardlow defeated 20 men. Wardlow was booked for a 20-on-1 elimination handicap match against the guard he had physically abused over the weeks. AEW humorously hyped the competition with a People's Court intro-style vignette. Wardlow took care of business to dominate with powerbombs and create body piles for pinfalls. After the match, Dan Lambert cheated and sent former UFC champions Matt Hughes and Tyron Woodley into the ring. Wardlow praised the fighters as hard-working Midwesterners. This whole section was a lot of fun. It started badly with terrible communication about the game structure. The ring announcer announced eliminations for men falling off the apron, which made no sense. Once the match found its footing, as Wardlow bombarded everyone with powerbombs, it was easier to enjoy him and giggle at how he stacked bodies to pin five at a time. Will Ospreay defeated Dax Harwood. Highlights of this athletically robust affair include five straight German suplexes from Harwood plus another for good measure and a Springboard 450 splash from Ospreay. On the track, Ospreay and Harwood delivered heavy blows. Ospreay shifted into higher gear to win with a liger bomb, a springboard cutter, and a running elbow smash. Ospreay and Harwood exceeded expectations. Ospreay was the obvious winner but they put on such a show that I lost myself in the moment. Check out these Liger bomb spots. First by Harwood in the Slingshot style. Second by Ospreay with a clothesline. After the match, NJPW's United Empire came into the ring. Ospreay and Cassidy had a staredown that led to an IWGP United States Championship match at Forbidden Door. All-Atlantic Championship Qualifier: Miro def. Ethan Page. When Page clenched Miro's hands to pray to him, Miro fired. A couple of suplexes on Page, a punch on Lambert, and a thrust kick on Page set up the game over submission to win. decent game. I like that the story is incorporated into the promotional material. Page controlled much of the competition, then his ego took over. Toni Storm defeated Dr. Britt Baker DMD. Storm clipped a backstage promo about getting the women's division to where they should be as champions. In my view, Storm Thunder cast a lot of shade on Rosa without even mentioning her name. Storm and Baker threw it out. Reba and Jamie Hayter were working on their hijinks, so Thunder Rosa ran in to chase Hayter away. Storm was in control with a DDT in the ring and a DDT on the floor. After a crushing hip check in the corner, Baker appeared to have a concussion. escape storm. She smothered the Lockjaw submission for a German suplex and a spike piledriver to win. After that, Thunder Rosa came back to keep the women's title high. Thunder Against Storm was announced for the gold at Forbidden Door. This game's aggression suited the tone of their feud. Storm and Baker don't like each other and came out swinging. I've been critical of Baker's constant cheating to win, so I'll have to play it fair and commend her cheeky plan this time. Cheap 3v1 interference to win is boring and sucks the spirit out of the room like investing in the game is a waste of time. It's tricky, unpredictable, entertaining, and worth booing in a productive way. This tactic made it amusing to watch as Storm rallied and put Baker in her place. "Switchblade" Jay White is in charge. Hangman Page wanted Okada for the IWGP World Heavyweight Championship, but Okada lost the belt to White. He still wants a shot at that title. Adam Cole interrupted to stake his claim at the top of the line for Undisputed Elite against Bullet Club. This was a setup for White to attack Hangman with the Blade Runner. White explained that neither Hangman nor Cole were in charge. As a champion, Switchblade does this, and the match will not be against either of them. I have no idea what match AEW is headed for with these three, especially since White claims Okada won't be on Forbidden Door. I suppose Hangman and Cole will be involved somehow, but that would make White look like a chump for negating his shot. I have to thank Cole for his amusing confusion when being dissed by White. Notes: Darby Allin wrestles with Bobby Fish on Rampage. Dante Martin vs. Jon Moxley has been announced for Rampage. Fireballs aren't the only magic Jericho is capable of. The magician had his hands all over the show in an effective way. Match of the Night: Young Bucks vs. Jericho and Ortiz were in the sports-entertainment vein of mayhem overdone with the Sammy Guevara revelation. Will Ospreay and Dax Harwood provided the technical excellence. My pick is the Bucks and Jurassic Express for the excitement of the high spots in ranked play. Dynamite was lightning fast fun that delivered excitement in and out of the ring. AEW fell short on the Forbidden Door build. Unfortunately, as someone who doesn't follow NJPW, I still don't care about a lot of these PPV matches. Share your knowledge about Dynamite.

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Burakowski delivers again as Avs win cup opener

Andre Burakovsky was a playoff hero again on Wednesday night, scoring the overtime winner as the Avalanche defeated the Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. (Author: Gardener)

BurakowskiDENVER — Andre Burakovsky was like a kid on Christmas morning ahead of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on Wednesday. Colorado's big winger scored the winner in overtime to lead the Avalanche 4-3 past the Tampa Bay Lightning and take a 1-0 lead in the series. Burakovsky is one of only two Colorado players, along with Darren Helm, to have won a trophy with the Washington Capitals back in 2018. "I was kind of nervous, had a little trouble sleeping last night," Burakovsky said. "I woke up at 6am and couldn't wait for the game. I feel like I've been there before and I know the situation and what's at stake." Gabriel Landeskog, who also scored in Colorado's win and was on the podium with Burakowski at the post-game press conference, couldn't help but gently mock his teammate's enthusiasm. "Just wait until you have kids," Landeskog said. Burakovsky knew before Game 1 he would have an expanded role for the cup final, playing 12:34 in a matchup packed with special teams. Nazem Kadri is still sidelined with a broken thumb sustained in the Western Conference Finals, the same series in which Burakovsky deflected a shot off his leg and missed Games 2 and 3. He was back for Game 4, replacing Kadri in Colorado's second line. Burakovsky said earlier this week that he hadn't felt anywhere near healthy until recently, but it bodes well for the upcoming series. It helped that Colorado had eight days off between beating the Edmonton Oilers in the conference finals on June 6 and Wednesday's puck drop. While the Avalanche beat Tampa Bay early and went 3-1 up after 20 minutes, the two-time defending champion hit back in the second period to equalize. The regulation ended in a 3-3 knot on the sides, and it took Burakowski under 90 seconds in that extra frame to finish the job. T.] Compher gets the puck through the neutral zone and wins fights,” he said. "And I was trying to get out as fast as I could, and then Val [Nichushkin] obviously put the puck back in and made a great game to me, it was up to me to shoot it." It was only Burakovsky's second goal of the postseason and his first since lighting the lamp in Game 4 of Colorado's first-round series against the Nashville Predators. Burakovsky's lack of production resulted in him being scratched for two games in the second round of the Avalanche against the St. Louis Blues. He overcame those adversities, as well as the recent injury, and coach Jared Bednar liked what he saw from Burakovsky in Wednesday's win across the board. "I thought he was really solid tonight," said Bednar. "He managed the puck really well. Was always above pucks. He's an excellent scorer and when he gets chances he can put the puck in the net. All-around game for him tonight. Burakovsky might not score much, but historically his post-season contributions are quite timely.When Washington was on his cup run, Burakovsky scored two goals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals -- also against Tampa Bay -- that secured the Capitals a ticket to the Finals.Now he's back become a playoff hero and took Colorado three wins away from winning the cup."It was kind of a crazy feeling," he said. "I'm just ready to be here in this final and help the team win a game , and it was definitely a nice feeling."

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Colorado can create its own potential dynasty by finishing Tampa in the Stanley Cup Finals

With the amount of star power gathered in Colorado, this could be the start of something historic (Author: Gardener)

ColoradoIt's no secret that the Tampa Bay Lightning will be joining an elite corporation if they can win their third straight Stanley Cup. But what about the Colorado Avalanche? Could they also be the franchise on the cusp of something special in the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals? I think that's where the avalanche will go when the dust settles on the 2022 Stanley Cup Finals. This is one of the more balanced Stanley Cup Finals the hockey world has seen in quite some time. The Avalanche won both matchups against the Lightning during the regular season. Colorado came away with a 4-3 shootout win and a 3-2 win behind three-point performances from Nathan MacKinnon and Gabriel Landeskog. This is a group that has proven to be a juggernaut throughout the regular season and the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Since 1987, the Avalanche have become only the eighth team to suffer just two losses before the Stanley Cup Finals. The Avalanche also averaged a league-best 4.6 goals per game and tied for NHL goals (65). To this point, the Avalanche have faced two of the top five scorers in the postseason with the Oilers and the St. Louis Blues. While the Lightning have some dangerous scoring chances, this group isn't nearly as lethal, averaging just 3.1 goals per game. To lay the foundation for a potential dynasty, the Avalanche must defeat a Lightning team that has won 11 consecutive playoff series. If they do that, I have no doubt that Colorado can establish itself as the next great NHL dynasty. Just look at Colorado's deep, young core group of talent. Stars like Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen, Artturi Lehkonen and defender Cale Makar are all aged 26 or under. Additionally, here's a look at the Avalanche core group's current contract status: * Rantanen is in his third year on a six-year, $55 million contract and is suspended through the 2024-25 season. * Makar is in the first year of a six-year, $54 million contract and will be signed for the 2026-27 season * Landeskog is in the first year of an eight-year, $56 million contract and is suspended through the 2028-29 season * MacKinnon is in his sixth year on a seven-year, $44.1 million contract and may be an unrestricted free agent after the 2023-24 season. His 22 points and 17 assists are both the most by an Avalanche defenseman in a single postseason. The 25-year-old star also has the second most playoff points among defensemen in Colorado's turbulent history. Lehkonen is set to become a restricted free agent after the 2021-22 season. While it's not ideal for Colorado that Lehkonen can test the market, it's hard to imagine him wanting to escape from such a great situation. Eventually, MacKinnon is slated to become an unrestricted free agent after the 2022-23 campaign. Teams vying for the championship obviously have tough decisions to make when it comes to retaining elite personnel (like Tampa has for the past few seasons), but it's hard to see that the Avalanche isn't doing everything what it takes to keep MacKinnon in the prime of his career. With younger players like MacKinnon and Lehkonen competing for free agency, a third tough decision could involve Nazem Kadri, who is set to become a full free agent. Kadri has enjoyed a career season in which he posted a career-high 87 points (28 goals and 59 assists) and added 14 points (six goals and eight assists) during Colorado's playoff run. Although he has had a ton of success with the Avalanche, he will also turn 32 ahead of the 2022-23 season. With Kadri likely to command a pretty hefty salary in the free agent market, Colorado could just let him run, with the likes of MacKinnon and Lehkonen also set to compete for free agency next year. As you can see, the building blocks are already in place, but a Stanley Cup win over the Lightning would really get a potential dynasty rolling. If the Avalanche can financially keep this core group together, this dynasty is very likely.

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Colorado take a 1-0 lead after Burakovsky won the game in overtime

The Avalanche held off an impressive comeback from Tampa Bay to win 4-3 less than two minutes into overtime (Author: Gardener)

ColoradoIt took overtime, but the Colorado Avalanche lead 1-0 in the Stanley Cup Finals after a thrilling finish in Game 1. Andre Burakovsky played the hero for the Avalanche, netting the game winner and ending a strong performance by his team on home ice. The Avs came out with their hair on fire in the first half as they popped out to a 3-1 lead and heeled the Bolts. Tampa Bay, one of the most balanced teams in the NHL, hit back in the second half to level the game, scoring twice in just 48 seconds from Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev. Colorado thoroughly dominated the third period, but Andrei Vasilevskiy helped Tampa Bay escape regulation and get into overtime. However, the Lightning could not survive the Avs barrage much longer. After a poor turnover from Lightning defender Victor Hedman, Valeri Nichuskin gave Burakovsky a nice feed, and he ripped a shot into a gaping cage. Tampa Bay will try to even the series in Game 2, which is scheduled for 8:00 p.m. ET on Saturday night. The list of teams that can make the Lightning look like they're standing over their heads is very short. The Avalanche were clearly the better team in Game 1. No matter how you slice it, the Avs took it to back-to-back champions in the opening game. In five-on-five, Colorado scored 2.60 expected goals versus Tampa Bay's 1.05 per natural stat trick. The Avalanche also had the edge in the special teams. Meanwhile, the Avs' penalty-kill unit completely silenced a lethal Lightning Man advantage on all three occasions. The Lightning are a resilient team — you don't win two Stanley Cups in a row without that quality — but they'll need to put in a lot more effort in Game 2 to end that streak on the way back to Tampa. From the numbers above, as well as the total number of shots fired, one would think that Colorado drove Tampa Bay out of the building. Instead, the Avs needed overtime, and a jump the other way could have put them in a 1-0 hole to start that streak. Darcy Kuemper has had just 23 shots and conceded three goals in more than three hockey periods. Tampa Bay only managed 1.54 expected goals in all situations, meaning Kümper conceded 1.46 goals over expectations in that game alone. The leader in expected goals for the Avalanche in Game 1 wasn't Nathan MacKinnon, Mikko Rantanen or Cale Makar. Instead, it was Nichuskin who netted 0.74 expected goals, all of which happened at five against five. Part of the reason Avs are so deadly is because their depth is unmatched by any team in the league, and Nichuskin is a great example of that. He scored his sixth goal of the postseason when he fired a shot through Vasilevskiy's legs in the first half and he helped in the decisive goal by being quick-witted to pass a decent shot to give his teammate Burakovsky a one great. After falling flat in Colorado's second-round elimination a year ago, Nichuskin has upped his game this year, and that makes the Avalanche a much more dangerous roster.

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Andre Burakovsky buries the one-timer in OT to send Colorado to Game 1 victory

The Colorado Avalanche plays the Tampa Bay Lightning for Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals on June 15, 2022 in Denver. (Author: Gardener)

Andre BurakovskyAfter eight days of waiting, Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals between Colorado Avalanche and Tampa Bay Lightning is finally here. This story will be updated frequently throughout the game. Refresh to see our latest analysis. And it's over (9:08 p.m.): Your hero, Andre Burakovsky, goes into overtime with a one-timer for the 1:23 age group. Avs wins 4-3. Ryan O'Halloran: We're going into overtime. The teams drove to a goalless third period, but the Avs had a golden opportunity at the end of regulation time. Tampa Bay's Pat Maroon threw the puck over the glass to delay a 1:24 game penalty, but the Avs couldn't capitalize. Earlier in the period, the Avalanche scored another great penalty to tie the game. Mark Kiszla: We've waited 21 years for the Avs to return to the championship series, and it only took three periods to remind us why the NHL hosts the most electrifying and intense playoffs in sports. T. Compher with a nice greasy goal. Sean Keeler: Andrei Vasilevskiy looks like a polar bear in the crease, just a massive dude. Kuemper is sometimes more reminiscent of a shy sea lion. The Avs beat Tampa 11-5 in the third stanza for a nada. We Go OT (8:50 p.m.): And you thought you were going to bed at a decent hour tonight. A goalless third half that included penalties for both teams now goes into overtime - with the Avs on the power play for 36 seconds. Given the chances the first unit had at the end of the third period, they were able to end it early. For the third time that evening, the Avs penalty could also convince with PK specialist Logan O'Connor in the penalty area. Go Time (8:16 p.m.): Broncos offensive lineman Dalton Risner just had a beer on the jumbotron. The third period is upon us. Mark Kiszla: Are we blaming Avs goalie Darcy Kuemper for leaving the Lightning behind in this game? Maybe not. But the third period could be the biggest 20 minutes of his professional life. Sean Keeler: Jared Bednar has more faith in Darcy Kuemper than Avs fans do right now. As impressive as Colorado looked in that first period, the Lightning weathered the storm and got hold of a game that threatened to escape them. As this Rangers series has shown, the back-to-back champions don't lie down when their backs are against the boards. Vasi's refutation in the second period was impressive. But will Nathan MacKinnon or Cale Makar have the final say? Ryan O'Halloran: The Avalanche only had two shots on target in the first 10 minutes but still led 3-1. Instead of closing the door, the Avs left it open and Tampa Bay rushed through to level the game with two goals less than a minute apart. The first was sheer beauty from Tampa Bay winger Nikita Kucherov, who turned Devon Toews into a pretzel before feeding Ondrej Palat to goal. The second was just bad - a shot off the wrist by defender Mikhail Sergachev that Darcy Kuemper either didn't see or saw/snarled at. One of the Avs' only surges was late in the period, but Cale Makar made a rare mistake, dancing the puck near the blue line and eventually losing zone rather than tossing it back into the corner against a lined and tired player Blitz . Buckle up, Buttercup (7:43 p.m.): In less than two minutes of the second period, the Tampa Bay Lightning drew level. First it was Ondrej Palat to finish off a two-on-two rush (Ryan McDonagh and Nikita Kucherov assists), then it was Mikhail Sergachev from the blue line with a snipe that hit the post and leveled things to 3-all . Kucherov's stick work to set up the first goal was a thing of beauty. Time to reach for heart medication. Killing it (7:39pm): It's been a solid night for the Avs special teams so far. It's still 3-1 Avs with 8:29 in the second third. Avs Faithful is electrified in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals tonight. As the second period begins, Avs leads 3-1 over Tampa. pic.twitter.com/H1HH5OvBNN Two minutes, well worth it. Ol' Pat Maroon for Lightning got two minutes for being pushed from behind by Jack Johnson (who also got two). Sean Keeler: What rust? Cale Makar might have the inner track for Conn Smythe honors, but damn Artturi Lehkonen has been almost as solid for the past six to seven weeks. Mark Kiszla: Gabriel Landeskog. It is an international goalscoring convention for the Avs. Is It Too Soon For Tampa Bay To Draw Goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy? I'm asking about friends of Lightning trainer Jon Cooper. Ryan O'Halloran: Well, there was more action in that first period than the first five games combined in this horrible, unwatchable, horrible NBA Finals series that puts me to sleep. The Avalanche, coming off an extended break, buzzed early, killing a penalty and then scoring twice in under two minutes. And it was two soft goals that Andrei Vasilevskiy usually stops. Tampa Bay's goal to cut the Avs lead to 2-1 made defenseman Erik Johnson pay more attention to Lightning's throw-in - the puck landed behind him, allowing Nick Paul to score for Tampa Bay. In the 5v3, the Avs worked the puck well to finish with Arturri Lehkonen's powerplay marker to make it 3-1. @Avalanche @Rockies that's fun. Watching Avs in the Stanley Cup Finals. Then switch to Rockies in between! Make Them Pay (6:55): Colorado drew its first penalty of the series...then its second. And as is so often the case, the Avs conceded the two-man advantage. Artturi Lehkonen, who kept the puck on the ice for about a minute at Tampa Bay's end of the ice, proved his worth again with his seventh goal of the postseason when he ran over a Mikko Rantanen handball player. Gabe Landeskog also got an assist, which was the result of that good ol' powerplay brilliance we know from those Avs. OK, so it might not be THAT easy (6:45 p.m.). Nick Paul brought Tampa Bay onto the board when Victor Hedman found him on a breakaway - he scored a nifty goal that showed skill doesn't just lie on one side of the ice. Paul was able to mark Darcy Kuemper with a defender draped over him and wrap it around Kuemper's right side. Avs 2, Lightning 1... and we have 5:22 left in the first third. Brayden Point is playing in its first game since the first round of the Eastern Conference. also his name on the scoreboard with an assist at stake. The lights strike again (no, not these guys) (6:34 p.m.): The forecheck is working, my friends. After struggling to get the puck out of his zone for a long time, Tampa Bay finally splashed free to Valeri Nichuskin. After a clean look at the net, the big Russian fired a wrister that Vasilevskiy couldn't stop. 2-0, avg. Who has the goalie advantage again? Two goals in less than two minutes, with a successful penalty shoot-out to open the game. The Avs roll. Rantanen Scores (6:32): After killing a penalty relatively easily, the Avs came onto the board first, with Mikko Rantanen firing a wrister from the left circle that Andrei Vasilevskiy failed to catch. It's likely the puck would have gone in on its own, but Gabe Landeskog was there to tap it in. 1-0 avs. The Avs hit the ice. The ball arena is buzzing. pic.twitter.com/GO8zy1J4Bo "I NEED TICKETS" sign next to the deck at Brooklyn's around 4:35 p.m.: "What's the entry fee?" Bearded guy: "$750 for the third deck. Hoping for something better.” (I'm not sure if he found it.) -Sean Keeler Mark Kiszla: Lightning 3, Avs 2. What's been said in hockey since the old days when the zamboni of horses was drawn? It's not really a series until the visiting team wins a game. Well, this is going to be a Heckuva series. Mike Chambers: Avalanche 4, Lightning 2. They'll fly and Nathan MacKinnon and co. will clearly overtake Tampa. But Colorado needs an empty goal to win 4-2. Sean Keeler: Avalanche 3, Lightning 2, OT. The Burgundy-n-Blue have won their previous three series openings by an average score of 6-3. Unfortunately, Vasilevskiy is warmed up and ready to go, so those Colorado goals are likely to be cut in half. Ryan O'Halloran: Lightning 4, Avalanche 2. Tampa Bay is on track after winning four straight games to finish off the New York Rangers after going 2-0 behind. Rust for the avalanche, I pick rust. The Lightning will use his rich Cup experience to take an early lead and win Game 1 on the Avalanche's home ice. Kyle Fredrickson: Avalanche 3, Lightning 2. Darcy Kuemper's rocky start is erased when Cale Makar scores the deciding goal in the third period. Strong performance (5:53 p.m.): Both the Avalanche and Lightning are on the ice warming up and goaltender Darcy Kuemper led the Avalanche out of their tunnel, signaling that he will start tonight. Kuemper will play for the first time since Game 1 of the Edmonton series. Winger Andre Burakovsky also completes the warm-up after being restricted in training this morning. Blitz center Brayden Point is on the ice, another sign he will be playing Toronto for the first time since Game 7 of the first round series. A steady stream of Avalanche fans poured through the doors of the Ball Arena about an hour before Game 1. Denver residents Clifford Swaim, 46, and Rich Streeter, 44, bought tickets on the secondary market at sky-high prices. "You can make more money," Swaim added. Mariah Cote, 27, is an Avalanche season ticket holder and recently relocated to North Dakota for work. But she still flew back to Denver to see her favorite team. Cote and a friend carried handwritten signs into the arena, including one that read: ALL HAIL CALE. "I had to come back for that fourth round," said Cote. "After the whole season, you just kind of feel like a part of the team." Pat Pacheco, 39, drove to Colorado Springs for Game 1. Pacheco beamed with pride in his Avalanche jersey. Pacheco said he's watched about 90 percent of the team's games on TV this season. "I'm so excited about this game," said Pacheco. "I think we're going to win 3-2 tonight." - Kyle Fredrickson Some of the media, including mine really, could only giggle as Bernie hitchhiked to the upper deck in preparation for Monday night's game. When asked for a prediction, Bernie declined to comment. TV Editions (5:36 p.m.): NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman made his second appearance in Colorado during the Avs' playoff run. And like the first time, he was asked about the dispute between Altitude TV and Comcast, which kept Avs games out of Metro Denver's largest cable provider for almost three years. "I think everyone knows, and it's not just my view, it's the view of the Avalanche and the Nuggets and all of their fans, that it's an incredibly unfortunate, troubling situation that the satellite and cable providers have basically decided not broadcast the game within Denver. MSG Network is not available in certain areas of the New York metropolitan area regarding carriage disputes. I think what you will see over time is a transformation and more streaming to potentially avoid dealing with satellite and cable broadcasts. And indeed, our new national offerings have a little bit of that in terms of the games we've moved to ESPN plus. So I think we're in an evolving industry -- both in terms of the health of Regionals and their coverage arrangements. But it is a pity. And the good news is, the more games the Avalanche play on national television, the more available they are.” — Mike Chambers and Matt Schubert Dressed to the nines (5:23 p.m.): Casual Wednesday here at the Ball Arena? No, it's the Stanley Cup Finals. time to get dressed. At least that's how the Avs see it. Russian lockout (4:40 p.m.): Both teams have Russians in their squad. One thing is certain: none of them will take home the Stanley Cup. Daly told the media at a pre-Game 1 press conference that the Stanley Cup would not be allowed to enter Russia. Buying a ticket for the Stanley Cup Finals? According to TicketIQ, the average ticket price for the finals in the secondary ticket market is $2,220, making it the most expensive full-capacity Stanley Cup Finals since the site started tracking the number. The average ticket price in Colorado is $2,572, while duplicate tickets in Tampa average $1,751. Dealing with Vasy (2:32 p.m.): Andrei Vasilevskiy is only human. The Tampa Bay Lightning's award-winning goalie lost twice in the regular season to the Avalanche. And Colorado intends to beat him four more times in the Stanley Cup finals. "They have a great goalie on this side who's accomplished a lot, but we also know that defense isn't just about goalies," Avs forward J.T. Compher said after skating Wednesday morning before Game 1 at the Ball Arena . Game 1 morning skates crooked in Lightning's direction (12:07 p.m.): Avalanche forward Nazem Kadri (right thumb) and Andrew Cogliano (right hand) didn't skate with the entire group. Afterward, coach Jared Bednar said both were "everyday" but would not extend their availability for Wednesday night or Game 2 on Saturday. Forward Andre Burakovsky, who missed several practice sessions and morning skates in the playoffs, left the ice with the No. 2 unit during power play practices Wednesday. T. Compher, who had to shed his white penalty jersey and wait for a claret jersey to match the four other boys in that color. Bednar said of Burakovsky and other struggling players like left winger Gabe Landeskog: "We expect all these guys to be able to go in Game 1". Bednar declined to name his starting goalie for Game 1 but Darcy Kuemper is expected to get the nod over Pavel Francouz. At the Lightning Morning Skate, Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper said star center Brayden Point — who was limited to seven postseason games because of a lower body injury — is expected to be in the Game 1 lineup. — Mike Chambers — Mike Chambers Nobody does it better than Denver. The best hockey in the country is played on a six-mile stretch of road between the barns that the Colorado Avalanche and DU Pioneers call home, in rinks where the mood is constantly lit like the lamp. Here in Denver, we are about to witness hockey history not seen anywhere in America since 1972. Imagine this: For the first time in 50 years, two hockey teams based in the same US city were able to win both the NHL and NCAA championships during the same season. — Mark Kiszla Read more about Mark Kiszla here. + Related: Don't look now, but Denver has become Hockeytown, USA. Gone are the days when top players wanted out because they viewed the Avalanche as an NHL outpost who would only grind and scrape for the postseason, but too many steps were taken from winning the Stanley Cup. Gone are the days when the Avalanche was not only the worst team in the NHL, but was 21 points behind the second-worst team and scored 112 goals less than their opponents. And gone is the era when the Avalanche as an organization was simply hoping to make a dent after the season, possibly win a round for equal parts delight (check out what we did!) and tease ( we're not really close, but let's trade like it!) a fandom. How things have changed for this Avalanche team, this general manager, this coach, and this core of homemade draft picks. From bottom in the league just five seasons ago to taking center stage in the hockey world on Wednesday when it hosts the two-time champion Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals, four wins away from glory. — Ryan O'Halloran — Ryan O'Halloran Read more from Ryan O'Halloran here. Avalanche General Manager Joe Sakic and his staff left no stone unturned in the year-long process that produced a lineup capable of reaching the Stanley Cup Finals. Whether it was through smart trades (here you look, Devon Toews), clever free-agent signings (hello, Valeri Nichushkin), or top-notch picks (Cale Makar at No. 4 has aged like fine wine), the Avs used each to their advantage Available tool for creating rosters. Mike Chambers takes a look at how it all came together.

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