TAMPA, Fla. (AP) — Steven Stamkos, at 32 and wrapping up his 14th season, is no longer one of the NHL’s most prolific scorers or even the second- or third-best player on his own team.
The six-time All-Star and two-time “Rocket” Richard Trophy winner as the league’s leading goal scorer is the undisputed leader of the Tampa Bay Lightning, though, and one of the reasons the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions are four wins away from the first three-peat in 40 years.
Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final is Wednesday night, with the Lightning facing the Colorado Avalanche after defeating the Toronto Maple Leafs, Florida Panthers and New York Rangers to reach hockey’s biggest stage for the fourth time since 2015.
Stamkos has scored a team-leading nine goals in 17 games this postseason, including a pair in Tampa Bay’s 2-1 series-clinching victory over the Rangers in the Eastern Conference final.
“It’s not individuals. It’s great to score a couple goals in a huge game. … But if I didn’t score and we won I would have been just as happy,” the No. 1 overall pick from the 2008 NHL draft said.
Here are some facts as we head into Game 1 tonight in Denver
Tampa Bay Lightning (51-23-8, third in the Atlantic Division) vs. Colorado Avalanche (56-19-7, first in the Central Division)
Denver; Wednesday, 8 p.m. EDT
FANDUEL SPORTSBOOK LINE: Avalanche -158, Lightning +135; over/under is 6
STANLEY CUP FINAL: Avalanche host series opener
BOTTOM LINE: The Colorado Avalanche host the Tampa Bay Lightning to start the Stanley Cup Final. The teams meet Thursday for the third time this season. The Avalanche went 2-0 against the Lightning in the regular season. In their last regular season matchup on Feb. 10, the Avalanche won 3-2.
Colorado has a 56-19-7 record overall and a 31-5-3 record on its home ice. The Avalanche have gone 14-2-5 in games decided by a single goal.
Tampa Bay has a 22-14-2 record on the road and a 51-23-8 record overall. The Lightning serve 11 penalty minutes per game to rank second in the league.
TOP PERFORMERS: Nazem Kadri has 28 goals and 59 assists for the Avalanche. Nathan MacKinnon has six goals and six assists over the last 10 games
Victor Hedman has 20 goals and 66 assists for the Lightning. Steven Stamkos has seven goals and four assists over the last 10 games.
LAST 10 GAMES: Avalanche: 8-1-1, averaging 4.4 goals, 6.8 assists, 2.7 penalties and 5.4 penalty minutes while giving up three goals per game.
Lightning: 8-2-0, averaging 2.9 goals, 4.9 assists, four penalties and 8.8 penalty minutes while giving up 1.7 goals per game.
INJURIES: Avalanche: Ryan Murray: out (hand/wrist), Nazem Kadri: out (undisclosed), Samuel Girard: out for season (sternum).
Lightning: Brayden Point: out (leg).