Geek of the Week: Stanley Cup Preview

Scott Royce

2022-06-12

Following last night's 2-1 victory over the Rangers, the Tampa Bay Lightning have cemented their spot in the Stanley Cup Final for the third consecutive year. Their win over New York makes it 11 straight playoff series Tampa has reeled off in a row. And during that stretch, they've only lost back-to-back games once, and that was at the hands of the Rangers when they took the first two games of the conference final. We've seen the Lightning make some pretty incredible offensive teams look ordinary on their current run, but Colorado seems like their most daunting opponent by far. 

Heading into this final series, I'd like to highlight a few players that I think are key to the series, and additionally, players that could be worth considering for next year on your fantasy hockey team. Lots can happen between now and the fall, but it's always fun to analyze performances and try to predict trends. So without further ado, let's get to it!

Ondrej Palat

Palat isn't as flashy or as noticeable as the likes of Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, or Victor Hedman, but he has quietly been having himself a monster playoffs. Offensively, he is producing at just under a point per game with eight goals and eight assists for 16 points in 17 games thus far. He especially has come on like a bat out of hell during the series versus the Rangers, where he's put up eight points in six games. 

Not only has he been a catalyst for a decent amount of the team's offense, but he has also been a terror physically, dishing out 49 hits. The Lightning have become a real grindy and gritty team and have a reputation for being hard to play against, and guys like Palat are the exact reason why they are so tough to play against. He can beat you offensively, but he also isn't afraid to sacrifice himself to make a play. 

It will be interesting to see what happens with Palat after this playoff run. The 31-year-old Czech winger is in the final year of his contract which carries a $5.3 million cap hit. Would he be willing to take a bit of a discount to come back to Tampa for the final years of his career, or is he looking to get one final deal to make him some more money?  Palat has shown he is a pretty serviceable player when he is used in a top-six role and when he is healthy. The problem is that he has quite the extensive history of injuries, and he's also not getting any younger. Plus you have to keep in mind that this is three straight seasons where his team has gone the distance all the way to the Cup final. That's about 70 games that most players aren't playing in a three-year span, and that all adds up. 

Ross Colton

Oddly enough, I think Colton could be a huge contributor to why the Bolts might move on from the aforementioned Palat. Colton, along with Brandon Hagel, are both two young forwards who are under team control for next season at very affordable rates. And although Colton hasn't seen the scoresheet much in the Rangers series, he definitely made his impact in the prior series versus Florida and Toronto. He's netted five goals and added three assists so far this postseason. The duo of Colton and Nick Paul</