Kuemper will start for Avalanche in Game 6 of Cup Final against Lightning

Kuemper will start for Avalanche in Game 6 of Cup Final against Lightning

Published June 26, 2022
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DENVER — Darcy Kuemper has gotten the Colorado Avalanche this far, and they’re confident the goalie can help them hoist the Stanley Cup for the first time in more than 20 years.

Kuemper will start against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final at Amalie Arena in Tampa on Sunday (8 p.m. ET; ABC, ESPN+, CBC, TVAS, SN) after making 26 saves in a 3-2 loss in Game 5 here Friday.

The Avalanche, who last won the Cup in 2001, lead the best-of-7 series 3-2 and have an 8-1 road record in these Stanley Cup Playoffs.

“He’s gotten us to this point,” Avalanche coach Jared Bednar said Saturday of Kuemper, who made 37 saves in a 3-2 overtime win in Game 4. “We’re in the Stanley Cup Final, we have a 3-2 series lead. You saw what he could do in the second game in Tampa.

“One sneaks through him last night (goal from Lightning defenseman Jan Rutta), we find a way to battle back and then we have a breakdown on the final goal. Margins for error are small at this time of the year, so everyone just has to get prepared to play their best game, but I would say our confidence level with Darcy is high. It has been all year and hasn’t really changed.”

Kuemper is 9-4 with a 2.68 goals-against average, .898 save percentage and one shutout in 15 playoff starts this season. He was 37-12-4 with a 2.54 GAA, .921 save percentage and five shutouts in 57 regular-season starts.

 

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Pavel Francouz is 6-0 with a 2.81 GAA, .906 save percentage and one shutout in seven games (four starts). He made 10 saves on 11 shots in relief of Kuemper in Game 3, his only appearance in the Final.

Kuemper wasn’t too ruffled by the Game 5 outcome.

“Yeah, they’re an experienced group,” he said of the Lightning after the game Friday. “Obviously, you know, they’ve had a lot of success. We knew this would be the toughest game of this series. And, you know, every game is going to get tougher. So, you know, we’ve just got to stick with it and keep playing our game.”

Kuemper’s teammates are impressed with how he has handled the ups and downs of the playoffs. After being pulled when he allowed five goals on 22 shots in a 6-2 loss in Game 3, he got past a tough start in Game 4 when his helmet was knocked off and Lightning forward Anthony Cirelli scored 36 seconds into the game. Kuemper saved the next 16 Lightning shots in the first period.

“He’s been very level-headed,” Avalanche defenseman Josh Manson said. “I think that’s what you need as a goalie. You’ve just got to be very level-headed and no matter what happens, you have to have confidence in yourself that you can play your game, and I know we have confidence in him as well, that he can come out and make the saves we need him to make.”

Andre Burakovsky traveled with the Avalanche to Tampa, and Bednar said it’s possible the forward will play in Game 6. Burakovsky has missed the past three games and is day to day after he left a 7-0 win in Game 2 on Saturday in the second period after being hit in the hand by a shot from Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.

Bednar said forwards J.T. Compher and Valeri Nichushkin were “checked out” health-wise following Game 5 and that he expects both to play.