DENVER — Darcy Kuemper and Pavel Francouz are available, healthy and ready to play for the Colorado Avalanche against the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final at Ball Arena in Denver on Wednesday, although it is not known which goalie will start.
“Our guys are comfortable with our goaltending here as well,” Avalanche general manager Joe Sakic said Tuesday. “Both goalies can play. Darcy is 100 percent healthy now. He had a tough time with health for the one round, but he’s ready to go.
“We’re definitely confident in both goalies. They both won six games in the playoffs. Our guys are excited.”
Kuemper has started 10 games in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, going 6-2 with a 2.65 goals against average and an .897 save percentage. Francouz has started six games, winning each, with a 2.86 GAA and .906 save percentage.
Kuemper hasn’t played since he sustained an upper-body injury in the second period of Game 1 of the Western Conference Final against the Edmonton Oilers on May 31. Francouz came in relief and started the remaining three games of the four-game sweep of the Oilers. Kuemper was able to back up Francouz in Game 4.
“It was definitely disappointing,” Kuemper said of the injury. “I wanted to be out there. But at the same time, you’ve got to be in a position where you can help the team, and healthy enough where you can do that. It was good that I was able to get back quick and now I’m excited to move forward here.”
Colorado coach Jared Bednar called it a “tough decision” earlier this week when asked which goalie would start Game 1 (8 p.m. ET; ESPN+, ABC, CBC, SN, TVAS).
Kuemper said the goalies usually find out via text message the night before the game who is starting, and each said Tuesday morning that they did not yet know who would be in net for Game 1.
“It was super hard watching, but it made it a lot easier with how much success we were having,” Kuemper said. “‘Frankie’ came in and played unbelievable and obviously we were able to win four straight (against the Oilers). So that made it a little bit easier to be on the sideline, but I was still itching to be out there.”
During the regular season, Kuemper was 37-12-4 in 57 starts, with a 2.54 GAA and .921 save percentage; Francouz was 15-5-1 in 18 starts (21 games), with a 2.55 GAA and .916 save percentage.
Asked if he expected to return from his injury to be the No. 1 goalie, Kuemper said, “I wasn’t worried about that. I was just worried about practicing hard and being ready to go, whether I was playing or whether I was not. Just getting myself ready to go.”
Francouz didn’t anticipate being in this situation this postseason, but said he is ready when called upon.
“You never know what’s going to happen basically in life and in sports too,” Francouz said. “Coming to the playoffs, I didn’t really think [I was] going to play as much but that was kind of how it happened so quickly. It was great so far and I hope we still have the best in front of us.”
The Lightning enter the Final with no controversy in net. Andrei Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy in 2018-19 as the top goalie in the NHL, has played every minute of their 65 games the past three postseasons, which includes back-to-back Cup titles.
“You can’t really worry who’s on the other end,” Kuemper said. “You’ve just got to go out there and play your game, make sure you’re playing well. Obviously he’s had a lot of success and a guy that everyone tries to measure themselves against. So a fun challenge.”