It was never supposed to be easy and it likely won’t be in the Stanley Cup Final.

The Avalanche are facing their toughest task yet, appearing in their first final appearance since 2001. They’re set to take on the two-time defending Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, with Game 1 set for Wednesday at Ball Arena.

Listen to “Stanley Cup Final Preview” on Spreaker.

Colorado clinched its berth after a four-game sweep of Connor McDavid, Leon Draisaitl and the Edmonton Oilers. The Avalanche needed just 14 games to reach 12 wins — tying an NHL playoff record.

Tampa Bay clinched its third consecutive berth in the final following its six-game triumph over the New York Rangers. Like the Avs, the Lightning head into Game 1 after winning four straight games in the third round. The Lightning lost each of the first two contests at Madison Square Garden before winning the next four.

The two teams met twice in the regular season, with Colorado winning both times. The Avs defeated the Lighting 4-3 in a shootout at Amalie Arena in October before winning 3-2 at Ball Arena four months later.

Stanley Cup Final:
Game 1: Wednesday, June 15 — Lightning @ Avalanche, 6 p.m. MT
Game 2: Saturday, June 18 — Lightning @ Avalanche, 6 p.m. MT
Game 3: Monday, June 20 — Avalanche @ Lightning, 6 p.m. MT
Game 4: Wednesday, June 22 — Avalanche @ Lightning, 6 p.m. MT
Game 5: Friday, June 24 — Lightning @ Avalanche, 6 p.m. MT
Game 6: Sunday, June 26 — Avalanche @ Lightning, 6 p.m. MT
Game 7: Tuesday, June 28 — Lightning @ Avalanche, 6 p.m. MT

Aarif Deen is our Colorado Avalanche beat reporter. He covers Avs games live from Ball Arena and attends practices, media availabilities and other events pertaining to the Avs on the daily beat. He is also a co-host of Hockey Mountain High: Your go-to Avalanche Podcast. Deen joined Mile High Sports upon completion of his bachelor’s degree in journalism and master’s in business administration from the University of Michigan – Dearborn. Before Mile High Sports, Deen worked for the Michigan Wolverines Athletics Department as the assistant sports information director.

Follow him on Twitter @runwriteAarif

Listen to “Avalanche sweep Edmonton in Western Conference final” on Spreaker.