Here we are at the Stanley Cup Finals! Can you believe it? I mean just think about the incredible job the league did in pulling this feat off. No positive tests since they started Phase Three. Amazing.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars will face-off for the right to have their names engraved for eternity on the Stanley Cup. It is going to be a great series so let’s break it down.
Lightning vs Stars: Dallas breakdown
If anyone had Anton Khudobin as playoff MVP on their 2020 Bingo Card, you won! Even I wasn’t a believer until the West Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights erased all doubt. The 34 year-old career backup is playing way above his head right now. He’s has a solid .920 save percentage and a solid 2.62 GAA. While his numbers aren’t better than other goalies in these playoffs, he’s been clutch. For Dallas to win the Cup, he needs to steal games, and he can.
At forward, don’t look now but Jamie Benn (18 points in 21 games) seems to be really coming on as of late with 5 points in the West Finals. On the flip, Denis Gurianov has cooled off with only two points against the Golden Knights (17 points in 21 games). The real concern is Tyler Seguin who has been asleep offensively in the playoffs (8pts/20gm), picking up just one point in the last series. If the Stars want to win it all, they desperately need Seguin to wake up from his slumber.
Speaking of cooling down, Dallas’ leading scorer in the playoffs scored only one point against Vegas. Defenseman, Miro Heiskanen has 22 points in 21 contests to lead all Stars skaters, and they will need him to pick up the pace again. Good news is that top defenseman, John Klingberg notched 4 points in the West Final and is looking good now with 16 points in 20 contests.
My pick for the Dallas Stars X-Factor is Joe Pavelski. He is hungry and it shows whenever he takes the ice. He has 9 goals and 14 points in 21 games and I expect him to make some noise in this series.
Lightning vs Stars: Tampa Bay breakdown
The Tampa Bay Lightning are the team to beat in these playoffs, and they were the moment they eliminated the Boston Bruins. They are led by the best goalie in these playoffs, Andrei Vasilevskiy. What’s really scary is he’s getting harder to beat as the playoffs progress. He’s 14-5 in these playoffs with a ridiculous 1.82 GAA and a SV% that will crush the spirits of most shooters at .931! Of his 14 wins, 8 have come in OT, so he’s clutch too. He may win the Conn Smythe even if Tampa falls.
Up front, the Lightning’s best players just keep getting it done. They are led by the best offensive player in the postseason, Nikita Kucherov (26 pts / 19 games). Brayden Point appears to be healthy again and his 25 points in just 17 games will be a lot for Dallas to handle. Here’s another big problem for the Stars, Steven Stamkos has been ruled out for game one, but not the series. If he comes back, that alone will be an emotional boost for the entire lineup.
On the blue-line, Victor Hedman is flirting with the most goals ever scored by a defenseman in the playoffs. He currently has 9 goals and needs 3 more to take out Paul Coffey. The rest of the defense is just suffocating and can chip in offensively too. Ryan McDonagh may not have the points of Hedman, but makes a difference every time he takes the ice.
My pick for the Lightning X-Factor is Kevin Shattenkirk. Through 19 games he has just one goal and 9 points, but this is a redemption story. From being maligned by Barry Trotz in Washington and watching them win the Cup the following season. He then signed with his boyhood team the Rangers at a discount, to only be bought out. Now he’s playing for the Cup. I expect a big series, and maybe even the Cup winning goal for Shatty.
Lightning vs Stars: Predictions
The Dallas Stars have been the underdog in almost every series. Everyone has the Vegas Golden Knights taking them out, yet they persevered and did so with flying colors. They find themselves against a very heavily favored team, but one with more talent up front, and no goalie controversy. It’s going to be a daunting task for the Stars now.
On special teams the Dallas Stars have the advantage. If they are going to win this series, they need to get the Lightning to take penalties. The Stars PP is clicking at an unreal 27.3% and could be the Stars key to stealing the series, if Khudobin also does his part in goal.
Ultimately, in trying to do this preview I was looking for how the Stars could beat the Lightning. That’s pretty telling because everything I am seeing with my eyes and on paper screams Tampa Bay Lightning, Stanley Cup Champions.
Lightning in 6 games over the Stars
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