Are the Stars Aligned?

By on September 19, 2020

            After a grueling month and a half in the bubble, the NHL is finally down to 2 teams. Starting tonight at 7:30, the Dallas Stars are going to take on the Tampa Bay Lightning in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals. Tampa Bay was always expected to be a front runner to make the finals, but Dallas has made an improbable run led by goaltender Anton Khudobin. Tampa on the other hand, has looked solid overall but Dallas is the more rested team coming into this series.

(PHOTO Reinhold Matay / USA TODAY Sports)

            For the Lightning, this is their second finals appearance in 5 years, while this is the Stars first appearance in the finals since 2000. Each team has won one Stanley Cup in their respective franchise history. This series should feature a mix of everything. It should be a fast paced yet physical series that will include some great goaltending and skill players on each side.

            According to betting odds, Dallas is an underdog to win the series but that is not going to faze them. They were fairly significant underdogs in their last two series which saw them knock off the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. To win this series, Dallas is going to need Khudobin to keep up his stellar play and they are going to need to continue to keep scoring like they are. So far this playoffs, Miro Heiskanen has been a monster on the blue line. He is leading the team with 22 playoff points while averaging over 25 minutes a game. If Dallas is able to contain the high scoring offense of the Lightning, they should be able to have low scoring games and have a chance to win.

TRAVIS FAILEY PHOTO

            The preseason favorite Tampa Bay Lightning have been looking like the team to beat all postseason. After beating the Blue Jackets early on, they quickly took care of the Bruins and then they just defeated the Islanders in 6 games. Tampa Bay has been led by Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov leads the team in playoff scoring with 26 points while Point is next with 25, but he played two less games. Hedman has been stellar all playoffs with 15 points but the most impressive thing is he is averaging almost 27 minutes of ice a game. Andrei Vasilevskiy has played well in goal and Tampa Bay should be in every game.

            Looking at the Conn Smyth picture, unless there are some drastic changes, I only see a total of 5 players who can win it. Those players are Miro Heiskanen, Anton Khudobin, Brayden Point, Victor Hedman, and Nikita Kucherov. If Dallas wins the series though, I would have to think I would go with Khudobin. Heiskanen has been phenomenal all postseason but Khudobin has been so good and has made big saves at the right time. For Tampa, those three players are really close. If they were to win the series, that would be tough decision to make. I do think Hedman has made the biggest impact for the team but a strong series from Point or Kucherov could see one of them lifting the trophy for the postseason most valuable player.

Victor Hedman (photo Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports)

            I expect this to be a low scoring series and the games to come down to key bounces. Tampa Bay has more talent on their roster, but Dallas has embraced the underdog role and they are playing with a tremendous amount of confidence right now. With a strong series from Khudobin, Dallas could end up lifting the cup. Tampa should play exceptional defense and their star players could take over the series. I think Dallas is playing too well right now and the puck luck has been their side and I am taking them to win the series.

Series Prediction: Dallas Stars in 7 games

Conn Smythe Prediction: Anton Khudobin

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