It’s taken a four month break, a never before seen play in and round robin tournament, and two different bubbles in two different countries, but we have finally reached the pinnacle of the NHL Playoffs.
The puck will drop on game one of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals at 6:30 PM CST as the Tampa Bay Lightning do battle with the Dallas Stars.
This should be a fun match up with great emphasis on play between the pipes.
Admittedly, it’s not the match up I wanted. I was really looking forward to a Vegas vs Tampa Bay finals match up.
Of course, that did not happen as the Vegas offense hit a wall and only scored 8 goals across the span of 5 games against Dallas, despite averaging nearly 37 shots and 3.26 goals per game coming into the series.
Dallas has earned this spot though, as well as many hockey fans’ respect, and should be a worthy advisory to the Lightning.
With that being said, I favor the Lightning greatly in this series.
Lightning Look to Continue Playoff Domination
The Dallas Stars may be more rested in the short term, having not played since beating the Golden Knights on Monday September 14th, but the Lightning have had opportunities to rest throughout the playoffs.
They won their first two series in just 5 games each.
They have also heavily outshot their opponents all the way through the playoffs.
These teams are on opposite ends of the spectrum when it comes to shots on goal, which could likely prove to be a major factor in this particular Stanley Cup Finals.
In the Eastern Conference Finals the Lightning were able to outshoot their opponent by a total of 50, while in the Western Conference Finals the Stars were out shot by 43.
Stars Stanley Cup Hopes Ride on Shoulders of Khudobin
Anton Khudobin has been huge for this team.
The Stars back up goaltender has played phenomenally since taking over for Ben Bishop very early on in the playoffs.
Dallas will need him to be at his absolute best if they plan to come out on top of the Lightning, who happen to be the highest scoring team throughout all of the NHL Playoffs.
Khudobin started 30 games during the regular season while posting a .930 save% with a 2.22 GAA.
He’s been pretty good in the playoffs too.
Through 18 games he has posted a .920 save% and a GAA of 2.26
Opposing Goaltenders at Forefront of Conn Smythe Race
As I said in the beginning, this finals will come down to play between the pipes.
As good as Khudobin has been, he is going to need to be excellent when facing the Lightning.
Not because the Lightning score a lot. Not because of the shots on goal. It’s because he’s playing against Andrei Vasilevskiy.
The Tampa Bay netminder is the best in the league, and has been amazing throughout the playoffs. In 1315 minutes of playoff action, which is every minute the Lightning have played by the way, the 26 year old Russian stud has posted a line of .931 save% and just a 1.83 GAA while losing a mere 5 games in the entirety of the playoffs.
This comes as no surprise from the reigning Vezina Trophy winner who could very likely repeat again this season.
You know what you are going to get out of Vasilevskiy, and you know the offensive firepower the team in front of him posses.
Khudobin, on the other hand, is in the biggest spot of his career. He carries a ton of pressure to continue with the same type of performances that have allowed his team to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals in the first place.
If he finds a way to out play Vasilevskiy in these finals, and the Stars come out as Stanley Cup champions, I just don’t see anyone else who would be as deserving as Khudobin with regards to MVP.
Vasilevskiy doesn’t need to be or do anything more than what we have become accustomed to seeing from him, and he will likely cement his argument for the Conn Smythe as well.
Final Keys to the Series
Tampa Bay only had one key injury during their series against the Islanders. It was unfortunate for them it was their third leading scorer Brayden Point.
He missed two games, both of which the Lightning lost.
He has contributed an unbelievable 25 points in just 17 games, and helps his team all around, including 16 assists in these playoffs. He is also the current betting odds favorite to win the Conn Smythe.
TB hopes to have him healthy the entire series.
Dallas absolutely needs to avoid going to overtime against the Lightning.
The Lightning are astonishingly good in the OT period, going 5-1 in the playoffs so far.
Vasilevskiy is particularly impressive, and until game 5 of the Islanders series, he owned the NHL’s longest OT shut-out streak, which also happens to be the third longest of all time.
I know football is back and some people have fallen out of the other sports going on, but I urge you to watch this series! It will be good.
I think the Lightning will figure out a way to finish this series in six games, but If Dallas brings their best efforts every game, and is able to take game one, I wouldn’t be surprised to see a seven game series.
The Lightning are a very impressive team, as they are doing this all without their leader, who is also their best and highest paid player in Steven Stamkos. He is trying to come back from a lower body injury, with slight hopes to make it onto the ice at some point this series.
He has been ruled out for game one, but if the Lightning get him back (and even if they don’t) make sure you tune in.
This is going to be some good hockey.
Series Price/Stanley Cup Champion
- Barstool Sportsbook – TB (-182) / DAL (+160)
- DraftKings – TB (-182) / DAL (+160)
- FanDuel – TB (-195) / DAL (+155)
Game 1 Lines
- Barstool Sportsbook – TB (-162) / DAL (+132)
- DraftKings – TB (-157) / DAL (+135)
- FanDuel – TB (-165) / DAL (+140)