The Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup Finals for the first time 2015.
The Lightning, favorites to win the cup at the beginning of the season will have their work cut out for them though as they will play a determined Dallas Stars team.
The Stars have overcome a lot of adversity in this playoff run. Coming back from numerous two and three-goal deficits to win playoff games.
Down three games to win and on the brink of extinction, only to rise from the ashes and beat the Colorado Avalanche in a seventh game to win a series and move on.
The Lightning are 14-5 in the playoffs. They were 2-1 during the qualifying round, beat Columbus four games to one, Boston four games to one, and the New York Islanders four games to two.
Dallas is 13-8 in the playoffs. The Stars went 1-2 in the qualifying round, beat Calgary four games to two, Colorado four games to three, and beat Vegas four games to one in the Western Conference finals.
The teams met twice during the regular season with the Dallas Stars winning both games by scores of 3-2 and 4-3.
The Stars were one of the best defensive teams in the league during the regular season allowing 2.33 goals a game. But that has gone up in the playoffs as the stars are giving up 2.49 goals a game.
The Lightning has only gotten better defensively as the playoffs have gone on. The Lightning gave up 2.46 goals a game during the regular season. The Lightning has cut that way back in the playoffs giving up 1.66 goals a game.
In nine of the 19 playoff games, the Lightning has given up just one goal.
The Lightning defense is led by Norris Trophy nominee and Conn Smith candidate Victor Hedman who has been outstanding. Hedman is third on the team in scoring 15 points. Nine goals and six assists.
The Lightning has also gotten contributions from everyone up and down the blue line. Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh, Zach Bogosian, and Eric Cernak have all impacted games with their play.
Luke Schenn who has played sparingly, in the minutes he has played have been impactful.
The Lightning will need to contain the top three offensive players on the Stars. Jamie Benn has 18 points, while Joe Pavelski and Dennis Gurianov have nine goals each.
The Stars have also gotten contributions from the second and third lines, but you have to focus on the top scorers to give yourself a chance to win.
The Stars blue line corp of John Klingberg, Esa Lindell, Miro Heiskanen, and Jamie Oleksiak will have their work cut out for them containing the Lightning high powered offense.
Nikita Kucherov, Braydon Point, and Ondrej Palat have given teams fits throughout this postseason.
Kucherov leads all scorers with 26 points. He has scored a point in 14 postseason games. Point, has 25 points (nine goals, 16 assists) in 17 games.
The Stars defensively play a style similar to Columbus and the Islanders as they will try to keep the play on the perimeter and not let the Lightning set up in the middle of the ice.
The Lightning has figured out how to solve that dilemma as they have an average of over 30 shots on goal per game in the postseason.
The Stars have taken a lot of penalties in the playoffs and special teams play will be extremely important in this series.
The Stars power play is clicking at 27.3 percent in the playoffs scoring 18 power-play goals.
The Lightning are converting at 17.9 percent. The Bolts will need to stay out of the penalty box to slow down the Stars special teams.
Both teams have been very good on the penalty kill. The Stars PK is at 83.3 percent, while the Lightning are killing off penalties at 83.6 percent.
This may come down to the play of the goalies. I’ll take my chances with Andrei Vasilevskiy over Anton Khudobin.
Vasilevskiy has been sensational this entire playoff run and is also a strong candidate for the Conn Smythe
Vasilevskiy is 14-5 with a 1.87 Goals against average and .930 save percentage.
Khudobin is 12-6 with a 2.62 goals-against average and .920 save percentage.
Ben Bishop who started the season as the starter will be the backup in the cup final. Bishop when given the opportunity has not been sharp. He is 1-2 with a 5.43 goals-against average in the playoffs.
This will be an entertaining Stanley Cup final.
The Lightning are still playing with that chip on their shoulder after last year’s first-round upset and won’t be satisfied until they lift the cup.
The Stars have come together at just the right time. They have beaten two of the favorites from the West to get to the final. They have beaten the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights.
- The Lightning will finally quite the critics as they will win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history beating the Dallas Stars in seven games.