It’s always nice to get predictions right, including a perfect call on Tampa Bay in six. I don’t think anyone would have predicted Dallas in five, but here we are. Both series were excellent!
Congratulations to both teams on making it this far. This is what all teams strive for. No team wants to lose at this stage, but we all know only one team will be taking Lord Stanley back home. Let’s dive right into this matchup and pick a winner.
Tampa Bay Lightning Vs. Dallas Stars
Both teams deserve to be here. They’ve played some outstanding hockey since the beginning of the playoffs, and we will certainly be treated to an excellent final.
Let’s start with the Dallas Stars: a team that no one (including myself) thought could make it this far. They started the round robin tournament a mess, but each series, they just kept getting better, and that led to more goals. The play of Jamie Benn and Anton Khudobin is a big reason why this team is here.
Benn had himself a difficult season, but so far in the playoffs, the Stars captain has 18-points in 21- games. For Khudobin, he’s been nothing short of excellent. Ben Bishop wasn’t able to start these playoffs, so Khudobin stepped in, and hasn’t looked back. The veteran netminder has a 2.62 GAA and a .920 SV%, which is more than good enough, considering some of the competition he’s had to face to get to this point.
One player that’s really come out of nowhere is Miro Heiskanen. We knew this kid had the potential to be good, but we didn’t expect him to lead his team in points (22) and assists (17). I think it’s time we put Heiskanen in the playoff MVP conversation, because he’s earned that right with his game play.
For Tampa Bay, it’s been a steady display of excellent team play, and contributions from everyone in the lineup. It’s crazy to think that they’ve done all this without their captain, Steven Stamkos, who will not suit up for game one of the finals.
So who is winning the Stanley Cup this year?
The Lightning have the advantage in goal, that’s for sure. Andrei Vasilevskiy has been outstanding in goal– posting a 1.82 GAA and a .931 SV%. Those are some elite numbers. Critics will argue that the Lightning haven’t had to face any *real* competition in these playoffs, but Boston and Islander fans would beg to differ. Regardless, Vasilevskiy is elite, and he’s given his team a chance to win every game.
The question mark here is the health of Steven Stamkos, and more importantly, Brayden Point. It’s no secret that Point is banged up, but we don’t know just how serious those injuries are. He and Nikita Kucherov have been the leaders on this team, point wise, and it’s not even close. The two have combined for 51-point in the playoffs. Point has ten points more than the next player on the team (Victor Hedman with 15). If Point were to miss just one game, that could alter this series completely.
For Stamkos, we just don’t know when he’s going to be ready, and just how in shape he will be. He has skated in the last few days, but that doesn’t mean anything at this point. Dallas has escaped the injury bug *knock on wood* in the playoffs, and if that continues in the finals, they should have enough firepower to get past Tampa Bay.
This series won’t be a short one, and Vasilevskiy is talented enough to steal a game or two for his team. The Lightning do have depth, but they need their big boys in the lineup. The Stars have proven that they can score goals, a lot of them. Tampa Bay’s defence has been very good, but they haven’t faced a team like Dallas yet, and their biggest challenge is going to be to try and slow Benn, Pavelski and company down.
In the end, the status of Point and Stamkos will play a big part in this series. As of this moment, I can’t say I’m convinced that Stamkos will come back and be effective, which puts a lot of pressure on Kucherov and Point to perform. If Point can’t play through this mystery injury, it’s lights out for the Lightning. Dallas has the depth, the skill, and just enough goaltending to get it done. I expect the Stanley Cup to take a trip to Dallas before the end of the month.
Prediction: Dallas in 6