Stars, Lightning: Who will win the Stanley Cup?
The Dallas Stars are looking to win their first Stanley Cup since the 1999 season, and with Saturday’s 4-1 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning, they’re one step closer to ending that drought.
Both Tampa Bay and Dallas locked up one of the top four seeds in their respective conferences, so neither team had to participate in the qualifying rounds. They both would wait to see who their opponents would be in the first round.
The Lightning started off their postseason with a thrilling five-overtime victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets in their first game of this first-round series. This marathon victory, in what would be the fourth-longest game in NHL history, set up the Lightning for an easy 4-1 series victory of Columbus.
In the second round, Tampa Bay caught a lucky break when the opposing Boston Bruins had their star goaltender Tuukka Rask opt out of the season. The Bruins never recovered from this sudden change in goaltending, giving Tampa Bay an easy 4-1 series win and a spot in the Eastern Conference Finals.
In the Eastern Finals, the Lightning faced the underdog New York Islanders, the only team remaining from the qualifying rounds. The Islanders would prove to be the toughest matchup for Tampa Bay thus far, but they were able to win the series in game six when Anthony Cirelli scored the overtime winner.
The Stars had a different road to the Stanley Cup Finals. Many believed that their starting goaltender would be Ben Bishop, one of the best goaltenders in the league, but his struggles early on led the way for veteran Anton Khudobin to take over between the pipes.
Dallas had a tough first-round series against the Calgary Flames, falling behind by a game two separate times in the series. They soon picked up momentum and rallied back from a 2-1 series deficit to win three straight games.
In the second round, the Stars quickly went up 3-1 in the series against the heavily favored Colorado Avalanche. But Colorado stormed back to tie the series and send it to a decisive game seven. Undrafted rookie Joel Kiviranta scored three goals in the winner-take-all game, including the overtime deciding goal, to send Dallas into the Western Conference Finals.
The Western Finals failed to live up to the precedent set by Dallas’s first two series, as the Stars easily took care of business against the Vegas Golden Knights to send Dallas to their first Stanley Cup Finals appearance since 2000, where they lost to the New Jersey Devils.
Now, what can each team do in the Stanley Cup Finals to hoist the cup? The Lightning need to keep their offensive pressure that they’ve had all postseason, best demonstrated by their 8-2 win over the Islanders in the Eastern Conference Finals. With star players like Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Blake Coleman, Tampa Bay has been known for having many scoring chances during their playoff run.
The Dallas Stars, on the other hand, need to play more a defensive game and try to limit the number of shots that Khudobin sees. If Dallas plays well defensively, it gives them their best chance at winning it all. It will be hard for Dallas to score a lot of goals with their less talented core, so they need to limit Tampa Bay from scoring.
The 2020 Stanley Cup is still up for grabs, and it will definitely be an exciting series to conclude this unique NHL season.