|Record||Goaltender||GAA / SV%|
|Dallas Stars||12-6-0||Anton Khudobin||2.62 / .920|
|Tampa Bay Lightning||12-3-1||Andrei Vasilevskiy||1.82 / .931|
Five rounds of play and nearly two months later, the time has finally arrived for the two top teams in the NHL this postseason to play for the greatest trophy in sports; the Stanley Cup. The Dallas Stars, an unlikely opponent and widely accepted as the “underdog” in the West, eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in just five games. The Tampa Bay Lightning, after taking a three games to one lead, gave the Islanders a win in Game 5, but emerged victorious in overtime in Game 6. Both the Stars and the Lightning are fighting for a second Championship; The Stars won the Cup in 1998-99, and the Bolts in 2003-04.
It took three overtimes in five games to do it, but the underdog Dallas Stars eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights to snag the Western Conference. Dallas hasn’t lost in overtime yet this post-season, dating back to their earliest series against the Flames, and even in the three Round Robin matches prior to the First Round. Eliminating both the Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights spoiled a lot of folks’ playoff brackets, and in the process, stunned fans of all three teams. Dallas has allowed the 2nd fewest goals against (2.52 GAA), and goaltender Anton Khudobin has been a big reason why. Adoringly nicknamed ‘Dobby’, Khudobin has always sat second to starting goaltenders. After Ben Bishop had been deemed unfit to play for much of the playoffs, Khudobin was called upon to keep his team in the fight. And he delivered. Versus Vegas, Khudobin tallied one shutout (Game 1), and held the Golden Knights to just eight goals on 161 shots for a .950 save percentage (EPSN). Interestingly enough, the Stars actually had a (-) goal differential through 21 post-season games. Their power play was 4th best of all 24 teams that qualified for the playoffs, operating at 27.3% efficiency. Through three rounds of play, Dallas went 18 for 66 with the man-advantage (ESPN). They did however allow 14 power-play goals against and three short-handed goals.
Players to Watch
- Miro Heiskanen
Defenseman Miro Heiskanen tallied five goals and 17 assists for 22 points in 21 games played. He tallied just one point in five games vs Vegas, but put up two goals and seven assists in the series against Colorado.
2. Joel Kiviranta
Kiviranta has played just six games during the playoffs, but the young Finn has four goals, including one PPG. Joel made his NHL playoff debut in Game 7 versus the Avalanche where he tallied three goals, of which his third was the game-winning, series-clinching overtime goal. Kiviranta also scored the game-tying goal in Game 5 vs Vegas to force overtime.
3. Jamie Benn
Stars captain Jamie Benn has eight goals and 10 assists for 18 points in 21 games. His goal total includes three PPG’s and a short-handed goal. In his last three games, Benn has three goals, and registered 13 shots.
The Tampa Bay Lightning, after an embarrassing end to their 2018-19 season have all but redeemed themselves this time around. All that is left is to win the Stanley Cup. For what its worth, though, a number of players who will go unnamed touched the Prince of Wales Trophy, and we all know what that means… The Lightning offed the Islanders in six games, and held New York to just nine games on 141 shots for a save percentage of .936 (ESPN). In all but one game, Tampa allowed less than 30 shots on goal. They lost that game by a score of 3-5 (35 SOG). The Lightning has made it all the way to the Stanley Cup Final without the services of Steven Stamkos, who led his team with 10 power play goals during the regular season. Tampa’s power play was unable to break the 20% efficiency mark as they were able to convert on 10 of 56 opportunities. As a team, the Lightning served 235 penalty minutes, the most of all qualifying teams, for an average of 12.37 PIMs per game. Tampa was assessed seven major penalties, including six fighting majors. For Dallas, the team averaged 10.71 PIMs per game, but was assessed a combined 89 minor penalties, including 17 tripping minors, 13 holding minors, and 13 slashing minors. Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy dropped both games versus the Stars in the regular season, each loss coming in overtime. ‘Vasy’ allowed 3.37 goals against and tallied a save percentage of .873 in those games (ESPN).
Players to Watch:
- Nikita Kucherov
The Russian winger led his team in goals, assists, and points during the regular season (33 G, 52 A, 85 Pts). In 19 playoff games, Kucherov has six goals and 20 assists, and boasts a +/- of 15. Of those 20 assists, 19 came in winning games for Tampa.
2. Brayden Point
Point has nine goals, including two game winners, and boasts the best shot percentage on the team (16.7%). Point scored the 5OT winner vs Columbus and put up two goals and three assists for his five-point game in the 8-2 win in Game 1 vs the Islanders.
3. Victor Hedman
The Norris Trophy Finalist boasts a +19 rating, and put up three goals in the series against the Islanders. For a defenseman, Hedman is one of the most complete two-way players in the league. His 14.5% shot percentage is 3rd best on the Bolts, but he leads his team in ice-time, playing an average of 26:31 a night.
Game 1 between the Stars and the Lightning is set for 7:30pm EST on Saturday September 19th, and will be played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, AB, Canada.
Below is the schedule for the Stanley Cup Final series between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Saturday September 19, 2020 @ 7:30pm EST
Monday September 21, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
Wednesday September 23, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
Friday September 25, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
Saturday September 26, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
Monday September 28, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
Wednesday September 30, 2020 @ 8:00pm EST
ESPN.com. (2020). Andrei Vasilevskiy Stats, News, Videos, Highlights, Pictures, Bio. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/2976847/andrei-vasilevskiy.
ESPN.com. (2020). Anton Khudobin Stats, News, Videos, Highlights, Pictures, Bio. Retrieved from http://www.espn.com/nhl/player/_/id/3760/anton-khudobin.