By: Victor Herrera
Headline Graphic Credit: Darrell Owens-LMS Network
55 days. That is how long it has been since the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning has had contact with the outside world. Although it may seem like a long time to be away from your family and loved ones, it has allowed these teams to have a chance to make history and win the Stanley Cup. These teams have met twice earlier in the season. Both games resulted in an overtime win for the Stars.
This matchup between the Stars and Lightning will make history in the league. This will make for the first time that both teams are from the southern states in the U.S. Just a little over 9 months since making history with hosting the Winter Classic in the south. The Stars and the Lightning are showing how the hockey culture is expanding.
It has been since the year 2000 that the Dallas Stars have been in a Stanley Cup Final. It has been since 1999 that the Stars won the Stanley Cup. Although the stars do not have many veterans with Finals experience, this team continues to play with high energy and confidence. Miro Heiskanen a young defenseman leads this team with a total of 23 playoff points during the playoffs. The speed and explosiveness of Miro separate him from other players and helps create scoring chances for his team. The captain Jamie Benn has not had the best of seasons the past few years. Many questioned his ability to lead the team. However, Benn has turned things around tallying 18 points during the playoffs proving to be a strong leader. Anton Khudobin has been exactly what the Stars needed. He has been consistent and has remained healthy throughout the playoffs. For the Stars to have success, they must get ahead early and play with a fast tempo. By doing this it will force Tampa Bay to force more passes and shots which can lead to opportunities for this team. Pressuring the opposition is why the Stars have made it. It would cause the Vegas Golden Knight to seem unorganized throughout the series.
Tampa Bay has had the most recent history in the finals. The Lightning won the cup in 2004 against the Calgary Flames and lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in 2015. An advantage for the Lighting is having nine current players including captain Steven Stamkos and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy. Having these veterans who have the experience can help calm the nerves of the younger players. Nikita Kucherov leads all players in the NHL playoffs with a total of 26 points. Brayden Point Nikita’s teammate is in a close second with 25 points. A big strength of this Tampa Bay offense is their ability to score. They are consistently at top of the league for scoring and point totals. Having a highly productive offense can lead to an easy series win. However, when Andrei Vasilevskiy is great, he is unstoppable. The issue with Vasilevskiy is that he allows many easy goals for his opponents. This was the reason for such close games against the Islanders. For Tampa Bay to reclaim the Stanley Cup, they must score early and often, but more importantly, they cannot allow easy goals. Vasilevskiy must make stops when expected.
Although the Lightning may seem to be the stronger team given their results in the regular season and that they have the reigning MVP on their team. I believe the Dallas Stars will pull off the upset and win the Stanley Cup in 6 games. They will continue to rely on Khudobin as he is the hottest goalie in the league. I believe that Miro Heiskanen will win the Conn Smythe as he uses his speed to lead him to victory.