By Anthony Caruso III | Publisher
The Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lighting will play for the Stanley Cup. Both teams have beat the odds and the coronavirus pandemic to battle it out to have their names itch in history.
The Lightning are making their first appearance in the Stanley Cup since 2015. The Stars; however, are making their first appearance in the final round since 2000.
“It might be one of the hardest Cups to ever win,” Lightning head coach Jon Cooper said. “Whoever raises this Cup, they’ll have earned this one, I’ll tell you that.”
The Stars eliminated the Las Vegas Golden Knights to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals. The Lightning knocked out the New York Islanders from the playoffs to return to the final stanza of the season.
After the winning the Western Conference, the Stanley Cup odds for the Stars has been set at +150, according to Sports Betting Dime.
These two teams will do battle on the ice beginning on Saturday, Sept. 18th in the first game of the series. Then, over the next week, the teams will face off on Sept. 21st, Sept. 23rd, and Sept. 25th.
If necessary, the teams will then play Sept. 26th, Sept. 28th, and Sept. 30th.
The Lightning are playing for the Championship one season after they were considered one of the favorites for the Cup. Tampa Bay was eliminated by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first-round last season.
“It’s funny how the hockey gods work,” Cooper said after beating the Blue Jackets in the first round. “To go through what we did last year and get second-guessed on a lot of the things we did, go through the season and then have the pause, and everything that’s happened. Then, during reseeding and new rules, still end up playing the same team. It’s easy now to sit up here and say you wanted them, but it was good to get them and good to get this result.”
The Stars won both regular season games against the Lightning. The last meeting came on Jan. 27, 2020 when the Stars won 3-2 in overtime at American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
Then, on December 19, 2019, the Stars won again in a 4-3 overtime game at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida.
“I really feel like we have a really hungry team to make this happen,” Stars left winger Andrew Cogliano said of winning the Stanley Cup. “I think we’ve proven that over the course of the playoffs when we’ve been down in situations and when things haven’t gone our way, and from young guys to old guys and from the coaching staff, I think our whole organization really wants to, like I said, put everything we got out there for this last series.”
Denis Gurianov and Joe Pavelski lead the Stars with nine goals through 21 playoff games. Thirty four of the team’s playoff goals have come from Gurianov, Pavelski, Jamie Benn, and Alexander Radulov.
Anton Khudobin has saw the majority of the work in the playoffs. He has gone 12-6 in 18 playoff starts, while Ben Bishop is also 1-2 in the playoffs.
Khudobin has a 2.62 goals against average and a .920 save percentage. Bishop, on the other hand, has a 5.43 goals against average and a .844 save percentage.
“We’ve got a great team…probably one of the best teams, if not the best team I’ve played on,” Stars captain Jamie Benn said. “We just gel as a group. It’s fun in that locker room, and we’re going to try and keep this thing going.”
Brayden Point and Victor Hedman led the Lightning in the playoffs with nine goals each. Point has had nine goals in 17 games, while Hedman has had nine goals in 19 games.
Twenty six goals have been scored by Point, Hedman, and Ondřej Palát.
Tampa Bay netminder Andrei Vasilevskiy has gone 14-5 in 19 playoff starts. He has a 1.82 goals against average and a .931 save percentage.
“As for gas in the tank, I guess we’ll see,” Cooper said, after the Lightning lost in Game 5 in overtime, then defeated the Islanders to win the series in overtime in Game 6. “This is unlike any other Stanley Cup Final where we’d get days to rest, but if you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup Final. You’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game, but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”
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