Stanley Cup Finals Preview

The+Lightning+and+Stars+will+face+off+in+the+Stanley+Cup+Final+starting+tonight.+%28Courtesy+of+Twitter%29

The Lightning and Stars will face off in the Stanley Cup Final starting tonight. (Courtesy of Twitter)

Chris Hennessy, Staff Writer

Seven weeks to the day after the bubble began in the qualifying round, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Dallas Stars will drop the puck in game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. One team, Dallas, was not supposed to be here. On the shoulders of a backup goalie, interim coach and goal scorers no one has ever heard of, they disposed of two of the West’s top teams in Colorado and Vegas to get here. Tampa, on the other hand, expected this, coming out with a vengeance after being swept last year. They have the best goalie, top line and defenseman in the league, have not lost two straight games all playoffs long and look like an unstoppable force. 

 

The Dallas Stars beat the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Western Conference Final, leaning on goalie Anton Khudobin and timely scoring to beat the heavily favored Vegas team. The Stars played a very defensively sound game, as we have come to expect from them throughout the playoffs. They have the star power to score some goals, but when the sticks of Benn, Radulov and Seguin go quiet, they have less talent to lean on than Tampa. That being said, Joel Kiviranta looks like a clutch playoff player with four goals in clinching games thus far despite only scoring one in 11 games this regular season. Those will be the keys for Dallas: another brilliant performance from ‘Dobby,’ big time goals from big time players and defensive shutdowns like they did to Vegas. 

Tampa Bay, on the other hand, won their series against the New York Islanders in six games. The two best players for Tampa all series long were goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy

and center Brayden Point. Vasilevskiy has proven time and time again to be the best goalie in the world.  The reigning Vezina trophy winner has posted a 1.82 GAA these playoffs coupled with a .931 SV%. He won 35 of his 52 starts in the regular season and has played every single game for the Lightning, the only goalie to do so in the playoffs. Brayden Point has been heralded for the past two seasons as the most underrated player in the league, and when he played in the Conference Finals, it was apparent why. His speed, vision and quick shots are only matched by an elite few in the league, and his presence was missed in the two games he was out due to injury. He missed games 3 and 5, the two the Islanders won, and put up six points in the four games he did play. Coach John Cooper said he was not 100% headed into game 6, but his 25:47 of ice time would beg to differ. 

This should be a fun series. I am in no way counting Dallas out, but I just do not see a way Tampa loses to any team four times in seven games. Dallas will win a few, but this is the Lightning’s cup to lose. 

My preseason pick was Tampa over San Jose (yikes) in six games with Victor Hedman winning the Conn Smythe. I’m going to stick with Tampa in 6, but the Conn Smythe is hard for me to pick this year. If Dallas wins, it will most likely be Khudobin or Benn, but anyone from Vasilevskiy or Point to Hedman or Kucherov could win for Tampa. If they do win the Cup, I’ll pick Brayden Point to win playoff MVP.