The NHL is set up for a great day of action on Saturday night as the Stanley Cup Final kicks off. The Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning will both look to earn a huge win as they eye hockey’s greatest trophy. Both teams have had phenomenal runs to the Stanley Cup so far, and I expect a great series. This game will drop the puck at around 7:30 PM Eastern time on NBC.
The Stars finished out the regular season with a record of 37-24-8. Dallas earned the third seed in the Western Conference through the round robin. The Stars then went on to eliminate the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and the Vegas Golden Knights. Now Dallas will look to earn a big win on Saturday night to take Game 1.
Tampa Bay earned a record of 43-21-6 throughout the regular season, which helped them finish in second place after the round robin. The Lightning faced the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and the New York Islanders to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. Tampa Bay will look to keep up this great run with a win on Saturday night.
These two teams have had great runs throughout their respective Conferences, which I think will lead to a great series. The Stars have had a couple more days off, which could be in their advantage coming into this one. Tampa Bay has played in back to back overtime games over the last four days, which could make them a bit tired. Look for both teams to come out quick though as they try and capitalize first.
The Stars and the Lightning met up twice throughout the regular season. The first game was in Tampa Bay on December 19. Ondrej Palat and Mikhail Sergachev both scored a goal and an assist, which was not enough for the Lightning. John Klingberg earned two assists, while Alexander Radulov and Tyler Seguin scored a goal and an assist. Anton Khudobin stopped 45 of 48 shots against him as the Stars won 4-3 in overtime.
The second meeting of the season series shifted to Dallas on January 27. Steven Stamkos scored twice, while Nikita Kucherov earned two assists. The Lightning still came up short though against the Stars. Jamie Benn scored twice, including a game winner in overtime. Ben Bishop turned away 23 of 25 shots as Dallas won 3-2 in overtime.
Dallas swept the season series with the Lightning this season, earning overtime wins in both of their meetings. This shows how great of a series this could be with two overtime games deciding it earlier in the season. Tampa Bay is coming off a tough six game series, while the Stars were able to eliminate the Golden Knights in five games.
The Stars have been really strong on special teams throughout this postseason. Dallas has capitalized on 27.3 percent of their power play chances throughout the playoffs. The Stars have also earned a penalty kill rate of 83.3 percent in the postseason. In their last series, the Stars went 3-12 on the power play and killed off 19-22 penalties against them.
Tampa Bay has also earned solid special team numbers throughout this playoff run. The Lightning have scored on 17.9 percent of their power paly opportunities. Tampa Bay has been able to kill off 83.6 percent of the penalties against them in the playoffs. In the Conference Finals, the Lightning scored on 4 of their 21 power play opportunities. Tampa Bay also killed off 2 of the 19 power plays against them.
Dallas has had the better special team unit throughout this playoff run, but the Stars also take more penalties. If the Lightning can draw some penalties against Dallas, it could flip the script and give Tampa Bay the edge. The Stars will need to stay disciplined in this series to avoid allowing the Lightning to get their power play going.
Anton Khudobin will get the nod in the crease for the Stars on Saturday night. Khudobin has put up a record of 12-6 throughout this postseason. He has posted a save percentage of .920 and a 2.62 GAA in this playoff run. Khudobin shut down the Golden Knights in the previous round and will look to bring that momentum into Game 1 of this series.
Andrei Vasilevskiy will get the start in the net for Tampa Bay in Game 1 of this series. Vasilevskiy has earned a record of 14-5 throughout this postseason run. He has put up a save percentage of .931 and a GAA of 1.82 in those games. Vasilevskiy is also coming off a strong series in which he was able to shut down New York throughout.
These two goalies have played well throughout the postseason, but more importantly are coming into the Stanley Cup Finals hot. Both goalies put up dominant series in the Conference Finals, which should bring some momentum into this series. Both teams will look to score on early as they try and take control of the pace of Game 1.
These two teams have put up strong postseason runs and will now battle it out for the Stanley Cup. Dallas has had a couple extra days off coming into this one, while the Lightning have played in back to back overtime games. I believe that this will give an edge to the Stars as they have some more energy coming into this one. If Dallas can find the back of the net early, I think it will lead to a big win in Game 1.
BetOnline has Tampa Bay listed as a -149 against the money line in this one. This implies that the Lightning will win this game around 59.8 percent of the time. I believe that this game should be much closer to even. The Stars have been a great team throughout this postseason, and I think that as big underdogs, they have a lot of value in Game 1.