3. Dallas Stars vs. 2. Tampa Bay Lightning
It wasn’t a good start for Dallas in the Round Robin play of the playoffs. They struggled mightily to score goals and it was a bad sign going forward with their first round matchup being against the Calgary Flames. To the surprise of many they got a few breaks and got through them in 6 games. Then they outscored the Colorado Avalanche in the second round and soundly defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in 5 games to get to their third Stanley Cup Final as the Dallas Stars (previously Minnesota North Stars). G Anton Khudobin has been spectacular in net. His .920 save percentage is among the best for goaltenders who have played in at least 10 games in the playoffs. Jamie Benn, Alexander Radulov and Joe Pavelski have been constantly scoring throughout the playoffs and while Tyler Seguin has been quiet he is among the best at his position. Denis Gurianov has developed into a top tier sniper during this run. The defense in front of Khudobin has been the difference for the Stars. It starts with Miro Heiskanen and his team leading 22 points (5 G, 17 A). Expect Heiskanen to contend for the Conn Smythe trophy. John Klingberg is another great defender with 16 points (3 G, 13 A). Esa Lindell and Jamie Oleksiak have been great complements to pair with Heiskanen and Klingberg.
Simply put last year was a disaster for Tampa Bay and they exercised those demons with a rematch and ouster of Columbus in 5 games. Boston couldn’t keep up with them and were put aside in 5 games as well in the second round. The New York Islanders wouldn’t give up easily, but couldn’t keep score with the Lightning’s depth. While he didn’t need to be phenomenal, G Andrei Vasilevskiy has been with a 1.82 goals against average. His .931 save percentage to boot has him on a short list of Conn Smythe contenders. If Nikita Kucherov was on his game this was going to look too easy for Tampa Bay. So far he has 26 points (6 G, 20 A) and Brayden Point’s 25 points (9 G, 16 A) has taken the mantel left by Steven Stamkos who hasn’t played because of an injury. Victor Hedman is among the best defensemen in the league and having 9 goals so far in the playoffs is proving that to be correct. The Lightning’s two-way game has been the best among any team this season.
Players to Watch: D Miro Heiskanen and F Nikita Kucherov
Who Wins: Lightning in 6 games