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Stanley Cup Finals Game Six Preview For 9/28/2020
Sep 28, 2020 - 1:57 PM ET
Do the Stars have another miracle in the works, or did they just delay the inevitable?
Before we dive into our Game Six preview, we need to discuss how smart I am. The last time I wrote, I picked the Lightning to beat the Stars in a pretty interesting fashion. I said on Saturday, “I am picking the Bolts to win tonight’s game, but I do think this one goes into Overtime. It wouldn’t be a 2020 Tampa Bay Lightning playoff series without an overtime game… Lightning 5 – Stars 4.” Well folks, on Friday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning recorded a victory in Game Four of the Stanley Cup finals thanks to an overtime goal by Kevin Shattenkirk. The final score: 5-4. It was one of the best predictions I have made since I began writing for OddsUsa. It felt amazing to get the score and game exactly right. The fun didn’t stop there though. I was celebrating my father’s birthday on Saturday, so I was unable to write about how I believed the Stars would beat the Lightning in Game Five to force a Game Six. It’s easy for me to sit here and say that I thought the Stars were going to win because hindsight is 20-20. However, I did write on Reddit that the Stars would win the game Saturday after suffering their crushing overtime loss on Friday. In conclusion, I am on a real roll right now, which probably means I am going to screw up this pick. Either way, I’m just happy the 2020 NHL season isn’t over yet.
Game Five was historic for the Stars. In the third period, after going down 2-1, forward Joe Pavelski was able to score a goal with under seven minutes left in the game to help Dallas tie things up. As a result, Game Five went into double overtime. In the end, the Stars’ Corey Perry would tally a game-winning goal after more than 29 minutes of extra time to lift Dallas over the Bolts. Pavelski’s goal was important for many reasons. The biggest thing his goal did was keep the Stars’ season alive. However, Pavelski’s goal carried even greater historical significance. His score gave Joe Pavelski the record for the most career playoff goals by an NHL player born in the United States. His 61st postseason goal may have been the most important of his career since it gives Dallas a chance to fight another day.
I don’t want to take anything away from the Stars’ Game Five effort. They deserved to win that contest. They made plays when they needed to most and showed they wanted it more. However, I can’t help but feel the Lightning were not at their best on Saturday. The double-overtime victory for Dallas came less than 24 hours after the Bolts beat the Stars in overtime of Game Four. Both squads were clearly gassed on Saturday. Essentially, these teams played almost nine periods of hockey in a 24-hour timeframe. That’s nothing like the marathon five-overtime game the Lightning played in the first round, but you could still see both sides were exhausted. This worked to Dallas’ advantage. Tampa is a team that loves to play faster than you and shoot more than you, but by the end of Game Five, the Bolts were just worn out. This was perfectly exemplified by the fact that Lightning only registered five shots on goal in the second overtime period, which is far fewer than what they’re used to. I know that being tired is no excuse because the Stars were just as exhausted, but it does deeply impact a team like Tampa who is built on speed and fast-paced offense. I again want to emphasize that the Stars won Game Five because they were the better team and they wanted the victory more than Tampa. With that in mind, I think that will be the last game Dallas wins in the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals.
The goaltending has been stellar in this matchup. This fact may not be reflected in the box score of every game, but when you actually watch Andre Vasilevskiy and Anton Khudobin, you can see that these guys have been locked-in and laser-focused all series long. Both of these goalies have been able to contain two of the most explosive offensive hockey teams in the NHL. In just five games, Dobby and Vassy have combined for 277 saves on 307 shot attempts. Unfortunately for Dallas, of the 30 total goals that have been scored in the series, 16 have been scored by the Bolts while 14 have been scored by the Stars. Despite this small, two-goal differential, the Bolts still have a one-game lead in the series. Anton Khudobin has been phenomenal in the Stanley Cup Finals. In fact, Dobby made a kick-save on a redirected puck from Brayden Point during Game Five that would have ended the series. There is no question that the Stars have gotten this far because of Dobby. Still, I think Andrei Vasilevskiy is the better goalie right now, so in that department, I am giving Tampa the edge tonight.
This one is going to be decided by which team has the better first line. Tampa is sending out Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Nikita Kucherov. These three have been monsters in the 2020 postseason. They have combined for eight goals and 11 assists for a total of 19 points in this series. Those are ridiculous numbers. This point is further proven when you realize that Dallas’ top line has only recorded 11 points in the series. That +8 point differential has had a major effect on the series. I expect the Point-Palat-Kucherov line to play a huge role in tonight’s game if Tampa ends up winning. I would say that those guys need to combine for at least two or three points if the Bolts want to win this evening.
I have long believed that the Tampa Bay Lightning were destined to win the Stanley Cup. The Bolts are just doing it one year later than everybody expected them to do it. However, I would argue that Tampa does not win the Cup this year if they are not swept in the first round of last year’s playoff. Tampa needed to lose in 2019. They needed to face adversity and overcome it as a team to become mentally stronger. There was never a question about the talent in Tampa Bay. The worries about this squad came when the going got tough. After more than a year of waiting for their shot at redemption, they are right on the doorstep of greatness. They now just need one more win to erase their mistakes from the past year (or as I like to call it, “Pulling a Virginia Basketball”). That win comes tonight as the Bolts hoist the Stanley Cup Trophy for the second time in franchise history.