It wouldn't be 2020 if we didn't have two southern teams battling it out for the Stanley Cup. That is great news though. It shows just how much the game of hockey has grown in the U.S. Today, I'm going to be giving a preview of the Cup Final, which player from each team to keep an eye on, betting odds, and predictions from a few of the House's members. Let's get started.
Tampa Bay Lightning
How They Got Here
The Tampa Bay Lightning have won their second Eastern Conference Championship in 5 years, and are seeking to bring Lord Stanley's Cup back to Tampa Bay for the first time since 2004. The Lightning have been in this position before, with a lot of the same team composition. After losing the 2015 Stanley Cup to the Chicago Blackhawks 4 games to 2, the Lightning have underachieved in the postseason ever since. They lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins a year later in the ECF in 7 games, they completely missed the playoffs in 2017, they lost yet again in the 2018 ECF to the eventual Stanley Cup Champions Washington Capitals, and then they were the victims of possibly the biggest upset in Stanley Cup history in 2019 when they were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round.
After defeating the New York Islanders in 6 games in this year's Eastern Conference Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally have another chance at bringing home a championship. After so many years of coming so close, but ultimately pulling up short, they are returning to the promise land. If the Lightning do in fact win the Cup, it will be well deserved.
Tampa Bay's Player to Watch
Tampa Bay's player to watch in the Stanley Cup Final is Brayden Point. Plain and simple. He was outstanding in the Eastern Conference Final against New York. Even though he missed games 3 and 5, he still managed to finish the series with 7 points, (5 of them came in game 1 alone) 3 goals and 4 assists. Every game he played, the Lightning won. Every game he missed, they lost. Coincidence? Maybe not. The guy is a difference maker when he's on the ice.
Point was dealing with a nagging injury during the ECF, which caused him to miss two games. So the question is, will he be 100% for the Stanley Cup Final? On the off chance he does happen to miss a game or two, my backup player to watch is Victor Hedman. Tampa Bay will be without Captain Steven Stamkos for at least the beginning of the series. His timetable to return remains unclear.
How They Got Here
Unlike their Eastern opponents, the Dallas Stars have not experienced as much success as the Lightning have over the last five years. The Stars last Western Conference Championship was in 2000, when they were the defending Stanley Cup Champions after defeating the Buffalo Sabres in 1999 with the most controversial goal of all time. Brett Hull's triple overtime series clinching goal (and the championship) is still widely debated among hockey fans to this day. But we're not here for that argument, click on the link to learn more.
The Stars have only made the playoffs twice in the last five years, where they've only achieved minor success. In 2016, they were eliminated in the second round by the St. Louis Blues. They completely missed the playoffs in 2017 and 2018, and were once again eliminated in the second round in 2019 by St. Louis. But this year is different. While everyone once again predicted them to be bounced in the second round, they defeated the two-seed Colorado Avalanche in 7 games, and then blasted passed the one-seed Vegas Golden Knights in the WCF, eliminating Vegas in 5 games. I don't know a single soul (aside from Stars fans') who picked the Stars to be representing the West in the Stanley Cup Final. They are truly underdogs and are 100% deserving of being here. Anything can happen in playoff hockey.
Dallas' Player to Watch
My Dallas Stars player to watch has been the same since their series against Colorado; Twenty-one year old defenseman Miro Heiskanen. Not enough can be said about this kid. He leads the team in postseason points with 22, 17 assists, and is 5th on the team in goals with 5. When Heiskanen is on the ice, he always gives his team quality scoring chances from the blue line. Setting up his forwards to score is the name of his game, hence his team leading 17 assists.
Odds & Predictions
Naturally, the Tampa Bay Lightning come into the Stanley Cup Final as the favorite at a -215. The Stars boast a +185. Now, I'm not a betting guy. Never have been, probably never will be. I have no idea how to interpret the betting odds much further, so do with that info what you will.
We have a very close outcome amongst the House members, so here they are. Let us know who you agree with most in the comments below!
Will Tondo - Co-Host of the BBB Podcast, Editor-in-Chief of The Blog
Stars in 6
Why? Because Dallas didn't touch the Clarence S. Campbell Bowl, while Tampa was all over the Prince of Wales Trophy. (Cleary we're superstitious here)
Jake Zimmer - Co-Host of the BBB Podcast, In-house Sports Announcer
Lightning in 6
Why? Because are we really still not simps for McDonagh? Likely story.
Sam Basel - Basel's Gambling Garden
Lightning in 6
Why? Because his love of the Stars comes in the form of giving them two wins.
Ryan Densen - The Boston Beer Guy
Stars in 7
Why? Because "Lightning can suck a butt."
Eddy Szalan - The Philly Special
Lightning in 7
James Mas - Club Foot Jim, Resident Twitch Streamer
Stars in 7
Chris Hanold (myself) - The House's Hockey Analyst
Lightning in 6
Why? Because I want to see Ryan McDonagh and Kevin Shattenkirk - two former Rangers (McDonagh being a former Rangers Captain) - walk away with the Stanley Cup at some point in their career's. Is it too late for the Lightning to sign Lundqvist to a two week deal?
Congrats to Lightning and Stars fans all around the country and the world! The Stanley Cup Finals is the most magical time of the year for hockey fans, even more so if you have the pleasure of being able to see your team compete for it. Good luck to both teams! Game 1 kicks off tonight, September 19th at 7:30 PM on NBC.
Follow me on Twitter for all your Stanley Cup and other NHL related news updates. @NY_cth