By: Patrick Nahhas
After a convoluted NHL season, the 2019-2020 campaign is ending with a matchup that not many would’ve predicted. The Dallas Stars are facing off against the Tampa Bay Lightning in the Stanley Cup Final. In terms of history, this will mark the Stars 5th appearance in the finals. They previously won once in 1999, and this is their first appearance since 2000. The Lightning have made the finals twice, including most recently in 2015, and won their sole title in 2004. It certainly isn’t your most traditional matchup in terms of historic NHL markets, but that’s what makes it all the more unique. Here is my prediction for the matchup.
On the season, the Lightning are 0-0-2 against the Stars. Both matchups went into extra time, which perhaps is an omen of an exciting series on the way. Following the restart reseeding tournament, the Stars ended as the 3 seed in the West and the Lightning as the 2 seed in the East. The Stars in the playoffs went 12-7, while the Lightning went 12-4. During the regular season, the Stars were an elite defensive team. They scored 180 goals, which put them at 28 out of 31 teams, but allowed just 177, making them the 2nd best defensive team in the league. The Lightning were the best scoring team in the NHL, scoring 245 goals during the season, and were the 9th best defensive team, allowing 195 goals.
It should be noted that during the playoffs, this script flipped. The Stars had 63 goals scored, making them the 2nd best scoring team in the playoffs. They allowed 64 however, putting them into the Stanley Cup Final having a negative goal differential. The Lightning scored 60, making them the 3rd best scoring team. They allowed just 42, making them the team in the playoffs with the 2nd best goal differential of +18.
Usually, I would take regular season stats and matchups into greater consideration. However, it’s hard to do so with the break the season witnessed and how much the stats and strengths of the teams changed. The Stars did face tougher competition to get to the finals, beating the 6, 2, & 1 seeds, compared to the Lightning facing the 7, 4, and 6 seeds. I still believe though, as the playoff stats show, the Lightning are the more complete team.
I am taking the Lightning in 6. The Stars will certainly put up a fight as they have all playoffs. In terms of depth though (as the Lightning showed they have, playing the entire playoffs without Steven Stamkos), the Lightning are the more complete team. They are seeking vengeance after last season’s first-round embarrassment. I believe they will achieve the ultimate prize by the end of this extended NHL season.
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