The Dallas Stars had their eyes on the prize as the Stanley Cup was unveiled during the pre-game presentation of Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final against the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite being outshot 22-2 in the third period, the Stars held fast and closed out Game 1 with a 4-1 victory.
Game 2 will be played Monday night in Edmonton with puck drop scheduled for 8:00 PM EDT. Tampa Bay is a -150 favorite despite facing a 1-0 hole in the series.
Khudobin Stands Strong
Dallas stormed into the Finals after upsetting the Colorado Avalanche and top-seeded Golden Knights. The Stars have been powered by backup goaltender Anton Khudobin, who is starting in place of the injured Ben Bishop. Khudobin has started all but one game in the playoffs so far, posting a 13-6-0 record, paired with a .923 save percentage and a 2.54 GAA.
During the 2020 playoffs, Khudobin leads all NHL goaltenders in saves with 596; even more amazing is that on the other end of the ice, Andrei Vasilevskiy is 37 saves behind Khudobin despite playing almost 200 more minutes.
Joel Hanley opened the Game 1 scoring with his first NHL goal, walking into the slot and firing a shot past Vasilevskiy. Yanni Gourde answered for Tampa Bay to tie the game 1-1 off a rebound from Khudobin. Jamie Oleksiak and Joel Kirivanta each scored in the second to put the game out of reach, and an empty net goal by Jason Dickinson sealed the 4-1 win for the Stars.
Hanley’s goal made him the first player to have his first career NHL goal in the Stanley Cup Final since Bruce MacGregor of the Detroit Red Wings scored in Game 4 of the 1961 Final.
Dallas’ young guns have led the way lately, as 21-year-old Miro Heiskanen is a front-runner for the Conn Smythe, leading the Stars in points with five goals and 18 assists in 22 games. 23-year-old Denis Gurianov scored the overtime game-winner to eliminate Vegas. Kiviranta has three more playoff goals than Tyler Seguin, who led Dallas in points in the regular season. If the young guns keep it rolling, this series may be over sooner rather than later.
After being swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the 2019 playoffs, the Lightning were laser-focused on putting the historic collapse behind them and proving last season was a fluke. After eliminating Columbus and the Boston Bruins, each in five games, Tampa Bay needed an overtime win in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Finals to get by the New York Islanders.
Tampa Bay has led the NHL in regular season scoring in each of the past three years. With such a prolific offense, an elite goaltender in Vasilevskiy, and a defense group led by perennial Norris candidate Victor Hedman, the Lightning have been arguably the most well-rounded team in the league during that span.
However, the offense has disappeared in Tampa Bay’s past three games. The Lightning have scored four goals in their last 10+ periods of hockey (including double overtime in Game 5 and overtime in Game 6 against the Islanders). Two goals came from Hedman, one from Anthony Cirelli and one from Yanni Gourde. Nikita Kucherov and Brayden Point are Tampa Bay’s leading scorers in the 2020 playoffs, but have combined for two goals and five assists in the past six games.
In the third period, only four of the Lightning’s 22 shots came from below the hash marks and between the faceoff dots. While Tampa Bay does have capable shooters who can score from a distance, they will need to establish a presence in front of the net to make things more difficult for Khudobin.
Stars Stay Hot
Much like Dallas’ decision in net, we’ll ride the hot hand into Game 2. On the back of another strong performance by Khudobin, Dallas will take a 2-0 series lead on Monday night.