Last Updated Aug 30, 2021, 9:53 AM
Stanley Cup Predictions, Odds, Series Picks - Stars vs. Lightning
2020 Stanley Cup Finals Betting Preview
We've made it all the way to the end of these bubble playoffs which have gone on in a way I'm not sure anyone could have imagined. The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars are the last two franchises left standing, as one will end at least a 16-year Stanley Cup drought.
These teams have gone through quite a lot to get to this point, and if you're a Tampa fan, you've got to like the fact that in the past seven seasons, the team that took more games to get out of the Conference Finals has gone on to win the Stanley Cup.
Stanely Cup Schedule
All games played at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada
- Game 1: Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m. ET
- Game 2: Monday, Sept. 21, 8:00 p.m. ET
- Game 3: Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8:00 p.m. ET
- Game 4: Friday, Sept. 25, 8:00 p.m. ET
- *Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8:00 p.m. ET
- *Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8:00 p.m. ET
- *Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8:00 p.m. ET
The Lightning are laying the chalk in this series though, as they've gotten this far without the services of their captain Steven Stamkos for a single shift on the ice. There is speculation of him returning at some point in the Finals which would be another boost to Tampa's chances should it occur. Crossing that bridge when it gets here is probably the best way to think about that, but the Stars have to feel like they've heard this story twice before.
Dallas started the second round as heavy underdogs to the Avalanche, and were dealt the same script in the Conference Finals against Vegas. Both times they got out to 3-1 series leads, and although they needed some time to close things out against Colorado, they put what they learned from those struggles to good use when they dispatched Vegas in five.
Through all that's gone on during these bubble playoffs, Dallas learning how to end last round earlier might prove to be a huge advantage in terms of them being the fresher bunch. After all, those past six years that the team that took longer Conference Final winner has gone on to win the Cup, there were at least two games in the first four where they could feed off some wild, home crowd energy.
That's not going to be the case here for either side, and if it's Tampa Bay who gets down early in the series, the fact that they've effectively played eight more periods than Dallas (12 OT frames for Tampa vs four for Dallas) is going to eventually bite them in the ass.
So does that happen in this series, or in early October after what I would assume to be some sort of virtual Stanley Cup parade for the Lightning?
Stanley Cup Series Prices
Dallas Stars +160 vs Tampa Bay Lightning -182
No need to bury the lead any longer, as if you've seen any of my stuff on a Dallas game/series throughout these playoffs you'll know that I've got no problem riding with them on price alone. It's a neutral site in as “neutral” as you're ever going to get one, and once again the Stars are being priced like it's a seven-game series on the road for them.
The two regular season meetings these two had when there were normal home/away scenarios, Dallas won both games in OT. They closed around a +115 dog at home and around a +140 dog on the road. And based on the style each side prefers to play, Dallas winning 3-2 at home and 4-3 on the road is never going to sound surprising.
But here is the thing. Even if the Stars were on the right side of the coin in both of those games – and Khudobin did steal the 4-3 game with 45 saves when the Stars only had 20 shots – those two games were close regardless. If you were to project that out and figure in theory we could easily get seven, one-goal games in this series, I'll gladly take my chances at +160 that I can connect on four of those first.
There could be a blowout each way, and however else it averages out, but from all accounts in their two regular season meetings, and from all accounts that we've seen from both sides in the bubble, this should be a very tight series.
You don't jump out to 3-1 series leads twice in a row as huge underdogs without knowing a thing or two about fighting fire with fire, and you don't go 5-1 straight up in overtime games in the playoffs without knowing a thing or two about shutting the opposition down.
Without question Tampa deserves to be the favorite on paper, but the amount of extra mental and physical strain they've put on themselves by playing all that extra hockey in an already mentally and physically straining situation is going to catch up eventually.
Then you could always get a scenario where a Stamkos return actually upsets the apple cart so to speak, forcing a shuffling of lines that have no current fluidity to them. We just saw Dallas be the beneficiary of playing a Vegas team that completely lost all confidence and instinct offensively after squeaking by Thatcher Demko and the Vancouver Canucks. Winning games while getting outshot by 15-20 shots is nothing new for Dallas, as long as the shots are no where near quality. But that's simply what they are quite good at doing.
Tyler Seguin and Corey Perry are two guys who tasted Stanley Cup success at a far younger age and would love to again in the second half of their careers, whle other Stars already in the second half of their careers like Jamie Benn, Joe Pavelski, Alex Radulov, Anton Khudobin and others would love to ride this wave of playing spoiler to get their first.
Dallas has played loose this since the start of the Avalanche series and it's gotten them here so why change?
And with the potential for too many things to go wrong on the Tampa side of things with pressure and/or fatigue ultimately getting to them, let alone a potential significant roster shuffle, the price is clearly the tipping point. No significant home ice advantage either way, and the stronger potential for Tampa to be the flatter team out of the gates in Game 1 with the fatigue/quick turn around, I can't pass up a +160 in a series that should be quite a bit closer.
Remember, it was this same Tampa Bay core that was much younger when they came up short to Chicago in the 2015 finals, and it was the now-Dallas Stars backup goalie Ben Bishop who was the guy for the Lightning in that season. Had he not tore his groin in Game 2 of that series, that series could have been much different and all those Tampa guys that were on that team have had to have one sleepless night where they've had to ask themselves what if.
So wouldn't it be in true and cruel 2020 fashion, that this year's Lightning team has to end their campaign of overcoming high expectations and huge obstacles in getting to the Finals, only to then come up short and be left watching their 2015 goalie (Ben Bishop) celebrate with the Cup at their expense? The man who quite possibly have already helped them earn a ring had he been 100%?
Sounds like a 2020 thing right?