The preliminaries are done. All of the waiting is done. For the third time in the history of the organization, the Tampa Bay Lightning are four wins away from lifting the Stanley Cup. In 2004 they raised it, in 2015 they watched as the Chicago Blackhawks skated around the United Center with the chalice. The only thing we know about 2020 is that it will be presented in Edmonton and that for the first time in nearly two decades, Commissioner (and Hall of Famer) Gary Bettman won’t hear boos when he takes to the ice.
We gathered some of the staff here at Raw Charge to make some predictions about how the series will go. Feel free to add your own in the comments below.
Winner: Tampa Bay Lightning
Conn Smythe: Nikita Kucherov
Why are the Lightning going to win it all in seven games (with five of those games going to overtime)? Because they have shown a careless disregard for my health so far this off-season so it might as well continue.
As for the hockey-based reasons I think they win: Andrei Vasilevskiy and the Lightning defense. Yes, they’ve played some teams who aren’t the best at scoring goals, but they’ve also played the Bruins who are pretty good at it. Much like C-3PO and the trash compactors on the Death Star, they’ve shut them all down. The Lightning will find a way to win, with Nikita Kucherov adding goals to all of the assists he’s been racking up, and the Lightning raise the Cup for the second time in history.
Winner: Dallas Stars
Conn Smythe: Miro Heiskanen
If I put this out to the universe, then I won’t feel the indescribable pain of hoping for a Cup win and not getting it, because even after five years THAT PAIN IS STILL FRESH.
Seriously though: Steven Stamkos won’t be effective even if he does see ice time. Brayden Point is massaging his leg with a hand-massager between shifts. Alex Killorn is boarding people??? We only had one day to regroup and turn around before the next round.
The only saving grace is that Andrei Vasilevskiy is still rested. I think he steals two games for us.
Also I’ve never been more proud of this team and I hope we go all the way, I’m just not setting myself up to be disappointed in them if they don’t.
Winner: A team
Games: Between 4 and 7
Conn Smythe: Victor Hedman
Before I get to the Conn Smythe, I have to explain my series prediction. I have yet to make a prediction about any series so far. I’m also a superstitious sort when it comes to sports. So for that reason, I have made no prediction here either.
The Conn Smythe though, I’m a little more willing to give an opinion. If the Dallas Stars win, it’s gotta be Anton Khudobin or Miro Heiskanen. But this is a Tampa Bay Lightning site, so I’d rather focus on the Lightning’s candidates for the Conn Smythe if they win the series.
In my eyes, there are four candidates currently; Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, and Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Point and Kucherov are right at the top of the point scoring list for the playoffs with Kucherov currently leading Point by one point, but with Point having a slightly higher points per game. I think Point has the edge because he has more goals and two overtime goals. Their cases are very similar though and picking between the two may be splitting hairs, but would likely come down to what they do in the Final.
Vasilevskiy has been a rock in net. He’s yet to record a shutout, but he’s kept the Lightning in every game. He’s given up one goal six times and two goals seven times. Only six games has he allowed three or four goals. He’s also sporting a .931 save percentage and one assist!
But Hedman has been something else. He’s been a monster in the playoffs. He’s tied for fourth most goals scored in a single playoffs by a defenseman. He’s put himself up there in a list of five other defensemen, four of whom are Hall of Famers. We already knew Hedman was one of the best defensemen in the world, but he’s also putting himself into the same breath as some of the best defensemen to ever play the game; Paul Coffey, Brian Leetch, Bobby Orr. He has more goals than Ray Bourque had in his best playoffs. For that reason, Hedman currently has my vote for the Conn Smythe.
Winner: Tampa Bay
Conn Smythe: Brayden Point or Victor Hedman
First, a disclaimer: I’M NOT GOOD AT PREDICTIONS.
With that being said, as someone who has been watching more as a casual NHL fan, the Lightning have barely stumbled since the bubble tournament began in early August. A team such as Dallas can give them a challenge, but in the end an OT winner (please, not 5 OT again I get 2008 Albany River Rats flashbacks) in Game 6 by Point will clinch the Cup.
The race for Conn Smythe could be a good one, as Tampa Bay has a few candidates that are worthy. You can’t deny Hedman’s performance to this point, but you also have the leading playoff scorer in Kucherov or a clutch performer like Point. You can also argue Vasilevskiy has a shot at it.
Winner: Tampa Bay
Conn Smythe: Brayden Point
This is the Lightning’s year, that’s all the reasoning I need to believe it’s going to happen. They’re the better team. They’re playing their best hockey defensively and with great goaltending. Offensively they have been able to score with three lines. We haven’t seen all of those factors be true at the same time in this era, this is it.
And as for the playoffs MVP, the stories have already been written by the media that is going to vote on the award; it’s Brayden Point. I’m sure we’re going to see lots of votes for Kucherov and Hedman, and probably for Vasilevskiy too, but it’s going to end up with Point getting the accolades.
[ed. note - In an effort to provide a prediction from the opposing side I reached out to the one Dallas Stars fan I know - Brandon The Valet Guy.]
Conn Smythe: Anton Khudobin
The Stars have excellent back-end offensive talent and great forward depth. They can roll all four lines against anyone and they are all consistent. They don’t let the momentum shifts of the games get in their heads. The Stars are comfortable playing with or without the lead and are coming in rested and relatively injury-free. If they don’t lose any major defenseman or Khudobin, they take the series.
All right - hit us with what you think is going to happen over the next two weeks.