We made it: Mother Nature tried to stop the force that is known as professional hockey, but here come the Stanley Cup Finals. Our conference-finals predictions were split bag, of course, and we won’t stop our habits now.
We have not picked Dallas in any round so far, yet here the Stars in the Finals, after finishing tied for fifth in the Western Conference for points percentage. That’s hockey: Teams get hot, and they get on playoff rolls. Remember when the No. 8-seeded Los Angeles Kings won the Cup in 2012?
Meanwhile, we have picked Tampa Bay in every round, and the Lightning have found their way back to the Finals after missing out recently, after four disappointing seasons of falling short since their last Cup Finals appearance in 2015 against the eventual champion Chicago Blackhawks.
So why would we change our minds now? We won’t. Tampa Bay was the No. 2 team in the Eastern Conference and generally more consistent than Dallas all through the regular season. The Stars’ SRS rank was 16th this year in the NHL, while the Lightning finished second.
On paper (or ice), Tampa Bay should win. Psychologically, after last season’s first-round collapse against Columbus, the Lightning players have been on a mission here. Emotionally, Dallas is probably just happy to here, considering this is the Stars’ mere fourth playoff appearance since 2008. The last time they even made the WCF was that same year.
Lord Stanley’s Cup has Tampa Bay’s name all over it … the Lightning just have to go out and do it. Tampa Bay in six games.