Preview and pick for the Stanley Cup Finals Game 6
In a bit of cruelty (and truth be told, necessity because of the football schedule), the NHL made Games 4 and 5 of the Stanley Cup Final a back-to-back affair. And no one could blame these guys if they are a little worn out. But the Dallas Stars might have an extra shot of adrenaline, after they turned back the favored Tampa Bay Lightning and force Game 6, which is scheduled for 8:05 PM ET on Monday at Rogers Place in Edmonton (televised by NBC).
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Corey Perry, who had gone quite a while without scoring a goal, came through with the clincher in double overtime in Game 5, and maybe that was fitting. Perry is one of two players on the roster who has won the Cup before, doing that with Anaheim in 2007 (Tyler Seguin is the other). And Anton Khudobin was brilliant in goal. And that was a nice bounceback for him, after Tampa Bay had scored five goals in back-to-back efforts.
The Lightning was expected to have more firepower coming into the series. They have more depth, even beyond their first line,and they came in tied for the league lead in expected goals in even strength situations. They have outshot the Stars 175-136 over the five games, and that wasn't unexpected either. What might not have been expected by many was the emotional boost they got from the return of Steven Stamkos, one of the best players in franchise history, who came back in for Game 3, not nearly 100%, scored a goal on his only shot and then was declared unfit to play for the rest of the series.
For long-time fans of the NBA, it was their "Willis Reed moment."
In the Stanley Cup betting odds at BetAnySports for Game 6 of this series, the Lightning are favored, as they have been throughout the festivities:
Dallas Stars +145
Lightning -1.5 Goals +165
Stars +1.5 Goals -190
Over 5 Goals -135
Under 5 Goals +115
Many thought that the magic carpet ride of Khudobin would come to an end, and in truth, it kind of did. But there is no mistaking how incredible he has been throughout these playoffs. When Ben Bishop was declared unfit to play, the Stars had to turn to this career backup, who has taken advantage of his day in the sun. Entering this final series, he was leading all goaltenders in the bubble in "Goals Saved Above Expected." And he has suffered the burden of almost always being on the receiving end of more punishment than his counterpart (who in this case is the Vezina winner Andrei Vasilevskiy).
But usually his team has been equal to the task. During the regular season, Dallas allowed the second fewest goals per game in the NHL (2.52) and they are very good about keeping teams to the outside and taking away the puck. Tampa Bay, of course, is deep enough and talented enough to break through every so often.
But this veteran element of the Stars has really come through. Khudobin is 34. Perry is 35. Joe Pavelski, a 36-year-old who has labored for 14 seasons in the league, long enough that he's had more playoff goals (61) than any American-born player (and there are some great ones on that list), tied the game to send it into overtime and made a number of outstanding defensive plays. He's got 13 goals in the post-season, one less than he had in 67 regular season games, and that's an indication of how he's ramped up his game in the playoffs.
And while we're here, hats off to Stars GM Jim Nill, who pulled the trigger in acquiring both Pavelski and Perry in the off-season, not to mention bringing Khudobin in as a free agent before the 2018-19 season.
All this having been said, you could see that with a little luck, Tampa Bay could have been playing golf by now. They swarmed in with a lot of chances in that first overtime but could not convert. They have straightened themselves out a little on the power play, after going one for their last 15 coming into the series.
There's an interesting trend, and we say this understanding that the goalies have been outstanding throughout. But these teams are on a current run of 17-5-4 to the OVER between them, and considering what Tampa Bay has done when it is on its game, and the timely goals Dallas has gotten, we're okay moving in that direction.
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