On Thin Ice is a column by Erica Roque about hockey.
After starting 1-7-1 on the season, the Dallas Stars are headed to the Stanley Cup.
Having to overcome many hurdles this year, like the firing of head coach Jim Montgomery due to alcohol abuse, the Stars came into the playoffs as the fourth seed in the west and have made it all the way to the final showdown against the Tampa Bay Lightning.
One of the reasons the Stars have successfully beaten the Calgary Flames, Colorado Avalanche and Vegas Golden Knights is because of goalie Anton Khudobin. Throughout the regular season, Khudobin was the back-up goaltender to Ben Bishop. However, when Bishop was ruled unfit to play in the bubble, Khudobin was thrust into the starting role, and he thrived. During the Vegas series, Khudobin had a stellar .954 save percentage.
Stars captain Jamie Benn has also come in clutch for his team, scoring huge goals in each of the past three games. Benn leads the Dallas forwards with 18 postseason points. Not only has he been tallying points, but he has been a big leader in keeping the momentum going with his physical play.
The Stars have advanced despite only one point from center Tyler Seguin during the team’s 5-game series win over Vegas. If Seguin gets going as he did in the regular season, where he averaged 0.72 points per game, the Stars offense will be hard to beat. Seguin is looking for his second Stanley Cup title. His first came from his rookie season with the Boston Bruins in 2011.
Perhaps the Stars' biggest weapon for the final is Miro Heiskanen. The 21-year-old defenseman has had a breakout performance in the playoffs, leading the team with 22 postseason points in 21 games. He also leads the team in average ice time with 25:43. This is only Heiskanen’s second season in the league, but he has already become Dallas' No. 1 defenseman.
This will not be an easy series, though. The Tampa Bay Lightning are chasing their second ever Cup title as well. They have such strong players and can win if their big stars continue to play hard. Tampa Bay right-wing Nikita Kucherov leads the league with 26 playoff points, and Tampa Bay centerman Brayden Point has 25.
The Lightning also has a consistent defense, with Victor Hedman leading the pack. Hedman has been nominated for the Norris Trophy, awarded to the league’s top defenseman, four times and won in 2018.
Tampa Bay goalie Andrei Vasilevsky is hard to get through, with a .931 save percentage and 1.82 goals against average (GAA). Dallas' Khudobin has a .920 save percentage and a 2.62 GAA.
Even though Tampa Bay has all of these strengths, the underestimated Dallas Stars will come out victorious because of their resilience and ability to generate opportunities from their entire roster.
Game 1 is Saturday at 4:30 p.m. PT and will air on NBC.
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