The Dallas Stars will battle the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final on Saturday, with the two southern franchises facing off at the NHL’s playoff bubble in Edmonton, Alberta.
Tampa Bay enters the series as a -195 favorite, according to FanDuel Sportsbook, despite the fact that the team could miss some key players for at least the start of the series.
Tampa Bay Makes Lightning Fast Turnaround
The Lightning earned its spot in the Stanley Cup Final on Thursday, beating the New York Islanders in overtime to finish off the Eastern Conference final in six games. That means that Tampa Bay needed to regroup to play in the finals in less than two days, an unusually quick turnaround for the NHL playoffs. That wasn’t an issue for Dallas, which eliminated the Vegas Golden Knights in just five games on Monday.
“This is unlike any other Stanley Cup final where we’d get days rest,” Tampa Bay coach Jon Cooper told reporters. “If you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup final, you’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game, but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”
That’s not the only unusual aspect of the series. It’s not lost on the teams that two of the warmest-weather franchises are facing off against each other in Canada’s northernmost NHL city for the title – one of the many adjustments made due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
“We don’t know what the temperature is outside because we’re never outside,” Dallas general manager Jim Nill told reporters. “We’re 75, 80 degrees here all the time, so it’s perfect.”
Stamkos Unlikely to Suit Up
Several key Lightning players are dealing with injuries heading into the Stanley Cup Final. That include Brayden Point, who missed two games in the Islanders series after suffering an injury in Game 2, and Anthony Cirelli, who injured his knee before scoring the series-winning goal on Thursday night.
“I think everyone on both sides has something they’re dealing with,” Point told reporters. “You don’t get here without getting dinged up a little bit. It’s just about competing.”
Stanley Cup Finals Odds
- Dallas Stars: +140
- Tampa Bay Lightning: -165
- Total: Over/Under 5.5 Goals
- Tampa Bay Lightning: -195
- Dallas Stars: +155
Odds via FanDuel Sportsbook
But captain Steven Stamkos represents the biggest loss for Tampa Bay. Stamkos has missed the entirety of the playoffs due to a lower-body injury. While he could return at some point during the Stanley Cup Final, Tampa Bay general manager Julien BriseBois wouldn’t commit to it.
“He’s still rehabbing. We haven’t ruled him out,” BriseBois said on Friday. “I don’t expect him in the lineup [for Game 1].”
Despite those injuries, FanDuel lists the Lightning as a -165 favorite over the Stars (+140) in Saturday’s Game 1. Point comes into the series as the +230 favorite to win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the most valuable player for the playoffs, with Miro Heiskanen (+380) the most likely Stars player to win the honor.