The Stanley Cup will be in the building on Saturday night at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta.
The Tampa Bay Lightning defeated the Dallas Stars in overtime of Game 4 on Friday night by a score of 5-4. Kevin Shattenkirk scored a powerplay goal for Tampa Bay in overtime to push them to within one win of capturing the Cup. The two teams have a quick turnaround as Game 5 faces-off on Saturday night. Tampa Bay has not won the Cup since 2004, but they’ll look to change that in Game 5.
This series has gone almost exactly as I anticipated. The Tampa Bay Lightning are an elite team. They are arguably the most complete team in hockey with no notable weaknesses. On the other hand, Dallas is a very good team.
There’s no shame in being a very good team. But a very good team is going to need some luck and standout performances to beat an elite team. That hasn’t happened since Game 1.
The biggest worry for the Dallas Stars has to be the play of Anton Khudobin. As I wrote prior to Game 4, Khudobin has shown signs of wearing down these past few games. He’s conceded 13 goals in the last three games, and this isn’t even accounting for the fact he got pulled in Game 3. 13 goals against on 95 shots is only an .863 save percentage, not nearly good enough for Dallas to have a realistic chance.
Game 4 of this series followed a similar path to the first three games. Tampa Bay had 55.7% of the shot attempts, 60.5% of the expected goals and 62% of high danger chances at 5v5. In this series, the Lightning have 57.9% of shot attempts, 58.6% of the expected goals and 54.6% of the high danger chances.
To put it into everyday terms, Tampa Bay has the puck in the offensive zone for most of the game. They are throwing more shots at the Dallas net and the shots they do take are of high quality. Dallas has basically been trying to escape their defensive zone for a good part of this series, and they haven’t had much luck in their attempt.
On the brightside for Dallas, the Lightning top line of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat only had 59% of expected goals while on the ice in Game 4. This is still an insanely good number, but it pales in comparison to the 93.6% expected goal rate they had in Games 2 and 3. Unfortunately for Dallas, Point found the net twice for Tampa Bay in Game 4.
Tampa Bay has been very good at closing out series in these playoffs. They’ve only lost one of the elimination games they’ve played, and that was in double overtime to the New York Islanders. They eliminated Columbus in five and Boston in five prior to that. When they smell blood, Tampa stomps on their opponent’s neck.
I fully expect the Lightning to be parading around the ice with Lord Stanley’s Cup on Saturday night. They are the better team in this series. The great equalizer could be goaltending, but in his current form it’s hard to see Anton Khudobin stealing a game. Goalies always perform worse in the second half of back-to-back games. Couple this with the fact that Khudobin is a career back-up goaltender who isn’t used to shouldering a starting workload, and you can see why things are starting to come undone for the Stars netminder.
I would never recommend laying -170 in hockey. That’s the moneyline for the Lightning in Game 5. I do think they’ll win the game, but laying that much juice is not a smart longterm move. With Game 4 going to overtime, I’m willing to make the bet that Game 5 doesn’t need overtime.
I think Tampa Bay wins the Cup on Saturday night, and I think they do it in regulation time.