NHL: Tampa Bay Lightning Host the Dallas Stars in Stanley Cup Rematch
The Tampa Bay Lightning host the Dallas Stars Saturday night in a rematch of the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.
As the teams prepare for a home and home series Saturday and Tuesday, this marks the third time these two teams have tried to meet up this year. The first meeting was scheduled for Jan. 17 but the Stars’ first four games of the season were postponed due to a COVID outbreak within the organization. The second meeting, scheduled for Feb. 18, was postponed due to a winter storm that caused major power outages across the state of Texas.
The postponements have caused the Dallas Stars to play a league-low 15 games so far this season which has caused the NHL to amend their schedule. If the new schedule stays as is, the Stars will play 44 games in 78 days beginning last Monday. That’s not good news for a team that is struggling mightily at the moment.
The Stars came out of the gates red hot going 5-2 including winning their first four games, averaging over four goals per game. But since then they are 1-4-3, averaging just over two goals per game, and they haven’t scored more than three goals in any of those eight games. This rough stretch includes a six-game losing streak and a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to the Florida Panthers Thursday night. Down 2-0 with under seven minutes left in the third period, the Panthers scored three goals in just over three minutes to come out with the victory.
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Many of the scoring issues surrounding the Stars are due to injuries to their top-six forwards. Alexander Radulov hasn’t played since February 4 which was the beginning of the six-game losing streak. Roope Hintz has missed four games as he nurses an injury that may linger the rest of the season. Captain Jamie Benn also missed four games at the beginning of the season after getting hurt in the season opener. Star center, Tyler Seguin, hasn’t played this season as he recovers from hip surgery.
As the Dallas Stars sit in sixth place in the Central Division, the Tampa Bay Lightning are off to another great start as they sit just one point behind the Florida Panthers for the division lead with a 13-4-1 record.
The Tampa Bay Lightning come into this matchup on a three-game winning streak. This is their third three-game or more winning streak this season including a six-game winning streak earlier this month.
Like the Stars, the Lightning is missing one very important piece to their team. 2019 Art Ross and Hart Trophy winner, Nikita Kucherov. Kucherov hasn’t played this season and hopes to be back for the playoffs as he also recovers from hip surgery.
Even without Kucherov, the train keeps rolling for this team. Conn Smythe winner Victor Hedman leads the team with 19 points. Captain Steven Stamkos has recovered from core surgery and leads the team with nine goals. But it’s not just the star players leading this team. Seven different players have 10 or more points this season. The Tampa Bay Lightning is second in the NHL in goals per game at 3.56 and they have scored four or more goals in 10 of their 18 games.
While the lineups may be a little different than they were in September, these two teams will have eight games over the next few months to get very familiar with each other once again as they each make a playoff push.
Players to Watch
Joe Pavelski leads the Stars with 10 goals and 20 points this season. Eight of those goals have come on the power play which leads the NHL. With the struggles of their offense, the Stars will need to capitalize on their power play opportunities.
Miro Heiskanen has contributed nine assists this season but the talented defenseman has yet to score. While his skating and defending are on an elite level, he needs to be more selfish and aggressive in the offensive zone as the Stars look for more offense.
Brayden Point had five goals and three assists against the Stars in the Stanley Cup Finals. He is averaging a point a game this year and will look to continue where he left off in September.
Victor Hedman is always a force on the ice. With his elite-level defending and team-leading 19 points, the Stars will have to figure out a way to keep him off the score sheet and get around him to score some themselves.
What are you most looking forward to in this Stanely Cup Rematch between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning? Leave a comment below.
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Follow Tyler Samsel on Twitter @tylersamsel.