Lightning vs. Stars NHL Stanley Cup Series Preview and Predictions

Lightning vs. Stars NHL Stanley Cup Series Preview and Predictions
Photo by Josh Appel

Dallas Stars vs. Tampa Bay Lightning

Saturday, September 19, 2020 – 07:30 PM EDT

Well we are finally here! The Stanley Cup Finals have arrived. I was very skeptical when this altered post-season was announced that it would be both well-executed and the quality would be worth following, let alone wagering on. However the players, coaching staff, and league delivered amidst almost daily news of chaos and obstacles. They managed to keep the players healthy and focused to the point that the product has been very exciting from start to finish.

Dallas Stars
Dallas Stars - Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

The representative from the East is the Tampa Bay Lightning – a team priced as a contender every season over the past five. Coming out of the West is the somewhat surprising Dallas Stars, a squad that has some excellent pieces in all areas of the ice but will probably not have another shot at this with many of their aging talents. I have written extensively on the quality of both and, if this is my first series preview you are reading, it might be worth reflecting back on some of the others as I don't intend on repeating the same points here.

It is always important to return to your thought process when you took certain futures and revisit old notes over the course of a season. As the results come in I find it helpful to see what was noise and what was valid. It is far too simple to say I had the team that won the championship or didn't win the championship and therefore I was right or wrong. Futures markets should not be anymore results-oriented than your daily cards. If you find yourself never hitting outrights then perhaps there are some criteria that you are not accounting for or if you are constantly playing the shorter favorites then the timing might just be a bit late. Anyway, here was my post regarding my NHL futures pre-COVID:

Now as I mentioned before round one of the playoffs began, I treated the restart with a fresh perspective as though no outrights were pending. However, it is the notes that I wanted to go over for this article. January 16th is just passed the halfway point of the season with 45-50 games played by each team in the league. It is around the time in the season where we can be pretty sure which teams will make up about 50% of the playoff picture.

So the three tickets I purchased on this date were on teams I thought had a high likelihood for a playoff spot, possibly even against a 7 or 8 seed and would be favorites for most of their series allowing opportunities to guarantee profit regardless of the outcome. Now that was nearly two months to the day in which the league hit pause and would get creative with a playoff format. So we cannot completely assess futures pre-COVID with the altered format and performance. Additionally I did not go against the Pens or Blues in their one series as an expectedly short favorite, even though that was a part of why I had staked 2% on each back in January.

However when the league paused on March 13th, the Lightning were second in the Eastern conference and guaranteed for playoffs, the Blues were first in the Western conference and guaranteed for playoffs, and the Penguins were third in their division but above 90% to close out with a playoff spot. On this basis, I am pleased with the three outrights, but can still laugh at 'I believe two if not all three will be in the conference finals' comment.

One thing I found interesting is that I classed the Bruins at the time as below the Lightning as a '1B', based primarily on their NHL odds at the time, which was as Cup favorites, but also capability if it came to a head between the two. For those of you who have followed my work this entire post-season you'll know that I actually backed the Bruins at even money against the Bolts.

Included in the '1B' category were teams I held as contenders to a lesser extent and perhaps just needed a slightly better price to incentivize me to back them, but still for less risk than the first three. I was pleased to see I held the Stars there and still recognized their value when we came to the hub startup. Of course, I decided in the end to back Dallas to win the Conference rather than the Cup, and that was based on their low stock after the round-robin coming in to face the Flames.

It goes without saying that with any futures market an incredible amount of breaks need to go your way for them to hit almost regardless of the team you decide to back. I have lost count of the comebacks from Dallas and all the overtime heroes they have had.

Tampa Bay Lightning
Tampa Bay Lightning - Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images/AFP

BUT...can we not say the same about Tampa? Three one-goal regulation wins and five overtime wins comprise eight of their twelve victories to this point. Within that is also four additional periods of overtime needed to close out the Jackets and Bruins. Contrast this with five one-goal regulation wins from the Stars and a perfect 4-0 overtime record over their twelve victories. You can see how it is not a stretch to say either team is somewhat fortunate or 'lucky' to be here.

The market has priced this series at a ~65/35, which I completely agree with. You may recall ahead of the Golden Knights/Stars series I said, “If you are making a bet among friends, giving a 60/40 on a lot of NHL series would be a pretty fair payout when you are just eyeballing it.” Tampa is a better team than Vegas as I reiterated in all the articles regarding their head-to-head futures ahead of and during the Conference finals.

ampa Bay Lightning vs Dallas Stars
Tampa Bay Lightning vs Dallas Stars - Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images/AFP

While I think arguments can be made to both sides holding merit, the series price numbers are correct. If you are craving some action on the series then, gun to my head, I say take the Stars to win at +165 with BetOnline for a half unit, but I'll be skipping this market for the first time in a couple of years.

If you would like some more in-depth points regarding both teams over the course of playoffs I've compiled the pieces below:

Series Bet: Pass

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