For the first time since 2000, the Dallas Stars are back in the Stanley Cup Final. And they took a tough road to get there.
After knocking out the Calgary Flames in Round 1, the Stars eliminated the No. 2 seeded Colorado Avalanche in seven games before doing the same to the No. 1 seeded Vegas Golden Knights in five. The final test is going up against a Tampa Bay Lightning squad that's finished in the Top 3 in points for three consecutive seasons.
Patrick Sharp, who's won three Stanley Cups with the Blackhawks, spent two years in Dallas from 2015-17 and isn't surprised by the Stars' success.
"I saw the talent on the roster," Sharp reminisced on the Blackhawks Talk Podcast of his time with the Stars. "I thought Jamie Benn was the best player in the National Hockey League, should've won the MVP if it wasn't for Patrick Kane having that incredible season when he was the Hart Trophy [winner]. I'm not going to argue with that one, but Jamie Benn was a beast. I played on his line. Tyler Seguin produces and gets around the net, he can skate and shoot the puck. [John] Klingberg I love. I saw the raw talent there.
So what's changed since then?
"We would outscore teams and win games 6-5," Sharp said. "Since I've been gone, they've gone through three different coaches. Each coach has brought an element of defense first, we don't care who gets the credit, it's not about who's scoring goals it's about winning games. And man, you've got to give the players a lot of credit for adapting and adding that to their team game.
"They're now a shutdown group, right? They're comfortable playing defense. It's OK to be 5-on-5 in the D-zone if you're a Dallas Star because everyone knows what they're doing, they're all on the same page. ... That's something that they've added to their team over the years. They still got the talent, they can play whatever way you want, but they've got that defense, check-first mentality and that's why they're in the Stanley Cup Final."