The stage is set and only two teams remain in the race for the Stanley Cup — the Lightning and Stars.
This will be the first time in 20 years the Stars have reached the Final, while the Lightning made a more recent appearance in 2015. Both teams did not win their last trip there and each organization has won it all just once.
Since the NHL's return-to-play 24-team tournament began, the Stars have been a team that was severely overlooked and never truly deemed a threat. After eliminating the Flames, Avalanche and highly favored Golden Knights, Dallas has changed its story — and it's not finished yet.
The Lightning have been one of the most successful teams in the regular season, ending two of their last three seasons first in the Atlantic. After a shocking upset in the first round last season, being swept by the Blue Jackets, Tampa Bay has returned on a mission to finish what it started.
Below is the schedule with broadcast information and live stream links:
Game 2 — Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m. ET, NBCSN
Game 4 — Friday, Sept. 25, 8 p.m. ET, NBC
So, who will come out on top?
NBC Sports Philadelphia's Brooke Destra, Joe Fordyce and Jordan Hall give their 2020 Stanley Cup Final predictions:
The Stars fell under the radar throughout the season, and that probably worked in their favor because some of the biggest moves are done in silence. I believed from the beginning of the season that the Stars would make the Final, and many called it crazy ... I wish I had kept the receipts. Though, I didn't have them winning it all.
The window of time for the Lightning to win the Cup with their core is dwindling and this could be their best shot. There's almost a sense that if they don't win this season, it's not going to happen. To be frank, this Lightning team is far too talented to never have the opportunity to write its name in history.
I expect this series to be thrilling from start to finish and the most exciting Final since the Golden Knights and Capitals faced off in 2018. Ultimately, this is the Lightning's time, but it won't be an easy finish. It'll take them six games to wrap things up and become Stanley Cup champions from one of the most unpredictable seasons in NHL history.
So, I got half of my prediction right: the Tampa Bay Lightning and their high-flying offense are in the Stanley Cup Final, and I believe they’re going to win it in six games. My original prediction for the Final was the Lightning and the Avalanche, and had Colorado starting goaltender Philipp Grubauer not gotten injured earlier in the playoffs, I believe that would still be the case.
The Stars, however, have the look of one of those teams who are on a special kind of run. However, when it comes to Tampa, I don’t think the Stars will score enough to hang with the Lightning. Add to that Andrei Vasilevskiy, who may be the best goaltender in the NHL.
Lost in the Stars' Western Conference Final victory over the Vegas Golden Knights is that they did not own any of the statistical categories, which prompted Tyler Seguin to take a shot at the attention put on analytics in today’s NHL. The problem is, getting beat statistically against the Lightning will probably spell doom because when Tampa is clicking, it's the most lethal offense in the NHL, and keep in mind this has all been without star Steven Stamkos, who has been injured.
Add to that Vasilevskiy, while the Stars have faced uncertainty in goal from their opponent in the last two series. There will be none of that here.
I took the Lightning before the 2019-20 season began and I'll stick with that.
Tampa Bay is no longer just flash; it can win in various styles and hasn't lost consecutive games in the tournament. The Lightning just look like a determined, all-business team that wants to erase last season's failure by finishing the job.
The Stars have a really good team that has won close games and lopsided games. Dallas' story is great but the run will stop just short against a Lightning team with too much to lose. Let's go Tampa Bay in five games.
"They're two very good teams, there's no question about that," NBC Sports' NHL analyst Keith Jones said Friday in a video interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia. "If you look at how Dallas plays, they're kind of Philadelphia-like in the way some of those old Flyers teams that won Cups back in the '70s played the game. They have a lot of physicality, they've got a lot of guys that don't mind getting down and dirty, and they've got some guys that can absolutely fly. For big men, they move extremely well, and I think that's a big reason why they've been successful this year.
"For Tampa, it's a story of a team that has been knocking on the door and has been unable to get the job done even though they've been favored for the last few seasons based upon strong regular seasons, but have learned some hard lessons in the playoffs. It looks like they've finally figured it out — they've put a team that's a much more grittier team on the ice, and I think that's going to make for a good series, an entertaining series between two teams that deserve to be in the Final."