DALLAS — The Dallas Stars hold a 1-0 series lead in the Stanley Cup Final, after their impressive, all-around performance in Game 1 led to a 4-1 victory.
Monday night, Dallas looks to back it up, and put the Lightning in an 0-2 hole.
Here are five things to watch for in Game 2:
1) Can Anton Khudobin continue his hot play?
The Stars goalie has been nothing short of brilliant in this postseason, especially in the Stars last six games, spanning the West Final and Game 1 of the Cup Final. The Stars have allowed just nine goals in that six game span, and Khudobin has a save percentage of .954 in those six games.
He’s been fantastic and he’s three more wins away from finishing off a truly magical postseason run.
By the way — go look up the history of how Anton Khudobin made it to the Dallas Stars organization. We’re talking about stops in Saskatoon, with the Western Hockey League, spurts in the Russian Superleague, the AHL, the ECHL... the man has been around the block a time or two.
He has earned this moment in a major way.
2)Will Steven Stamkos play for the Lightning in Game 2?
Stamkos is Tampa Bay’s best player when he’s healthy, but he has not been healthy in quite a while. He last played in a game on Feb. 25, and had surgery to repair a core muscle injury on March 2.
He was with the Lightning for voluntary workouts over the summer, but re-aggravated the injury, and hasn’t played all postseason.
Monday, though, he skated with his team during the morning skate, and is getting closer to a possible return. Lightning head coach John Cooper wouldn’t reveal whether Stamkos would suit up tonight. If nothing else, Stamkos is getting closer.
But even once he’s back — can he be productive?
3) Can the Lightning carry their third period momentum into Game 2?
It was an entirely different vibe in the third period on Saturday night. After Dallas essentially dominated the first two periods, the Lightning finally created some opportunities in the final frame.
And when we say some... we mean a ton. Tampa Bay outshot Dallas 22-2 in the third period, and if you look at shot attempts, the edge was 43-3. 43-3!
That’s not good for Dallas.
They were able to withstand it on Saturday, thanks in part to a defensive structure that kept most of those shots coming from deep, and also thanks in part to Dobby standing on his head.
But that’s not tenable for Dallas. Not even remotely.
4) Can Tyler Seguin produce some offense?
What a bizarre postseason this has been for the Stars offense. Tyler Seguin has just eight points in 21 games. Two goals, six assists. That’s it.
Now, to be fair, he’s had some unlucky bounces, some unfriendly posts, and the like. But still, you would have lost a significant amount of money betting that the Stars wouldn’t be able to win much this postseason without Seguin lighting it up.
Somehow they’ve managed to get offense from unexpected places, and they’ve made it work.
If the Stars are going to finish this off, Seguin will likely need to make his presence felt in these final 3-6 games.
5) Is there a cooler story than Joel Kiviranta?
This is such a phenomenal story it’s almost impossible to believe.
Unknown, undrafted, and with only one regular season goal to his name, Kiviranta has now scored five postseason goals in just nine games of action. The hat trick against the Avalanche in Game 7 was a Cinderella story to top the rest.
Then he scores in Game 1 of the Cup Final, too.
“I don’t know what’s going on," Kiviranta said. “Sometimes it starts to feel like wherever you shoot the puck, it goes in. Right now, I’m in that moment.”
He truly is. And the Stars wouldn’t be here without him.
Game 2 is Monday at 7 p.m. in Edmonton, Alberta.