It’s September 19, so you know what that means, of course: the Stanley Cup Finals are underway! Yep, that’s 2020 in a nutshell for you. Seven months ago, when suffice it to say our lives were all better off, I had the pleasure of watching the Tampa Bay Lightning play in-person. At the time, I felt like this team was too talented to keep coming up short in the postseason. A year after their University of Virginia-esque embarrassment suffered at the hands of Columbus, perhaps they, too, could have the ultimate bounce-back.
So here we are, seven months later, with no Bolts fans present to watch them chase their second-ever Stanley Cup title. On the other side will be the Dallas Stars, who sort of crashed this postseason party after losing six straight games prior to the season being suspended in March. I like what the Stars have done. They have taken the narrative that they are an all-offense team and shown a grinding mentality in taking down three good teams, including two very formidable ones in Colorado and Vegas. But I firmly believe the ‘Ning represent a much different animal (even with Dallas having won both regular-season meetings in OT).
I am not a hockey expert nor do I play one on TV, but I know what I see and I like what I see from Tampa Bay. Perhaps the no-fans situation actually helps some of these teams as they are so used to dealing with outside pressure. When your team is as talented as the Bolts are, it can be overwhelming at times.
So, for that reason, I am keeping my pick simple. I started fantasizing in mid-March about how the playoffs would have played out if things were normal and my mind wrapped tightly around a Flyers-Avalanche finals. All the while in the back of my mind I felt that Tampa could very well go on a title run because they hit the ultimate low last year in being swept by Columbus after a historic season (just like the UVA Cavaliers won a year after becoming the first-ever No. 1 seed to lose to a No. 16 seed). Indeed, it has looked that way through three rounds, so I’m going to keep riding the bandwagon all the way to the finish line. Pick: Lightning in 5.