What’s the match-up that will help decide Game 7?

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The waiting is over and it’s the day of Game 7 of the Stanley Cup finals. Tonight in Vancouver, heroes will be made and hearts will be broken. Champagne will be poured and tears of joy and sadness will both be shed. Tonight’s Game 7 obviously comes with tons of possibilities for how things will shake out, but there’s one match-up in particular that we’ll be drawn to watching tonight because it’s very likely that how both sides handle things will decide who gets to skate around with the Stanley Cup.

With Vancouver being at home and getting last change, the chances that we’ll see the Bruins be able to get their top defensive pairing of Zdeno Chara and Dennis Seidenberg out against the line of Henrik Sedin, Daniel Sedin, and Alex Burrows are minimal. While those two will still get their time against them when coach Claude Julien can work things with a quick line change, we’re more than likely going to see the pairing of Andrew Ference and Johnny Boychuk get the opportunity to be stoppers against the Sedin line.

While the Sedins haven’t had tremendous good fortune in getting points during the finals (Daniel has a goal and three assists while Henrik has just one goal) the bulk of their great scoring chances have come at home as coach Alain Vigneault has been able to get them out on the ice away from the top pair of Chara and Seidenberg. Daniel played huge in Game 2 along with Alex Burrows as those two conspired together to virtually beat the Bruins on their own as Burrows scored two goals and assisted on Daniel’s goal.

The kinds of play we’ve seen from the Sedins at home is more what we’re accustomed to from them. They’ve been able to establish their cycle, create chances offensively, and sustain pressure in Boston’s end. That kind of play will be needed tonight and while Tim Thomas has been brilliant all series and more than likely headed towards a Conn Smythe Trophy award win or lose tonight, that sort of pressure can break any goalie. So far in the finals we’ve yet to see Thomas have a bad game at all.

We’re not saying he’s due for one, mind you, but after his shaky play against Tampa Bay that saw him twice give up five goals in Florida getting the right match-ups against the top offensive talent is a big deal and it’s one of the reasons why this series has played out the way it has. Tonight, those defensive pairings and how they’re utilized will make all the difference between who goes home smiling and who goes home crying.

Victor Hedman voted winner of 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy

Conn Smythe Trophy
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Victor Hedman will be going home to Tampa with two trophies this week.

Before he had his chance to lift the Stanley Cup, Hedman was voted winner of the 2020 Conn Smythe Trophy. The award is given to the NHL postseason MVP and voted on by members of the Professional Hockey Writers Association.

Hedman led all blue liners in the postseason with 10 goals and finished with 22 points in 25 games. Only two defenseman — Paul Coffey (12) and Brian Leetch (11) — scored more goals in a single playoff than Hedman.

The 29-year-old Hedman is now the 10th different defenseman to win the Conn Smythe Trophy, joining Duncan Keith, Scott Niedermayer, Nicklas Lidstrom, Scott Stevens, Brian Leetch, Al MacInnis, Larry Robinson, Bobby Orr, and Serge Savard.

He joins Brad Richards as the only Conn Smythe Trophy winners in Lightning franchise history and is only the third Swedish-born play to ever win it after Lidstrom and Henrik Zetterberg.

MORE: Lightning win Stanley Cup by smothering Stars in Game 6

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

Lightning win Stanley Cup by smothering Stars in Game 6

Lightning win Stanley Cup beat Stars in Game 6 Final
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For the second time in franchise history, and the first with this current set of stars, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup.

After the Stars survived elimination by winning Game 5 in double overtime, the Lightning absolutely locked the Stars down in Game 6, winning 2-0 to take the series 4-2.

Following the Lightning putting their own spin on the Stanley Cup celebration, Victor Hedman received the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Lightning win second Stanley Cup in franchise history after beating Stars in Game 6

When contests are as one-sided as Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final was, you can get into chicken-and-the-egg arguments.

How much blame do you put on the Stars for an effort that lacked much energy? The Stars only managed eight shots on goal through the first 40 minutes.

To be fair, there was a late push. The Stars ultimately reached 21 shots on goal when they found some energy down 2-0 in the third, but it was too little, too late.

For Stars fans, this was a painful way to watch a season end for a team that otherwise continuously found ways to dig deep during this surprising playoff run.

But it’s easy to point a finger at the losing team and forget what the winners accomplished.

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

Top players and supporting cast members shine for Tampa Bay

In knocking out the Blue Jackets, Bruins, and Islanders, the Lightning asserted their ability to handle tough defenses and small margins for error. As explosive as Tampa Bay is, Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Final serves as textbook example of how strong a defensive team they can be.

The Lightning didn’t force the Stars to parade to the penalty box, but some key early calls ended up being all the Bolts needed. On their second power-play opportunity, Brayden Point flustered Anton Khudobin with an initial shot, and then cashed in on the rebound.

During the second period, Blake Coleman completed a pretty span of passing and transition hockey. As you may have heard, Coleman grew up as a Stars fan living close to Dallas, so scoring a big goal in the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-clinching game must feel surreal.

You know, especially since it happened close to October.

Redemption for the Lightning in impressive Stanley Cup win

After the heartache and humiliation from being swept by the Blue Jackets, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in remarkably convincing fashion. You won’t see many teams win it all without facing elimination, but the Lightning did just that during this run.

Whenever the 2020-21 season begins, the salary cap will likely force some changes for the Lightning.

Many of the core players should be around, though, and that’s a scary thought for the rest of the NHL. Nikita Kucherov was brilliant with Point and Ondrej Palat. Andrei Vasilevskiy‘s dominance went a bit under the radar because of the many other standpoint performances. And, finally, Victor Hedman asserted himself as possibly the best defenseman in the world.

The Stars likely aren’t happy with their efforts in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final, yet it’s impressive that they got this far, including against the juggernaut Lightning.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0

James O’Brien is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @cyclelikesedins.

Lightning-Stars stream: 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final

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NBC’s coverage of the 2020 Stanley Cup Playoffs continues with Monday’s Stanley Cup Final matchup between the Lightning and Stars. Coverage begins at 8 p.m. ET on NBC. Watch the Lightning-Stars stream on the NBC Sports app by clicking here.

Facing elimination for the second time this postseason, the Stars overcame a third-period deficit and won the first Cup Final double-overtime game since 2014 to deny the Lightning the title and force Game 6. In what was the second set of a back-to-back, two aging offseason signees were the difference for Dallas as 36-year-old Joe Pavelski tied the game with 6:45 remaining in regulation and 35-year-old Corey Perry ended the second overtime game in as many days with his put back 9:23 into the second extra session.

Pavelski has now scored 13 goals, tied with Brayden Point for the most in these playoffs. He’s one shy of his total in the 2016 playoffs (14) when he led all players in the only other postseason he reached the Cup Final. That series against Pittsburgh, Pavelski had a goal in 6 games – his only point in the series. In this Cup Final, he has four goals in five games (all in last four games).

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

In two games facing elimination this postseason, Stars goaltender Anton Khudobin has stopped 79 of 85 shots, with both wins coming past regulation. With a win in Game 6 he will have the second-most victories in a single postseason in franchise history.

Lightning head coach Jon Cooper announced Sunday that captain Steven Stamkos will not appear the rest of this series, meaning if Tampa wins the Cup it’ll be the first time since the Flames in 1989 that a team has a captain not play in the Cup-clinching game.

Historically, a 3-1 series lead in the Cup Final has almost guaranteed an eventual Cup victory, with teams converting 33 times in 34 total tries. The only time a team blew a 3-1 lead in the Cup Final was in 1942, when Detroit lost to Toronto after leading the series 3-0.

WHAT: Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars
WHERE: Rogers Place – Edmonton
WHEN: Monday, September 28, 8 p.m. ET
TV: NBC
ON THE CALL: Mike Emrick, Eddie Olczyk, Brian Boucher
LIVE STREAM: You can watch the Lightning-Stars stream on NBC Sports’ live stream page and the NBC Sports app.

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lighting 2, Stars 0 Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

NHL schedule for 2020 Stanley Cup Final

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The Stanley Cup Playoffs continue on Saturday, Sept. 19 in the hub city of Edmonton. Now that we are through the conference finals, the full 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule has been announced.  

The top four teams during the regular season in both conferences played a three-game round robin for seeding in the First Round. The eight winners of the best-of-5 Qualifying Round advanced to the First Round.  

Rogers Place in Edmonton will host 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final.  

Here is the 2020 NHL Stanley Cup Final schedule.

2020 STANLEY CUP FINAL (Rogers Place – Edmonton)

Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB wins series 4-2)

Stars 4, Lightning 1 (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2 (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2 (recap)
Lighting 5, Stars 4 [OT] (recap)
Stars 3, Lightning 2 [2OT] (recap)
Lightning 2, Stars 0 (recap)

[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

CONFERENCE FINAL RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Lightning beat Islanders (4-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
Stars beat Golden Knights (4-1)

***

SECOND ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Lightning beat Bruins (4-1)
Islanders beat Flyers (4-3)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Canucks (4-3)
Stars beat Avalanche (4-3)

***

NHL QUALIFYING ROUND / ROUND-ROBIN RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Philadelphia Flyers (3-0-0, 6 points)
Tampa Bay Lightning (2-1-0, 4 points)
Washington Capitals (1-1-1, 3 points)
Boston Bruins (0-3-0, 0 points)

Canadiens beat Penguins (3-1)
Hurricanes beat Rangers (3-0)
Islanders beat Panthers (3-1)
Blue Jackets beat Maple Leafs (3-2)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Vegas Golden Knights (3-0-0, 6 points)
Colorado Avalanche (2-1-0, 4 points)
Dallas Stars (1-2-0, 2 points)
St. Louis Blues (0-2-1, 1 point)

Blackhawks beat Oilers (3-1)
Coyotes beat Predators (3-1)
Canucks beat Wild (3-1)
Flames beat Jets (3-1)

***

FIRST ROUND RESULTS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
Flyers beat Canadiens (4-2)
Lightning beat Blue Jackets (4-1)
Islanders beat Capitals (4-1)
Bruins beat Hurricanes (4-1)

WESTERN CONFERENCE
Golden Knights beat Blackhawks (4-1)
Avalanche beat Coyotes (4-1)
Stars beat Flames (4-2)
Canucks beat Blues (4-2)