It would be easy at this point to write off Dallas Stars’ chances in the 2020 Stanley Cup Final.
They enter Game 5 on Saturday night (8 p.m. ET, NBC, Livestream) facing a 3-1 series deficit to a steamroller of a Tampa Bay Lightning team that is clicking on all cylinders.
They need to find a way to win three games in a row against a team that has more regular season and playoff wins than anybody else over the past six years. Three wins in a row against team that has lost three games in a row on just five different occasions over the past three full seasons.
Not only that, but in the history of the league only one team has comeback from being down 3-1 in the Stanley Cup Final, and it required a lot of madness and insanity for it to happen (read about it here).
The odds, clearly, are not in the Stars’ favor right now.
[NBC 2020 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]
But when has that mattered in this NHL season, in this bubble, in this year? Especially for this Stars team that just keeps finding ways to surprise people.
It’s been easy to write this Stars team off all season. When they started the season 1-7-1 through their first nine games, no one would have blamed you for making them an afterthought and forgetting about the.
The same was true when they went through a sudden and shocking mid-season coaching change.
And it was true when they ended the regular season on a seven-game losing streak, and then lost two out of their three Round-Robin games in the Return To Play, all while looking like a complete inept offensive team.
It was a foregone conclusion to pretty much everyone outside of Dallas that Colorado was going to skate by them in the Second Round. Then when the Avalanche failed to beat them, it was just generally accepted the Stars’ luck would run out against Vegas. Wrong again! Both times!
Now here we are again in a position where it’s easy to say, yeah, they’re done.
[Lightning vs. Stars: 2020 Stanley Cup Final schedule]
But twice this postseason the Stars have ended a series by winning three games in a row (Calgary and Vegas). Obviously the circumstances here are a little different (playing a better team, actually facing elimination with no margin for error) but they have done it before and in a variety of ways. They have found a way to score goals when needed, and they have also been able to lock things down or lean on their goaltending when needed.
If the first four games of this series have shown us anything it’s that they may need more of the latter approach to stay in this. Khudobin has cooled off considerably over the past few games, but he is absolutely capable of turning things around in the blink of an eye. In his two years with the Stars he has .923 save percentage in his 95 appearances (regular season and playoffs combined), which is one of the best marks for any goalie during that stretch. He helped single-handedly get them through the Vegas series. Does he have three more games like that in him?
No matter how they go about it, the Stars’ backs are clearly against the wall here. But that has been the case from the very start of the season and it has not yet stopped them.
They need to find a way to exceed the expectations one more time.
Tampa Bay Lightning vs. Dallas Stars (TB leads 3-1)
Stars 4, Lightning 1. (recap)
Lightning 3, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 2. (recap)
Lightning 5, Stars 4 [OT]. (recap)
Game 5: Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m. ET – NBC (livestream)
*Game 6: Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
*Game 7: Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m. ET – NBC
Adam Gretz is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @AGretz.