Today’s NHL Predictions feature a 2020 Stanley Cup Finals rematch. On Thursday, the Tampa Bay Lightning (10-9-5) let a two-goal lead slip away. The Lightning dominated the first period with two goals and 17 shots. However, the Pittsburgh Penguins answered with four goals, including an empty net tally from their goaltender Tristan Jarry.
On the other side of this matchup, the Dallas Stars (13-5-3) look to build off their excellent start to the season. Leading the scoring race for the Stars is veteran Joe Pavelski with 21 points. Furthermore, free agent acquisition Matt Duchene looks like a bargain with 17 points on the year. Dallas offers one of the best lines in the NHL, including Jason Robertson and Roope Hintz.
Tampa Bay heads to American Airlines Center for part one of their back-to-back against the Stars. The Lightning will look for more offence after losing three straight games while out-shooting their opponent. Tampa Bay still has the league leader scorer in Nikita Kucherov, who has 39 points in 23 games. However, the team must capitalize on their scoring chances moving forward. Here are the keys to victory for the Lightning in this matchup.
NHL Predictions: Tampa Bay vs Dallas
Three Keys to Victory for Tampa Bay
Continue to Keep Dallas Out of The Slot
The one weakness of the Dallas offence is their ability to generate high-danger chances in the middle of the ice. From the Stars’ 5v5 offensive Shot Map from HockeyViz, we can conclude that the team struggles to create shots from the slot. The blue regions identify a team that generates less than the league average rate of shots, and the red regions for more than the league average.
Additionally, the Stars do not capitalize on their scoring chances at an elite level. The team has 63 goals on 63.8 expected. Dallas does not play a flashy style of hockey, but they are effective on the forecheck and in the cycle game. The Lightning will have their hands full because the Stars have three solid lines that can possess the puck. Tampa must keep Dallas out of high-danger scoring areas and let them control the perimeter. As the game progresses, Dallas will start to make mistakes, where the Lightning must capitalize.
Capitalize on Scoring Chances
The Lightning have lost three games in a row due to their inability to finish their scoring chances. In all situations, the team has four goals on 13 expected. In other words, based on the quality of scoring chances the Lightning produced, they should have scored nine more goals over their last three games. However, they have faced fantastic goaltending performances from Connor Ingram and Jarry.
In previous seasons, the Lightning never struggled to capitalize on their chances. They have talented goal-scorers, including Brayden Point, who eclipsed 50 goals last season. The Lightning are simply in a goal-scoring slump and have not had any puck luck. We expect bounces to start going in favor of Tampa Bay moving forward.
Get The Power Play Back on Track
Tampa Bay struggled to establish zone time on the power play against Pittsburgh on Thursday. Tanner Jeannot added a power-play tally late in the first period, but that does not reflect the quality of the play. The Lightning have scored one power-play goal in their last three games on seven total attempts (14%). With the talent of the Lightning, we expect their luck to reverse, but only once they make a slight adjustment.
An adjustment we would like to see Jon Cooper make is placing Brandon Hagel on the top unit for Nick Paul. Hagel offers more to the table when retrieving loose pucks in the zone. Moreover, Hagel is relentless in front of the net and offers more potential in passing and transition. While Paul works for the top unit, changing scenery may help this unit regain their stride.
This 2020 Stanley Cup Finals rematch offers exciting top-end talent on both sides. The Lightning must rebound soon if they expect to be in a playoff position come April. For Tampa Bay, the results do not reflect their quality of play. It is not time to press the panic meter yet. Dallas continues to build on their mixture of youth and veterans after their Eastern Conference Final loss last season, so we see them grabbing two points from this contest.
Prediction: Dallas wins 6-3
Expected Goals via NaturalStatTrick
Shotmap via HockeyViz
Main Photo: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports