The Stanley Cup Finals are in full swing. After almost two months of competition at NHL bubbles in Canada, the Dallas Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning are battling for the title at the Rogers Arena in Edmonton, Alberta.
From Anton Khudobin to Andrei Vasilevskiy and from Jamie Benn to Brayden Point, the star-studded matchups are on display each and every shift.
In Game #1, Dallas’ young rookie defensemen, the duo of Miro Heiskanen and John Klingberg were able to shut down Tampa Bay’s potent core of Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and Victor Hedman, leading the Stars to a 4-1 victory.
Game #2 was also an electric one. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper shuffled his lineup. Instead of going with the unique 11 forward and 7 defenseman strategy that he had used most of the postseason, Cooper decided to dress the typical 12 forward and 6 defenseman lineup combination. Cooper’s decision paid off, as the Lightning defeated the Stars 3-2. The best-of-7 series is now all tied up at 1-1.
Fan favorites Mike ‘Doc’ Emrick and Eddie Olczyk had the call, while Brian Boucher was down on ice-level between the benches. Emrick was at his home studio in Michigan.
Highlights of Emick and Olczyk’s thoughts:
- The men discussed how important it would be for both teams to set the tone with a physical presence. Doc noted how both Dallas and Tampa Bay began Game #2 with the same line combinations that started Game #1.
- Olczyk opined that in order for Tampa Bay to score more goals and generate momentum that the team must have a “net front presence” and get pucks toward Khudobin early and often.
- Eddie claimed that the Dallas Stars were productive in staying aggressive and pressuring Tampa Bay’s top forwards in Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat. Whenever a member of the Lightning trio gained possession of the puck, one of the them was a victim of a punishing hit. However, on that same note, Olczyk was not impressed with the Dallas discipline in staying out of the penalty box. The team conceded 3 powerplays in the first 15 minutes of action.
- Both Emrick and Olczyk insisted that the Lightning should have adjusted their powerplay formation. Since Tampa Bay did not have success in Game #1 when on the man advantage (0 for 3), the men pondered as to why Cooper kept the same strategy in Game #2. When the Lightning moved around where Nikita Kucherov was located on the special teams during the series against the Boston Bruins, the team was much more successful in capitalizing on the powerplay. Later in the first period when the team replaced defenseman Mikhail Sergachev with forward Alex Killorn on their top powerplay unit, Brayden Point scored to give the Bolts a 1-0 lead. A few minutes later on the man up, Ondrej Palat scored to double the lead.
- Doc Emrick was surprised by how sluggish the Dallas offense was to begin Game 2. Being one of the highest scoring teams in the playoffs, it was alarming that the Stars offense looked a “step slow” and didn’t register a shot on goal for over 13 minutes.
- Emrick and Olczyk wondered how Stars’ head coach Rick Bowness would deal with his team’s impulsive and uncalled for penalties. After a shaky first period when the Stars went into the dressing room down 3-0 (two of those being powerplay goals), the announcers assumed that Bowness would be furious that Blake Comeau took a penalty at the inception of the second period. On the other hand, the Tampa Bay penalty kill was sharp and staved off the lethal Dallas attack. Joe Pavelski changed the script when he deflected a John Klingberg wrist shot into the net in the middle of the second.
- Doc and Eddie felt as if Alexander Radulov would be the player to spark the Dallas Stars. Radulov seems to “always be in the right position and find the puck on his stick.” Both broadcasters also thought Radulov and the Stars needed to put more pucks on net and to stop looking for the perfect play. As the greatest Wayne Gretzky once stated, “You miss 100% of the shots you don’t take.”
- In the second period, Dallas did a better job of shooting the puck on net and outshot the Bolts 18-5. This pressure continued in the third period, and Mattias Janmark of the Stars cut the deficit to 3-2. John Klingberg and Alexander Radulov notched an assist on each Dallas goal.
- The voices emphasized how Dallas did a much better job of staying composed in the Western Conference Finals against the Vegas Golden Knights than they have thus far in the Stanley Cup Finals versus the Tampa Bay Lightning. Unlike the previous few series, the Stars are retaliating and becoming more and more aggressive as the series progresses.
- Both announcers were happy with how Anton Khudobin rebounded from a rough first period. He “kept his composure” and looked confident in goal for the Stars all throughout the second and third period.
Both Doc Emrick and Eddie Olczyk get an A last night for the broadcast.