EDMONTON, Alberta (CBSDFW.COM/AP) — They’ve been in the finals before — on 4 separate occasions actually — and brought home the The Cup in 1999. Now the Dallas Stars are in the NHL playoff bubble, preparing to play the same kind of game under very different circumstances.
On Saturday night, two of the league’s southernmost teams begin a Stanley Cup Final like none other in the great white north when the Stars and Tampa Bay Lightning face off in Game 1. The Texas and Florida heat that would have been around in late May and June has been replaced by a chill in the air with teams from nontraditional markets vying for hockey’s biggest prize in the northernmost city in the NHL.
“We don’t know what the temperature is outside because we’re never outside, so it doesn’t come into play,” Stars general manager Jim Nill said from the confines of the bubble. “We’re 75, 80 degrees here all the time, so it’s perfect — perfect environment.”
The Stars and Lightning would take any environment for a chance to win the Cup. Dallas players, coaches and staff have been here since July 27, and Tampa Bay joined them Sept. 5 after spending six weeks in Toronto and flying cross-country.
Dallas has been waiting since finishing off the Vegas Golden Knights in Game 5 of the Western Conference final Monday. Tampa Bay won the East on Thursday night by beating the New York Islanders in Game 6 of that series on Anthony Cirelli’s overtime winner.
It’s a quick turnaround for the Lightning, who don’t mind that for this opportunity.
“This is unlike any other Stanley Cup final where we’d get days rest,” coach Jon Cooper said. “If you were going to tell me, ‘Hey Coop, you get to play in the Stanley Cup final, you’re only going to get 45 hours to rest before the game, but you’re going to get to play in it,’ I’m taking that all day.”
The Stars coaching staff pre-scouted each potential opponent, with Rick Bowness and assistant John Stevens diving into the Lightning the past few days.
“We’ll be well-prepared,” Bowness said. “There’ll be no surprises.”
This year is full of surprises. After the Lightning skated off with the Prince of Wales Trophy for winning the East, Blake Coleman was asked about his journey from being traded in February with his pregnant wife two weeks from giving birth through to the bubble and said, “It’s been kind of crazy, but whose 2020 hasn’t been crazy?”
The NHL is one round from capping its crazy season and crowning a champion. Some things to watch in the Dallas-Tampa Bay Stanley Cup Final:
(© Copyright 2020 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)