As I begin to write this post, the game between the New York Islanders and the Tampa Bay Lightning is tied just finishing the second period. Waiting in the wings for the eventual winner is a surprising Dallas Stars led by a goalie who wasn’t supposed to play and a head coach who wasn’t supposed to coach.
Two Key Surprises for the Dallas Stars
Goalie Anton Khudobin has taken over for the injured starter Ben Bishop and has been nothing short of amazing. After this season he’s on a expiring contract, and he couldn’t have chosen a better time to demonstrate what he can do in the net. The Stars also must be happy he’s been so outstanding.
Interim stars head coach Rick Bowness only took over as the bench boss when Jim Montgomery was fired earlier in the season. [By the way, Montgomery was hired by the St. Louis Blues this past week in the capacity of an assistant coach.] Bowness has moved from a long-time assistant coach to someone that Jim Nill, the Stars general manager, is anxious now to hire on a full-time basis.
In the series winning Game 5, Khudobin was again on top of his game. He stopped 34 of 36 shots in a 3-2 overtime victory over the Vegas Golden Knights. After going behind 2-0, Khudobin held the fort. And the Stars rallied to force overtime.
During the overtime period, Denis Gurianov (a surprising 20-goal scorer during the 2019-20 NHL regular season) became an instant hero. Khudobin won his third straight game. In fact, the 34-year-old goalie only allowed eight goals on 161 shots-on-net (that’s a save percentage of .950) in five games against the Golden Knights.
Whether he needs it or not, Khudobin will have a chance to get little extra rest before the start of the Stanley Cup Finals. Other Stars players are not so fortunate.
Dallas Stars Injury Report
In the rest of this post, I’ll try to bring you up-to-date on the injuries that are hampering the Stars’ players, and these players’ status headed into the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. In short, the news is not good. None of the three players that I review here seems ready to play at the moment.
Player #1: Radek Faska
Faksa is still considered to be unfit to play, head coach Bowness reported. Faksa was also unable to play during the last two games of the Western Conference Final against the Golden Knights after being injured in Game 3. Bowness didn’t say whether Faksa would be able to play in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Final. But the fact that he hasn’t been able to practice doesn’t speak well for his chances.
Player #2: Stephen Johns
Stephen Johns has also been deemed unfit to play. He hasn’t been able to place since August 11 when he was injured during a game in the opening round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Calgary Flames. There haven’t been any updates on his status since he was injured. It would be a surprise if he were able to play.
Player #2: Ben Bishop
Ben Bishop is also considered unfit to play. Although Bishop took part in Wednesday’s practice and then skated on Thursday, he still isn’t ready to go. Fortunately for the Dallas Stars, his job has been well-covered by Khudobin.
In fact, Bishop has only played in three postseason games. He’s unlikely to play again during this postseason.
Where It Stands Right Now
By the way, the Islanders – Lightning game is still tied with only a few minutes remaining in the third period. If the Islanders win, the series will go to a game seven. That might give the Stars an extra day to rest.
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