Stanley Cup Final features current, past connections to Wings
The two teams that will meet in the Stanley Cup Finals both have connections to the Red Wings, one current and the other from the past.
The Tampa Bay Lightning and the Dallas Stars meet in Game 1 of the 2020 Cup Finals at 7:30 p.m. Saturday (NBC, CBC) in Edmonton’s Rogers Place. Emonton has been the hub city for the Western Conference Playoffs, both the Western and Eastern Conference Finals and now the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning earned a spot in the final by defeating the New York Islanders in six games in the Eastern Conference Final – thanks to Anthony Cirelli’s double overtime goal on Thursday night. Its Detroit connection is still very tangible – current Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman served as GM there from 2010 to 2018.
And he drafted seven players still with the team: forwards Cirelli, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, Cedric Paquette and Mitchell Stephens, and starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Cirelli usually centers the third line but has been the pivot on the second line for most of the playoffs with captain Steven Stamkos out with an injury. He was even moved up to center the top line when Point missed time with an injury during the Eastern Conference Final.
Kucherov, one of the NHL’s best players, leads the team in scoring during the playoffs with 26 points. His 20 assists have set a team record for a single playoff season. Point, who has also become a star, is second on the Lightning with 25 points (nine goals and 16 assists). That pair, along with Palat (8-5-13), has formed Tampa Bay’s top line during the playoffs.
Paquette is a valuable bottom-six forward contributor, while Stephens has played seven games in the playoffs.
Vasilevskiy is one of the top goalies in the NHL and has been spectacular in the playoffs, appearing in all 19 games. He is 14-5 with a 1.82 goals-against average and a .931 saves percentage.
Yzerman also signed centers Yanni Gourde and Tyler Johnson as free agents and acquired defensemen Ryan McDonagh, Mikhail Sergachev, Erik Cernak and Braydon Coburn along with center Carter Verhaeghe in trades.
At Dallas, GM Jim Nill worked for the Red Wings organization from 1994 to 2013, serving as assistant GM to Ken Holland for most of that time. Nill left to become the Stars’ GM in 2013.
Also, Dallas CEO and alternate governor Jim Lites is a native of Pentwater, MI, and was Detroit’s chief operating officer from 1982-1993. His most prominent role with the Wings was engineering the defections of Detroit’s European draft choices Petr Klima from the former Czechoslavakia, now the Czech Republic, and Sergei Fedorov, Vladimir Konstantinov and Vyacheslav Kozlov from Russia. Lites was also the COO of Olympia Arenas Inc., in Detroit and was formerly married to Lisa Ilitch, daughter of Mike and Marian Ilitch.
While the Lightning have been one of the NHL’s top teams for the entire season, the Stars are a surprise Cup finalist after Nill fired coach Jim Montgomery for non-professional behavior in December. Montgomery ultimately went into rehab for alcohol abuse and was recently hired by the St. Louis Blues as an assistant coach.
His replacement in Dallas, 65-year-old assistant Rick Bowness, has been in professional hockey for 45 years (36 as an assistant or assistant coach in the NHL). He even skated 61 games as a forward for the Wings during the 1977-78 season during his playing career.
The Stars were also in third place in the Central Division when the regular season was halted on March 12 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
But they defeated the Vegas Golden Knights in five games in the Western Conference Final, also getting to the Cup Final on an overtime goal, by rookie Dennis Gurianov.
Stanley Cup Final Schedule
All games at Rogers Place in Edmonton
All games televised on NBC and CBC
Game 1 - Saturday, Sept. 19, 7:30 p.m.
Game 2 – Monday, Sept. 21, 8 p.m.
Game 3 – Wednesday, Sept. 23, 8 p.m.
Game 4 – Friday, Sept. 25, 6 p.m.
x-Game 5 – Saturday, Sept. 26, 8 p.m.
x-Game 6 – Monday, Sept. 28, 8 p.m.
x-Game 7 – Wednesday, Sept. 30, 8 p.m.