Tampa Bay vs. Calgary Lightning (46-22-8-6, 106 pts); Flames (42-30-7-3; 94 pts) Season Series: 1-0-0 Tampa Bay
For the third time in as many years, an unlikely underdog will participate in the Stanley Cup finals. And while the Calgary Flames have many similarities to both the Anaheim Mighty Ducks and the Carolina Hurricanes, there's one major difference this year - their opponent is not a seasoned playoff veteran. While the Tampa Bay Lightning did finish 1st overall in the Eastern Conference, they are equally as green when it comes to playoff experience.
Let's cut to the chase - Calgary will win this series, on home ice, in six games. It's not that they are clearly better than the Lightning, and it's not that the Flames have the better goaltender or the better star player. At this point in the season, individual performers become almost irrelevant. It's the performance, demeanour, and conduct of the team, which will decide the series. And there's just no way that I can bet against a team that has knocked off three 100-point division champions, while facing numerous key injuries. Tampa is a great team, and I expect their top two lines to pose a serious challenge to Calgary's defense. But the Flames have answered each and every challenge so far in the post-season, and there's no reason why this won't continue. The Stanley Cup will come back to Canada for the first time in over a decade.