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Courtesy: NBC Sports

The NHL returned to play on Aug. 1 with 24 teams. Seven weeks later, only two remain.

  • Three days after the Stars punched their ticket to the 2020 Stanley Cup Final, the Lightning did the same with a 2-1 (OT) win over the Islanders.
  • Tampa Bay is seeking its first Stanley Cup since 2004, while Dallas is seeking its first since 1999.

The favorite: The Lightning (-180) fell in the first round last year after a record-tying 62-win season. They were one of the NHL's best teams again this season, led by a high-powered offense and the world's best goalie in Andrei Vasilevskiy.

The underdog: The Stars (+160) were far from a great team this season, scoring fewer goals per game than all but five other teams. Bookmakers didn't give Dallas much of a chance to win the Cup, yet here they are.

By the numbers: The Stars have conceded more goals than they've scored this postseason, something no Stanley Cup winner has done since the 2004-05 lockout. Meanwhile, the Lightning โ€” who have led the NHL in goals scored for three straight seasons โ€” have continued racking up goals in the playoffs.

  • Goals per game: Stars: 2.95 | Lightning: 3.17
  • Goals against: Stars: 3.05 | Lightning: 2.28

Schedule: The NHL staged both conference finals series in the Edmonton bubble, and that will continue through the Stanley Cup Final.

  • Game 1: Tomorrow night (7:30pm ET, NBC)
  • Game 2: Sept. 21
  • Game 3: Sept. 23
  • Game 4: Sept. 25
  • Game 5: Sept. 26
  • Game 6: Sept. 28
  • Game 7: Sept. 30

Wild stat ... In the last 12 years, the only team to win both the Presidents' Trophy (best regular-season record) and Stanley Cup in the same season is the 2012-13 Blackhawks. And since the advent of the Presidents' Trophy in 1985, only eight teams have done it.

  • In other words, the NHL's best regular-season team has won a championship just 23.5% of the time (8-for-34) since "Gremlins" was released in theaters.
  • That streak will stay alive, as the Presidents' Trophy-winning Bruins lost to the Lightning in the second round. Tampa Bay finished the year with the league's second-best record, while the Stars ranked 10th.

Go deeper

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Dec 22, 2020 - Technology

Video games offered a lifeline in 2020

Illustration: Aรฏda Amer/Axios

Video games have long provided players with a chance to escape reality, but in 2020, they took on much larger roles, serving as exercise companions and social gathering places โ€” filling urgent needs in this coronavirus-altered year.

Why it matters: 2020's transformations will likely outlast the pandemic. While some people who boosted their video game use this year will scale back, others will keep gaming in a central place in their lives.

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Why it's so hard to tax wealth

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The wealth tax that wasn't a wealth tax isn't even a tax, now. The Democrats had a meticulously constructed 107-page proposal to pay for a large chunk of their spending plans with a tax on billionaires, but it died ignobly on Wednesday, the same day it was unveiled.

Why it matters: The dream of a wealth tax will never die as it so neatly generates revenue by reducing inequality. But there are three main reasons why that dream is likely to remain just a dream for the foreseeable future.

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"Be first, be right, be credible" is the mantra of public health experts in a crisis. It's difficult to argue that the health community has regularly managed to be any of those three during COVID-19.

Why it matters: A pandemic isn't just a medical emergency โ€” it's also a communications emergency. The U.S. public health establishment, hamstrung by bad data and political interference, has struggled with the latter.