Tampa Bay Lightning Repeats as Stanley Cup Champion

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In one of hockey’s favorite rituals, the Stanley Cup often spends the off-season touring with players in villages in Canada, hamlets in Scandinavia, and towns in the United States. But as the coronavirus pandemic raged last fall, the silver goblet was in Tampa, Fla., where Lightning had so much enjoyed her time with him. He lingered near and continued for a long time and once again won.

Tampa Bay has closed a chaotic NHL season where schedules have been cut, episodes rearranged, and traveling practice teams in viral trouble dominated by the Montreal Canadiens beating the Montreal Canadiens four-game-one in a best-of-seven Stanley Cup final to win their third championship.

Nine-and-a-half months after enduring a 65-day stay in the Canadian playoff balloons to win the trophy, Lightning completed its second straight win by beating Montreal 1-0 in front of the home crowd at Amalie Arena on Wednesday. grapple during the end of an NHL season. In doing so, they followed up with the NFL’s Tampa Bay Buccaneers by adding another title to a region that was suddenly disrupted by championships, and also joined the Pittsburgh Penguins in 2016-17 as the only team since the start of the pay cap era. The 2005-6 season will be repeated as champion.

“It was like we were doing it for the first time,” said Lightning Coach Jon Cooper. “Having fans in the building was incredible. And so it’s like we’ve won two completely different Stanley Cups. That’s what makes it so special to us.”

Lightning, who has won the last eight playoff series, has never lost a game in a row. In this series, they didn’t follow up until the end of the first period of Game 4. Against the Canadiens, who finished the regular season 18th out of 31 teams and started with a negative goal difference, but gave Montreal a spectacular boost to their first final appearance in nearly three decades.

Bidding to become Canada’s first champion since 1993, the Canadiens outpaced Toronto, Winnipeg and Vegas. But they couldn’t resist Lightning’s overall excellence, who beat Montreal in every position, especially in goalkeeper.

Carey Price was no match for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who cemented his position as the league’s best goalkeeper, even as he saved the Canadiens in Game 4 on Monday and stopped 29 of 30 shots on Wednesday. He had a .943 save percentage against Montreal and allowed eight goals in 140 shots, leading to the Islanders in the final round, the Carolina Hurricanes in the second round and the Florida Panthers in the first round.

“I still can’t believe it,” said Vasilevskiy, who received the Conn Smythe Trophy, awarded to the most valuable player of the playoffs. “The whole team definitely deserves it. It’s all about the team to not concede five goals in one playoff.”

Lightning embodies the modern ideal of an NHL team filled with goalscorers, outstanding defenders and a brilliant goalie, and smashed the playoffs after re-winning star winger Nikita Kucherov, who missed a 56-game season while recovering from hip surgery. All he did was add 32 points in 23 games, joining Wayne Gretzky and Mario Lemieux as the only players to score at least 30 points in back-to-back seasons.

“I don’t know anyone else who could miss the entire regular season and go back and do what he did,” said Lightning forward Blake Coleman.

Still, Tampa Bay’s most imposing asset may be its depth. Anthony Cirelli and Barclay Goodrow blocked consecutive shooting blocks, Erik Cernak and Jan Rutta returned with enthusiasm, and David Savard and rookie Ross Colton – two players on the roster that did not win a Cup – combined for Wednesday’s only goal: Savard Ryan, a puck from a season-ending transfer He took it from McDonagh and made a stylish pass to Colton, who overtook Montreal defender Joel Edmundson for the position and redirected the puck behind Price with 6 minutes 33 seconds into the second period. Lightning’s defensive determination, summed up by Goodrow’s blocking of Shea Weber’s shot, made sure they didn’t need to score again.

“I was crying on the bench with 40 minutes left,” said striker Patrick Maroon, who lifted the trophy three seasons in a row. “I couldn’t even throw away my stuff.”

Last Canadian team to win the trophy Montreal, 1993That same year, Tampa Bay, which heralded the NHL’s Sun Belt expansion, wrapped up its inaugural season. Lightning won his first title in 2004, then roamed the NHL wilderness for the next ten years, winning only two playoff series until this dynastic tension began.

Since the 2014-15 season, no team has won more games, neither in the regular season nor in the playoffs, than Tampa Bay, which has reached at least the league’s fifth semifinals in seven years. Lightning’s prowess in developing their young players has refreshed their talent base, and their deft manipulation of the salary cap has retained much of the core that lost them to Chicago in the 2015 finals, a core that has transformed and evolved in style and spirit. and staff.

A team that took what Cooper called “the greatest show on ice”, trying to score as many goals as they could while relying on their goalie to save him, needed to be “braverer” after absorbing one of them in 2019. More confusing post-season meltdowns in major professional sports history: After hitting 62 wins in 82 games and tying a league record, Lightning was swept in four games by Columbus in the first round.

“Oh my God, we started out with the new kids on the block in 2015, these guys are so fun to watch, they suddenly bend over and now we’re the team that couldn’t do that so far you’re using the word heraldry,” Cooper said. “This is a huge surge of emotion that has to go over a period of seven, six years. But this core got through it together.”

Lightning, in response to being humiliated by the Blue Jackets, emphasized their defensive responsibilities by removing some of the risks in their game. With a diving goal in the closing seconds of the second period, they added solid but talented sub-forwards like Goodrow and Coleman who provided the defining moment of this series in Game 2. These players mingled with intrepid players like Alex Killorn, Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson, among the many players who are unlikely to return next season as victims of the circumstances.

Lightning circumvented the league’s pay cap system by adding Kucherov for the playoffs, but they won’t be able to hold onto everyone—especially not as the Seattle Kraken expansion draft approaches—something Cooper says gives this run a definitive “last day of school” feeling.

Team captain Stamkos said it’s impossible to overstate how motivating the team’s pending disbandment was as they pursued another title. In the middle of the playoffs they discussed taking advantage of this opportunity and re-entering Game 5 of their semi-final series against the Islanders.

“We don’t get this chance very often to play with a talented team like us, and we just believed it,” said Stamkos, who missed most of the 2020 playoffs with an injury. “It’s very difficult to win the Stanley Cup and then you do it two years in a row. So we deserve to go down in history. And this group, no matter what happens next, this group will go down in history forever.”

Later, between hugs, handshakes and tears on the ice, Vasilevsky FaceTimed his parents in Russia and Cooper spoke to his father and the players around looked for family and friends, people were not allowed to share the joy of Tampa last September. Bay defeated Dallas in an empty arena in Edmonton, Alberta. Unlike then, it’s unclear whether players and coaches will be able to spend a day with the Cup in their hometowns. Still, Maroon had an idea.

“Our hope is to spend two days in a row with the Cup because we missed our day last year,” said Maroon. “So, NHL, wake up.”

Two days for two championships. Yıldırım’s final coronation, completely new and identical, arrived on Wednesday.

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