Lightning dynasty is crowned.
Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-1
Tampa Bay Wins Back-to-Back Stanley Cup Championships
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 22 shots he faced for his fifth straight series-closing SO victory and win the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP. To put his closeout streak in perspective, Chris Osgood of the vaunted Yzerman-era Detroit Red Wings is the only other player with five series-clinching SO’s in his entire career. He’s only 26 years old and already building a resume that is slowly beginning to creep up into the discussion for goaltending GOAT.
13:27 TB Colton (4), (Savard, McDonagh)
Vasilevskiy, Ross Colton, and Barclay Goodrow were the game’s three stars.
I give Montreal credit for finally coming under some degree of control these past two games and limiting their turnovers and odd-man rushes surrendered and making this series at least a little difficult. The Lightning had to show tremendous patience in Game Five to slowly unpeel the Canadiens defense and Carey Price to get the Cup clinching goal. That said, on the other end, the Lightning managed a defense tour-de-force only allowing 22 shots on goal.
Last year’s Stanley Cup winning team probably was the better team from a talent standpoint. They had superior depth with Verhaeghe, Shattenkirk, and Bogosian and they had superior health with the exception of Stamkos’ absence. Frankly, I think if Victor Hedman weren’t somewhere in the 75-85% range these 2021 playoffs might’ve been another squash for the Lightning where they routinely blew their opponents out. As it was, with so many guys banged up, they had to adopt a more pragmatic style and play it to perfection to get this second title in a row. That speaks to coaching and it speaks to the unselfishness and resolute will of the team. And that’s why I think this 2021 run is probably the more impressive of the two championships, even if it was aesthetically less pleasing.
There’s going to be a lot of vitriol spilled by the northern establishment hockey media about “cap circumvention” and trying to deny the Lightning their rightful designation as a dynasty. The Tampa Bay Lightning enter an exclusive gated community of teams that have won back-to-back Stanley Cups. Not even Gordie Howe or Bobby Orr can claim a spot in that community. Their team now sits next to teams like Yzerman’s Wings, Mario’s Penguins, and the fantastic Montreal teams of Beliveau and Richard. I recall when he was coaching Norfolk someone asked Jon Cooper who his favorite teams were that he wanted his teams to play like and he mentioned the Broad Street Bullies teams of the 70’s and Gretzky and Messier’s Oilers teams of the 80’s. Cooper’s team just moved into the same subdivision with those teams.
In the past seven seasons the Lightning have won a dizzying 70 playoff games. That’s an insane number that hasn’t been achieved since the recent Chicago Blackhawks Kane and Toews teams and Yzerman’s Wings and Sakic’s Avalanche before that. Think about averaging 10 playoff wins a year over seven years. The mean for Tampa Bay has been a trip to the conference final. There are teams like the Florida Panthers that are still looking for a playoff series victory in the 2000’s. To average a trip to the conference final every single season is mind-boggling.
This is now a dynasty. I count at least four future Hall or Fame players on this team (Steven Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Nikita Kucherov, and Andrei Vasilevskiy). There are others on this team (Brayden Point) that may work themselves into that discussion with future exploits. Jon Cooper, just eight full seasons into his NHL coaching odyssey, also is beginning to look like a lock for the Hall. I don’t know how many times in NHL history you could say with a straight face that a team had the best goaltender and the best defenseman of their era, but that’s what the Lightning are sitting on right now. The pieces may be about to be reshuffled around that core, but in my opinion the team can probably count on another good six or seven seasons from the now venerable Hedman. The window may temporarily narrow as the team has to rebuild it’s depth, but with a backbone that stout the team is very likely to have more opportunities to add to their legend. I hope the young guys now coming up through the system who are going to have to plug into some of the holes on this roster appreciate what they’re inheriting and the ride they may be about to embark on. Speaking of which…
Ross Colton was +1 with the Stanley Cup clinching goal and 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:42. Went to the net front and got picked out by a great pass by deadline acquisition David Savard on the marker that put them over the top. When Mitchell Stephens went down to injury in the regular season, I had a suspicion Colton might be a good fit for the role. Never in my wildest dreams would I have expected him to have ended up potting the goal that allowed the team to raise another Cup. Lesson to the youth in the organization: the opportunities to do special things are all around you with the Lightning if you step up and seize them.