Tampa Bay is four wins away from earning their spot on the NHL’s Mount Rushmore of greatest all-time teams.
Tampa Bay Wins the Series 4-2
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed one goal on 21 shots. Didn’t have a lot to do tonight, but made at least one ten bell stop in the Third Period to help get his team across the finish line. I thought Shesterkin’s first goal was a tad soft, and that ended up being the difference. Andrei was better.
10:43 TB Stamkos (8), (Palat, Sergachev)
13:07 NYR Vatrano (5), (Copp)(PP)
13:28 TB Stamkos (9), (Kucherov, Palat)
Steven Stamkos and Vasilevskiy were the game’s first and second stars.
Full marks to Igor Shesterkin for being one of the few Rangers players who actually showed up to the rink tonight. New York, almost to a man, looked physically and emotionally spent as the Lightning outshot them 31-21 and the zone time was even more slanted in Tampa Bay’s favor. There were a lot of road cones in white shirts out there tonight and Shesterkin gave them a chance to steal the game when Lafreniere dove to get a “holding” call on Steven Stamkos that led to the equalizing power play goal in the Third Period. And then the captain, Steven Stamkos, got some get back as he left Trouba in his jet fumes to create a 2 on 1 that became the winning goal.
Now the Lightning move on to the Stanley Cup Final against the Colorado Avalanche with a chance to cement their place along side the legendary Montreal, Islanders, and Edmonton teams as one of the greatest teams of all time. It’s a different challenge they face after facing the slowly decaying corpses of the New York Rangers the last four games who could barely move by Game Six. Adjusting to Colorado’s speed is going to be the big challenge early in this series and getting Brayden Point back could help in that respect if his skating is near normal coming back from his injury.
If they do that and play the kind of defensively tight style they did late in the Toronto series and throughout the series against Sunrise, that should translate well against the Avs who are not a dissimilar opponent but maybe don’t have quite the same level of goaltending. Certainly they don’t have the goaltending the Rangers have, and they haven’t faced adversity in these playoffs, and haven’t handled adversity in past playoffs. If you’re the Lightning, you try to feed them some adversity early in the series by stealing at least one of the first couple of games in Denver and then try to take them out in the deep waters of a long series and see if you can drown them.
The Lightning come into this series having been to six of the last eight conference finals and four of the last eight Stanley Cup Finals and as the reigning back-to-back champions. The three teams they’ve beaten thus far combined for 347 points in the regular season, which may be some kind of record, and included the President’s Trophy winning team and the team with the presumptive Vezina Trophy winner. There’s this belief in some circles that Colorado’s some kind of 2:1 favorite to win the Cup, but my goodness how can you bet against Tampa Bay? Not saying it’s going to be easy, but I’m also saying not many people in the northern hockey media are fully appreciating the greatness we’re witnessing in it’s full scope because they’re still hung up on stupidly asking questions about the Columbus series four years ago. And, heck, maybe we should be grateful for that, because the Lightning don’t just carry a chip on their shoulder from that disrespect they carry a boulder and it’s been one of the things that’s made them strong enough to get to the precipice one more time.