Tampa Bay Lightning Maintain Excellence, Repeat as Cup Champs
Congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning! As fans of the NHL, this past year we were treated to a season of hockey that was unlike any other.
For starters, the divisional re-alignment, caused by the pandemic, forced teams to only intra-division play. Second, this was a short season, as it only consisted of 56 games. Third, most arenas were empty, as fans were not permitted to enter because of Covid-19 protocols.
Although the season looked vastly different, one thing remained the same from the season prior; the Stanley Cup champions. For the second straight year in a row, the Tampa Bay Lightning hoisted the cup, and for a good reason.
The Lightning we’re just a lethal team this year, able to beat any team in any way imaginable. How could they not? Just look at the amount of depth they carried; Steven Stamkos,Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Blake Coleman, Anthony Cirelli, Mikhail Sergachev, Ryan McDonagh, David Savard, Victor Hedman, and last, but certainly not least, Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Now, word around the hockey community is that this was an unfair win because the Lightning were $18 million over the salary cap and had an unfair advantage. In my opinion, that argument is bullshit. Remember, I am a lifelong Canadiens fan, and that loss yesterday hurt me like a son of a bitch.
I am also a rational hockey fan at the same time, and what the Tampa Bay Lightning did was fair and square; plain and simple. In game one the Tampa Bay Lightning came out firing on all cylinders. They were sharp with their passes, laid the body, and were flying through the neutral zone; they looked hungry.
The Canadiens on the other hand, looked like the exact opposite of that. Game one was probably the hardest game I’ve ever had to watch as a Habs fan (and I’ve been in the stands to see them get blown out 8-1 by the Bruins).
If I had to describe what the Canadiens looked like in game one, I’d say they looked like a bunch of deer in headlights. They were all over the place! Passes were sent willy-nilly, no one was attacking the net, and the defensive structure was lacking immensely. I’m surprised the score wasn’t much higher than it was.
With game one in the books, the city of Montreal recuperated and put it in the past. “It was just a warmup game” we thought to ourselves; just a game to get the nerves and wiggles out. We all expected a much different game two. What we got was kind of what we were expecting, but not quite.
The Canadiens played a tremendous second game, and a large population of the hockey community knew that it should have gone Montreal’s way, but one person managed to get in the way of a sweet Canadiens victory; Vasilevskiy.
The Conn-Smythe trophy winner put on a performance for the ages in Game 2, claiming the torch for the undisputed number one goalie in the world. Watching the Tampa Bay Lightning goaltender was a sight to see, as he reminded me a lot of Vladislav Tretiak, and how he was virtually unbeatable back in the day.
In game three, the Tampa Bay Lightning dominated, outclassing the Montreal Canadiens and essentially drubbing them at the Bell Center. After that loss, you could feel the air come out of the tire, as the entire city felt deflated. Only four teams had ever come back from down 3-0 and only one in the finals. How were we?
Still, the real Habs fans believed we could do it, and game four served as a reminder to keep the faith.
No one will argue that game four was the best game the Canadiens played all series, as it was the only game they would end up winning. Fueled by some superb play by Josh Anderson and Carey Price, the Habs would pull off the win in overtime, sending the series back to Tampa Bay for game five.
Game five was the ultimate test for the Canadiens, as that is almost always the game that swings the momentum for the team that’s down. Well, judging by the fact that the Tampa Bay Lightning are the team hoisting the Stanley Cup, it’s safe to say the Canadiens failed that test.
From the first period of game five, the Habs looked out of it, allowing Carey Price to stand on his head to make saves, turning over the puck constantly, and just playing really soft hockey. This did not look like a team trying to win the Stanley Cup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning were the exact opposite, as it looked like they were ready for war. They were skating circles around the Habs, and their depth forwards really carried the team throughout the game. Notable performances came from Blake Coleman, Tyler Johnson, and Barclay Goodrow.
Those are the players I singled out because I hated them the most. When I hate a player from another team, it’s normally because I wish he was on ours, that way we wouldn’t have to play them. Those three were outstanding for the Tampa Bay Lightning and deserve a hell of a lot more recognition.
The Canadiens put up a good fight in game five, as Carey Price played his best game of the series, but the Tampa Bay Lightning’s firing power and defensive play proved too strong for the Habs, and they would see their cup dreams dashed in game five.
The series could have been a lot better in my opinion, as I feel the Canadiens could have made structural changes to their lineup to be more competitive and make it more interesting but hey, beggars can’t be choosers. I’m just happy they were able to make it to the Stanley Cup Finals at all.
Once again, congratulations to the Tampa Bay Lightning, as they constructed a hell of a team, and played a great series. They also gave me my next Christmas wish for my next Christmas list; for the Canadiens to hire the Tampa Bay Lightning’s salary cap accountants.
See you all next time!
Dropping the Mike on ya!