The Tampa Bay Lightning Win Back-To-Back Stanley Cups

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The Tampa Bay Lightning Win Back-To-Back Stanley Cups

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And with that, we have the conclusion of the shortened 2020-21 NHL season.

The 2021 Stanley Cup Champions are once again the Tampa Bay Lightning, taking down the Florida Panthers, Carolina Hurricanes, New York Islanders, and Montreal Canadiens on their way to winning back-to-back Stanley Cups. Credit to the Canadiens for putting up as best of a fight as they could in the Cup Final after having to go through the Toronto Maple Leafs, Winnipeg Jets, and Vegas Golden Knights (no small task of its own), but the Lightning were just too much for Montreal to overcome. In the end, it was super-human goaltending and a team full of stars and quality depth that earned the right to lift the Cup for the third time in franchise history.

•   After a thrilling overtime game in Game Four, with the Cup once again on the line, no one really expected to get a blowout game. But I’m not sure how many would have expected that the deciding game in the Cup Final would come down to just one goal between the teams.

•   In the later stages of the second period, it would be Lightning rookie Ross Colton, yes THE Ross Colton, who would get the game’s opening and only goal.

•   Colton’s fourth goal of the postseason broke the scoreless tie for Tampa and would serve as all the offense needed for the Lightning.

•   Colton has played in 53 combined NHL games and has 13 goals scored in those games. The 13th being a Stanley Cup-clinching goal. Not a bad way to start an NHL career.

•   Shutting the door against the Canadiens from there was Lightning goaltender Andrei Vasilevksiy. For the fifth time in the last two postseasons, with the chance to clinch a series, Vasilevskiy pitched a shutout. He had five throughout the postseason, and at least one in each round. He finished the postseason with a 16-7 record, a .937 save-percentage, and a 1.90 GAA. He also was named the Conn Smythe Trophy winner as Stanley Cup Playoffs MVP.

•   No arguments here on the selection for Conn Smythe. Vasilevskiy was the reason the Lightning won this year’s Cup.

•   Of all goaltenders to reach the Stanley Cup Final since 2010, Vasilevskiy’s .937 save-percentage is the third-best behind Jonathan Quick’s .946 in 2012 and Tukka Rask in 2013 and Tim Thomas in 2011, both with a .940. Quick and Thomas both won the Stanley Cup in those postseasons and both were also named the Conn Smythe winners. His five shutouts this postseason were also the most of any goaltender in a playoff year in that same span.

•   Vasilevskiy is also one of five goalies since the 2015-16 season to record at least six postseason shutouts. The four others to do it are Matt Murray (6), Martin Jones (6), Cam Talbot (6), and Marc-Andre Fleury (8).

•   Some will say that Nikita Kucherov, who missed all of the 2020-21 regular season, should have been named the Conn Smythe winner for leading the postseason in scoring with 32 points in 23 games. It’s a valid argument, but without Vasilevskiy in net, the Lightning are not able to be the dominant team they have been over the past few seasons. But Kucherov has a case for the biggest Conn Smythe snub for teams that win back-to-back Stanley Cups.

•   But if you ask Kucherov, he agrees that Vasilevskiy was the MVP. He also had PLENTY to say following the Game Five victory in one of the most entertaining postgame press conferences you’ll ever see from an NHL player.

•   We harp on hockey players for not showing enough personality. Then we harp on them for being drunk at the podium of a Stanley Cup-winning press conference, or for being drunk at a Stanley Cup parade. Listen, these guys rarely are ever able to let loose because of how much they live in the public eye and how much the culture of hockey beats the personality out of them. If all they need to do to show that fun side to them is win the Stanley Cup and then pound copious amounts of champagne and Bud Light, so be it.

•   This goes for all professional athletes winning championships or gold medals or whatever it is. Have your fun, you earned it.

•   Another player for the Lightning who was on pace for an incredible goal-scoring feat in these playoffs that had a claim to the Conn Smythe was Brayden Point. Entering the Cup Final, he had 14 goals in 18 games. Leaving the postseason, he finished with 14 goals in 23 games. So the Canadiens were able to stop Point, but the thing about the Lightning is you cannot simply stop ONE player.

•   Point is third all-time in Lightning franchise history in postseason goals (36) and tied for third all-time in postseason points (73), all the while doing it in nearly half of the games that the leaders (Kucherov, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman) have done.

•   And right behind Point in those categories for the Lightning is Steven Stamkos. And they are all on this team at the same time. Like I mentioned before, and INCREDIBLY stacked team these Lightning are.

•   With the Lightning winning back-to-back Stanley Cups, so does former Blackhawks defenseman Jan Rutta.

•   Good for Jan.

•   But, as cool as winning back-to-back Stanley Cups is, winning back-to-back-to-back Stanley Cups is even better. Just ask Pat Maroon…

•   Again, a STACKED team. How do you coach a team with this much talent? Tampa Bay head coach Jon Cooper let us in on his coaching secret…

•   LOL.

•   One player that was not on the ice for the Lightning in the final few games of the postseason was Alex Killorn. He was a game-time decision for Games Four and Five, but ultimately didn’t play. What kept him off the ice you ask? A broken leg…

•   Killorn broke his leg, had a rod placed in his fibula, and still was thinking of getting back on the ice to play. I know we glorify this kind of “toughness” from hockey players. But this goes beyond toughness. This isn’t, “I broke my nose, so I put a full face-shield on and still played” kind of thing. This is psychotic. This should be a cause for concern in the culture of the sport. I highly doubt anyone was telling Killorn not to try to get back on the ice. What if the series went to Game Six or Seven? Would he actually have played on a freshly broken leg with a rod inserted in it? That’s insane. Right? I’m not alone here, right?

•   Anyway, good for Killorn and his contributions to winning his second Stanley Cup.

•   So what is next for the Lightning? They were nearly $19M over the salary cap with their healthy playoff roster, so clearly changes are coming. Knowing that, they NEEDED to win this year’s Cup.

•   They’ll get to have their boat party again, but when they reach shore, it will be the offseason for them and a good number of those players could likely be headed elsewhere.

•   Whatever the outcome of the offseason for Tampa Bay, it’s likely they will still be one of the best teams in the NHL next season and favorites for a three-peat. Their run over the last ten years in the Stanley Cup Playoffs his nearly unmatched. Nearly.

•   Yeah there’s still a team with one more Cup to their name on that list, my frents.

•   Does back-to-back Stanley Cups make one a Dynasty? Perhaps. But it’s more than the Cups that make a dynasty. Since the 2010-11 postseason, the Lightning have made the Conference Finals round six times and the Stanley Cup Final three times, winning twice.

•   In the modern age of the NHL with the salary cap in effect, it’s pretty damn impressive to be that consistently competitive and that consistently good.

•   With the conclusion of last night’s game, so came the conclusion of a 15-year run for the NHL on NBC. There were plenty of heartfelt goodbyes and memories shared on the postgame broadcast, but we’ll let the great Eddie Olczyk take it away…

•   Very happy that Edzo will be continuing in his lead color commentary role, along with Kenny Albert, as they move to the NHL’s coverage on Turner Sports.

Author: Mario Tirabassi

Mario Tirabassi is a writer for Bleacher Nation. You can follow him on Twitter @Mario_Tirabassi.