The Tampa Bay Lightning are heading back to the Stanley Cup Final for the third year in a row after defeating the New York Rangers in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference Final by a score of 2-1.
This Lightning team continues to be remarkable. The two-time defending Stanley Cup Champions have proven they are never out of any game or series. What Tampa Bay is doing in this salary cap era is truly historical.
Tampa Bay Lightning Rewriting History
You think about this for a minute, the Lightning are the first team since the Edmonton Oilers of the 1980s to make it three straight Stanley Cup Finals. The Oilers did not win in 1983, but still, it was a tough task to make it three years in a row then. Just think about what the Lightning are doing now. Just to get to three straight Stanley Cup Finals is tough to do. The grind physically and mentally. Not to mention the player turnover and yet here the Lightning are here once again.
There are some that have Lightning fatigue because fans want to see a new champion crowned. But you have to appreciate what the Lightning are doing regardless if you are a fan of theirs or not. Tampa Bay has won 11 straight playoff series. Obviously, the New York Islanders of the 1980s have the most with 19 straight playoff series victories. The Lightning only trail the Montreal Canadiens of the late 1970s, by two. Those teams had 13 straight playoff series.
What is even more history about this run to the Stanley Cup Final is this team is doing it without home-ice advantage. Yet, it did not phase this Lightning team. As head coach Jon Cooper said before the start of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, it did not matter if they had home-ice advantage or not, they knew how to get the job done on the road. Would it be nice to have that seventh game on home ice, sure, but it was not going to affect how they started the playoffs.
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— Full Press Hockey (@FullPressNHL) June 12, 2022
Lightning Being Battle Tested
And this run to the Stanley Cup Final has been harder than the other two. The circumstances for each trip to the Stanley Cup Final were different. On the brink of elimination against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Needing an overtime goal from Brayden Point, just to force a Game 7 in the first round. Winning Game 7 without Brayden Point against Toronto. While they swept the Florida Panthers, they needed a late goal in Game 2, to seal that victory.
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Then in the Eastern Conference Final against the New York Rangers, down 2-0 to begin the series, and a goal away from being down 3-0, the Lightning won four straight very tightly contested games. Especially Games 5 and 6 as the Lightning just wore out the Rangers playing that grinding physical style. Nothing has been easy for the Lightning this year. And now they get the best team they have faced in any Stanley Cup Final in the Colorado Avalanche.
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But nothing seems to fade the Tampa Bay Lightning. Even when they are not playing their best or down in a series, they always remain calm. And that is what champions do. It is that winning or championship mindset you here talked about all the time. This is why they have been so dominant over this stretch. Not to mention the Columbus Blue Jackets in 2019 created a monster as John Tortorella stated.
Just look what the Lightning did in Games 3, 5, and 6 against the Rangers. Trailing in Games 3 and 5, the Lightning never panic and believed in their system. They were able to tie both those games and win them late. Then in Game 6, despite Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin standing on his head, the Lightning did not flinch. They continues to shoot the puck until it went in. Even when Frank Vatrano tied the game on the power play, Steven Stamkos came down the ice and gave the Lightning the lead right back.
Appreciate The Journey
That is what champions do. No moment is too big for them and they will do whatever it takes to win. It is that next-man-up mentality that makes the Lightning so good. No superstar no problem. In 2020, Stamkos played one shift in the Stanley Cup Final, he scored a goal, but the Lightning did not have him in the lineup. Did not phase them. Enter Brayden Point. Nikita Kucherov missed all of the 2021 season, before dominating the playoffs. Now Point was gone since Game 7 of the first round and they have won two straight playoff series. Just appreciate what they are doing.
There is a reason why the Lightning are a historic team. To remain this competitive for this long is truly remarkable. Especially in this era of competitive hockey. Through all the challenges of COVID-19, this is the stuff dynasties are made of.
While some may not like it, you have to appreciate what the Tampa Bay Lightning are doing. Who knows when we will see this again. Maybe the Avalanche can replicate it, but it is so hard to even win back-to-back Stanley Cups. Not to mention even get to the Stanley Cup Final. Just ask teams like Toronto, Buffalo, and Vancouver. They are still waiting to win the Stanley Cup. Plus the numerous teams that have not even tasted the Stanley Cup Final.
The Lightning are truly a historic team. Regardless of whether or not they win the Stanley Cup for the third year in a row, these last three seasons have been something special.
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