As I continue this trend of looking back at this year’s champions and giving a breakdown of the events, we now shift our attention to the National Hockey League, where lightning finally struck.
For the past four or five seasons, I’ve thought of the Tampa Bay Lightning as the best team in the NHL.
They have a lot of talent on their roster with players like Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman and Brayden Point, to name a few. It is truly one of the deepest rosters I have seen since I’ve been following the sport.
Last season, Tampa Bay was the best team in the league and tied the NHL record for most wins in a regular season with 62.
Like most hockey fans, I predicted them to be the Stanley Cup champions last year because, after such an excellent regular season, there was no reason to doubt them in the playoffs.
We were wrong.
In the first round of the 2019 playoffs, the Lightning took on the Columbus Blue Jackets. Columbus had barely made the playoffs and had a much weaker roster than Tampa Bay.
To everyone’s surprise, not only did Tampa Bay get eliminated but the Blue Jackets swept them, winning the series 4 to 0.
After winning 62 games before the playoffs, the Lightning’s historic season came to a disappointing end.
There was speculation that Jon Cooper, their head coach, should have been fired. In the six seasons he was in charge, he had no postseason success to show for it.
Tampa Bay’s decision to keep him around didn’t make much sense before, but it sure looks like it was the right decision now.
This season, they finished second in the Eastern Conference, right behind the Boston Bruins, who had eight more points than them when the global pandemic put the season on pause.
When games resumed at the bubble in Toronto, the Lightning went on a run, finally proving why they are one of the top teams in the league.
Tampa Bay started the playoffs matched up with Columbus for the second year in a row.
There were questions about the Lightning before the playoffs began. How would the Lightning respond after getting swept last year? Which players need to make an impact for the team to be successful?
As soon as the puck dropped in Game 1, it was evident that this year’s Lightning was a different team.
Last year, it seemed like the players didn’t have the grit and passion that they needed to win but this year, Tampa Bay battled during every play.
If the puck was loose, there were one or two players chasing after it. If there was an opportunity to hit an opposing player, they did just that. If they needed to block a shot from the opposition, they got their bodies in front of it.
They wanted revenge. They were dissatisfied with their embarrassment at the hands of Columbus last season and wanted to prove a point.
Tampa Bay’s offensive pressure couldn’t be stopped. They had the majority of possession while outshooting their opponents in almost every game.
This eventually helped the Lightning eliminate the Columbus Blue Jackets, Boston Bruins and New York Islanders to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals against the Dallas Stars.
Dallas hardly had any opportunities to score throughout the series due to the difficultly presented by Tampa Bay’s defense. It also didn’t help that Lightning forwards Kucherov and Point played exceptionally well and led the playoffs in points; Kucherov had 34 while Point scored 33.
In the end, Tampa Bay went on to win the Stanley Cup after eliminating the Dallas Stars in a 4 to 2 series victory.
From being humiliated the year before to becoming NHL champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning have finally proven that they are the best team in the league.
Moving forward, we certainly should expect more from where that came from.