Although some fans and hockey experts once suggested it, there doesn’t need to be an asterisk beside Tampa Bay’s Stanley Cup triumph over the Dallas Stars in this Covid-19 delayed NHL season. After being swept in four games in the first round by the Columbus Blue Jackets a year earlier, Tampa took out the Dallas Stars in six games in this season’s Final, with a decisive 2-0 win on Sept. 28th.
Of course, this season was like no other as the Covid-19 pandemic halted the season in mid-March and it resumed about three-and-a-half-months later. All of the playoff-qualifying and postseason contests were then held in “bubbles” in Toronto and Edmonton with no fans in attendance. This didn’t affect the level of hockey played however as television viewers were treated to a hard-hitting, competitive and exciting postseason, just like usual.
For the Lightning, it was the franchise’s second Stanley Cup conquest with the first coming in 2003-04. They avenged last season’s loss against Columbus and ousted them by beating them if five games with four victories coming by a single goal. This included a 3-2 decision in an epic five-overtime game on Aug. 11 which ended at 10:27 and is currently the fourth-longest game in the history of the NHL.
Tampa then took care of the Boston Bruins as they eliminated this season’s Presidents’ Trophy winners in five outings to reach the Conference Final. Once there, they handled the New York Islanders in six contests before going on to defeat Dallas. Tampa managed to rebound from their playoff losses by going 6-0 this season following a defeat and they also went 6-2 in overtime and 11-3 in one-goal encounters.
Also, captain Steven Stamkos played just 2:47 of the entire playoffs when he scored on the second shift of his comeback in their game three victory against Dallas. He then returned to the infirmary and sat out the rest of the postseason due to injury. With Stamkos in the stands, the team’s top line consisted of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov.
The high-scoring trio lived up to expectations as Kucherov led the league in playoff assists with 27 and points with 34. Point was tops in goals with 14 to set a new club record while adding 19 assists and Palat chipped in with 11 goals and seven helpers. In addition, defenceman Victor Hedman, who was named the winner of the Conn Smythe Trophy as the MVP of the playoffs, contributed 10 goals and 12 assists for 22 points and logged an enormous amount of ice time.
Hedman’s 10 goals in a postseason ranks third in NHL history and came after he tallied 11 in 68 outings in the regular season. The only blue liners to notch more goals in a playoff run were Hall of Famer’s Paul Coffey with 12 in 1984/85 and Brian Leetch with 11 in 1993/94. Hedman is the second Tampa player to take the Conn Smythe Trophy home as forward Brad Richards won it in 2003/04.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy more than pulled his weight as well as he started every one of the team’s 25 postseason games and won 18 of them. He posted a 1.90 goals-against average with a 92.7 save percentage and one shutout, which came in the Cup-winning contest.
The win was obviously sweet for the entire Tampa Bay Lightning franchise, their families, friends and fans but it was something special for forward Pat Maroon. He won the Stanley Cup last season with his hometown St. Louis Blues and then rolled the dice by signing as a free agent with the Lightning shortly after. Nobody is questioning Maroon’s decision now after winning his second-straight league championship.