No matter the sport, winning the title of champion is rare because it is very difficult. Injuries, egos, contract requirements and the NHL salary margin often break the run for a second title.
However, the Tampa Bay Lightning is close to achieving an even more difficult thing: winning three Stanley Cups in a row. The two-time champions defeated the New York Rangers, 2-1, to win the Eastern Conference Finals on Saturday and return to the Stanley Cup Final, where they face off against the Colorado Avalanche, which started in Denver on Wednesday.
None of the teams have been in three Stanley Cup finals in a row since the Edmonton Oilers team led by Wayne Gretzky and Mark Messier in the mid-1980s, and the Islands were the last team to win three trophies in a row when they won four titles in a row four years in a row. Between. 1980 and 1984.
Lightning may not attract as much national attention as some of the club’s bigger markets, or its Canadian teams. They play in Tampa, a Florida tourist destination, where another star, Tom Brady, a quarter of the Buccaneers, grabs most of the sports titles.
But silently and compassionately, Elva built a dynasty under coach John Cooper and their captain, Stephen Stamkos, which was the foundation of the team’s success. Now 32, the Toronto suburban center has played his entire 14-year career in Tampa and helped form a once-perennial competitor.
With 522 goals in his career, including the playoffs, he is second only to two boys, named Ovechkin and Crosby, among active players. He was also the glue that helped keep his teammates, including teammates Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej’s chamber. Tampa’s list includes players who have combined 204 games in the playoffs, the most from any team.
Stamkos added to his already stellar career when he scored Elvis’s two goals, including the match winner on Saturday at the end of the third period, to end the Rangers.
“It’s nice to score a few goals in such a huge game, but if I did not score and win, I would be just as happy,” he said after the game.
Stamkos has scored nine goals in the playoffs so far, but Elva has won the series convincingly, dominating the Ranger in almost every aspect of the game. Tampa overcame a two-match deficit and won the last four games of the series to beat the Rangers 12-5. Lightning made several mistakes that stopped the Rangers’s highest-ranking power play from ice. The Young Rangers, for the first time in five playoff seasons, have failed to score equal goals in the last four games of the series.
Saturday’s score and goal shots were deceptively close and the statistics would have been more one-sided had it not been for the brilliant play of Rangers goalkeeper Igor Shesterkin. Lightning had far more quality goal chances, and the Rangers, who had won all five elimination games in the playoffs, looked empty after losing their 5th game in New York on Thursday.
Before Shesterkin desperately tried to keep the Rangers in the game, his team-mate, Tampa goalkeeper Andrei Vasilevsky, was barely tested. He stopped 20 strokes and won the eighth clinic in a row, six of which were lockouts.
Tampa has now won 11 consecutive playoff series, which Cooper attributed to the constant aspiration of his players.
“No one will blame them” if the players give up, he said. “Hey, you win one, you win two, go back and go for the third.”
Lightning defeated the Toronto Maple Leafs in seven games in the first round and then defeated the Florida Panthers. The Rangers then expanded them to the first two games of the series in New York.
But Elva showed why and how they continue to win championships. They found a basis when the series moved to Tampa, improving with each game and being a much sharper team on Saturday. They slipped fast, made sharp passes and took the wrong passes next to the rangers. They dominated the first period, trying 25 shots, while the Rangers only managed 12.
Shesterkin kept Tampa away, even clearing up his own mess. After Riley Nash from Elvis’s squad stopped an attempt to clear the pack, he stopped Patrick Maroon’s attack. He used his right diaper to stop Pierre-Edward Belemar’s attempt and refused to let Anthony Searle escape.
In the second half, Shesterkin robbed Tampa scorer Kucherov as he tried to retreat.
But after all of Shesterkin’s stunning stops, Tampa scored after Stamkos missed the injured Ryan Strom and fired a wrist shot from the top of the circle.
The Rangers finally had a chance to play force in the third period when Corey Perry struck Philip Chittille in the face with a stick. Tampa blocked all the shots of the Rangers.
The Rangers finally scored in another power game when Stamkos was called up for a free kick and Frank Vatrano fired a shot past Vasilevsky.
No matter what momentum the Rangers gained, it disappeared after 21 seconds. Stamkos, coming out of the penalty area, ran towards the net, took the pass from Kucherov and threw the peak. Shesterkin grabbed him by the glove, but the nest fell out and Stamkos hit the net with his foot. After consideration, the goal was set.
Now Tampa will face the avalanche, who had a lot of time to think about the next opponent. They finished Edmonton Oilers almost a week ago in the Western Conference Finals. They were the West’s best team in the regular season with 119 points and are 12-2 in the playoffs so far, including in the Nashville Predators and Oilers games.
Colorado conceded just 40 goals more than Tampa’s 41, but the avalanche wins the goal more often and with 65 goals leads all teams to Elvis 52.
They are led by Nathan McKinnon, a fast-paced creative center, and defender Kyle McCarthy, whom Wayne Gretzky recently named the best two-man player after Bobby Two.
Colorado has won two games against Tampa this season, but only by one goal. But they might have been without Nazem Kadri and Andrew Coliano, both with injured fingers. It is also unknown whether goalkeeper Darcy Quemper will start the first game.
The Rangers will have to heal their injuries all summer and think about how they have been promoted to two games with the reigning Stanley Cup champions. Gerard Gallant, Rangers’ coach, said his team’s grueling schedule – 20 playoff games in 40 days – had devastated his club.
A hastily over quarrel over a Stanley Cup will endure.
“I’m empty,” said Rangers center Mika Zibanejad, who then paused for a long time. “I do not want it to end.”
Cooper, Lightning’s coach, does not believe this is not the case for his team.
“When you grow up in Canada, you always dream of having your name on the Stanley Cup,” he said. And to come there for the first time, that dream came true. Going there for the second time next year was like a dream, as if we could not go back. It is unbelievable to go for the third time. “