Wholesome Hockey: Revenge tour complete, Lightning have won the Cup!
Last year could not have been more catastrophic for the Lightning when they were swept in the first round. The Lightning had the best regular season the game had ever seen only to be swept by the low-seeded Columbus Blue Jackets. The Lightning came into the hub cities hungrier than anyone else in the field and it showed in every round.
This year was unlike any other and the path to the Cup would be tougher than ever before. The pandemic put the season on hold and we finally saw the playoffs resumes in late July. Tampa Bay wasn't going to let the circumstances deter them. The Lightning looked like the best team throughout the playoffs as they looked unchallenged and on a mission. They handled Columbus in five, Boston in five, the Islanders in six, and finally the Stars in six games.
The first-period power play gave the Lightning a prime opportunity to get on the board early. A goal would make a low-scoring game feel out of reach. On a 3 on 2 advantage, Nikita Kucherov did what he does best and created space for a goal to be scored. Skating to the net was an open Brayden Point. After his first shot was blocked, he got the rebound to put the puck in the back of the net. After striking first, one could almost feel that Tampa was ready to already lift the Cup. Another goal would certainly put the game out of reach.
The Blake Coleman goal did just that. The Lightning reminded us how they are able to execute cross-ice passes to perfection, thanks to a Dallas turnover. Cedric Paquette's one-timer to Coleman was finished off by an accurate slapshot that Khudobin couldn't get to in time. After the second goal, one could feel that the clock was only winding on a Tampa victory.
With the clock winding down, the urgency could be felt on the Dallas side. Throughout the final period, it became clear the Dallas was trying to find some method of breaking through and finding some form of offense. The Lightning defense smothered any opportunities. While Andrei Vasilevskiy only received 22 shots on net, he made all 22 saves and the shutout victory was a perfect ending for the goalie. This year's playoffs appeared to favor the teams with goalie depth as the back to back games began to take their toll. Vasilevskiy was able to continue to grind through games and carried the Lightning to the Stanley Cup.
I have mentioned previously the importance of a great defenseman. Particularly, a defenseman that plays defense (I know weird right). The problem many teams fall into is the tendency to overpay a scoring defenseman. These players end up destroying the chemistry and setting the team back more often than not.
At the same time, a scoring defenseman has an unlimited value on a complete team. The Lightning have little to no flaws on their roster, making Victor Hedman a viable piece to have in hopes to put the team over the top. Victor Hedman proved throughout the Stanley Cup playoffs his value as he scored 10 goals throughout the playoffs. Hedman could be seen constantly from the point firing accurate slapshots or taking advantage of the chaos in front of the net or taking a one-timer to the back the net. Needless to say, Victor Hedman was the most valuable player for Tampa throughout the playoffs and it's perfectly understandable to see him win the Conn Smythe trophy.