2020. For all that we thought was a year so far of naught - Thanks Covid - all of a sudden could be a Year of Stanley.
Our TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING ARE GOING TO THE STANLEY CUP - in a cruel twist of irony that is 2020, we will have to settle on watching the Lightning’s quest for Lord Stanley’s Cup - not in the energized tesla coiled confines of Amalie Arena for what would be the respective home games, but confined to our couches watching at home or socially distanced at newly reopened sports bars as the Distant Thunder.
This is The Bolts third quest for the Cup, winning their lone Cup in 2004, vs Calgary; while dropping the 2015 Finals against Chicago.
It’s been 16 years and for The Bolts to win it all, they will do it against a grinding physical Stars team coached by former Lightning Associate Coach Rick Bowness, who was dismissed after the 2018 season. Former Lightning goalie Ben Bishop, deemed “unfit to play” in Dallas' last series against Vegas, has been supplanted by journeyman Anton Khudobin. Tyler Seguin and Jamie Benn are the cogs in the Stars' system.
The Lightning have been on the redemption tour this postseason, being kings of the Toronto bubble by avenging last year’s opening round playoff loss to Columbus by bouncing them in 5, and dropping division rival Boston also in 5. They disposed of the Islanders in 6. With Cirelli’s overtime goal to elevate the Lightning to The Cup, the team – so far – has not let adversity or being down key players get in their way.
They’ve done this all postseason without Steven Stamkos, and with a lineup that has overcome injuries to Nikita Kucherov (who left game 5 against Boston) and Brayden Point (who has missed games 3 and 5 against the Islanders) to get to The Stanley Cup Finals - though you would never know it as they combined for over 50 points in the playoffs). Victor Hedman has carried the load across his 6′6″ shoulders with key goals, and role players like Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde have lead the charge. We’re not here today without the play between the pipes of Andrei Vasilevskiy.
So what happens? The Lightning outgrind the Stars in 5. It will be another physical series. Victor Hedman and Vassy share the Conn Smythe (heck Point and Kuch may share it too – a 4 way tie for playoffs MVP – that would be so 2020), and Stamkos takes to the ice in Edmonton to hoist The Cup, and bring it home to Tampa Bay because as you may have heard in the past, Stanley needs a tan, although it might be tough to stay socially distant from that trophy!