TAMPA | 2020, 2021 and 2022. Three years, three appearances in the Stanley Cup Finals for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
In the context of a salary cap, the Lightning have already achieved a remarkable feat before even knowing the fate of this final against the Colorado Avalanche.
Jon Cooper found good words, as he always does, to describe this other great journey of his team.
“Just to sit here and think about the magnitude of a third Stanley Cup Finals appearance is awesome. I grew up in Canada and dreamed of seeing my name on the cup. To get there once was a dream come true. To go back there the following season was a dream. »
“But to go there a third time is almost unreal. I am impressed with our players. I am truly impressed. »
A single group
Before the Lightning, the Edmonton Oilers were the last team with three straight appearances in the Finals, in 1983, 1984 and 1985. In 1983, Wayne Gretzky and his teammates lost in four games against Mike Bossy and the Islanders from New York. But, the following two years, the Oilers had lifted the big trophy by triumphing over the Islanders in five games in 1984 and the Flyers also in five games in 1985.
It has already been written dozens of times. Cooper intends to rewrite history with his team. He dreams of following in the footsteps of the Islanders, the last formation with three consecutive coronations (four in reality from 1980 to 1983).
Author of two goals in the 2-1 win against Rangers in the sixth game, Steven Stamkos was looking for words to describe the magnitude of the feat.
"We are a unique group," summed up the captain. We haven't reached our goal yet. But we have a unique team, we lost players and we found ways to replace them. I'm really proud of our team. I'm looking for my words... We're going back to the final. »
"We deserved to win this game tonight. It was the feeling we had since the referees put the puck down at center ice. Shesterkin was terrific. He made some big saves. We remained calm. We had this feeling, we knew we were going to win. »
After a seven-game win over the Maple Leafs in the first round, a sweep over the Panthers in the second round, and a six-game win over the Rangers in the Eastern Finals, the Lightning will cross paths with another fearsome beast in the Finals.
Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar and the Avalanche will dream of bringing the Stanley Cup back to Colorado for the first time since 2001.
“The Avalanche have a good team, there is great talent in forwards and defensemen, summed up Vasilevskiy. They have scored several goals since the start of the playoffs. It's a big challenge for us. This will be the most difficult series. »
“We expect a very difficult series,” added Stamkos. For several years, we have been waiting for the Avalanche in the final. »
A likely return
The Lightning may get reinforcements for this final. With a lower-body injury since Game 7 against the Leafs, Brayden Point is knocking on the door for a comeback.
"I don't know if he can be from the first game, but it's extremely likely that we will see him again during the final," Cooper predicted.