Stanley Cup champions: The Tampa Bay Lightning
And they say lightning never strikes twice.
Well everyone, that’s a wrap for the National Hockey League playoffs. It was an interesting year to be sure, not just with everything going on right now, but with regards to the incredible performances and match-ups that we got to witness on the way to the Stanley Cup. Whether it was the (once again) impressive run of the Las Vegas Golden Knights that inevitably led to heartbreak, the defending champion St. Louis Blues getting knocked off in the first round, or the Dallas Stars making it all the way to the final to nearly capture their second Stanley Cup in franchise history, it was never a dull moment.
Personally, I think it was wonderful watching three Canadian teams (the Flames, the Canadians, and the Canucks) enter with a chance at the Cup only to be immediately eliminated (with the expectation of the Vancouver Canucks) right off the hop. It’s heart-breaking, sure, but that’s how it is when it comes to hockey in Canada, especially if you’re a Leafs or Oilers fan.
Moving along though, despite news of the Lightning’s win being over a week old at this point, it’s nevertheless worthy of discussion. Looking back at the history of the Tampa Bay Lightning, this franchise has only won the Cup once before back in 2004 (Huh, I was a poet and I didn’t even know it). Much like their victory in the ‘COVID playoffs’ of this year, the Lightning’s win 16 years ago was also earned in debatable fashion – that is, assuming you’re a Calgary Flames fan.
Turning back the clock back a bit (quite a bit), Game 6, 2004, the score is tied 2-2 with around 6 minutes left on the clock. The Bolts were down one game to the Flames in the best of seven series. Martin Gelinas of the Flame slides into the vicinity of the Tampa Bay goalie Nikolai Khabibulin, the puck collides with Gelinas’s skate and heads toward the net. Khabibulin kicks out and makes the “supposed” save. The play is shown on the jumbotron and it looks like the goal has clearly crossed the line. The play was never reviewed during the actual game, but it was shown to be a good call by the refs (as in no goal) via CGI analysis that the NHL conducted. However, to this day, the Flames feel that they were robbed by both NHL officials and the Lightning of their very own second Stanley Cup.
All of this to say, the two Stanley Cups the Lightning have won have certainly been the subject of controversy. Should the NHL season even have moved forward with COVID? Should the Lightning even have this Cup considering the teams were not in the same headspace going into this playoff series as they were during the regular season? Going back, should the Flames goal have counted? Should the Lightning even have their first cup? All interesting things to consider.
Conspiracies aside, as far as local love goes with regards to the Lightning’s win, two Saskatchewan players will have their names placed in the history books alongside the Cup. Both Braydon Coburn and Luke Schenn (from Shaunavon and Saskatoon respectively) can now celebrate being champions. Interestingly enough, the Lightning also had a Saskatoon player on their championship team back in 2004 (Cory Sarich). Perhaps the lucky charm for the Lightning is a little bit of skill from Saskatoon.
Regardless, congrats go out to the Tampa Bay Lightning for their win.