BY JENNIFER ROBACK: MANAGING EDITOR
In what might go down as one of the most historic NHL seasons ever, the Tampa Bay Lightning have won the 2020 Stanley Cup Championship.
The Stanley Cup Finals, which previously were held from the end of May through the middle of June, concluded on Monday night in Game 6 against the Dallas Stars, ending with a score of 2-0, thanks to a 22-save shutout from goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
“So many guys would do anything to win the Stanley Cup," said Steven Stamkos, Captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning in an interview with NHL.com. "...there are so many great players who have played this game who never got the chance to experience what we just experienced. My hat is off to every single player and person in this organization. It's amazing to be part of this run, the way we did it.”
The NHL bubble started just over two months ago as the NHL returned to play after a long pause due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The bubble consisted of 24 teams with 16 teams making it to the playoff bracket starting August 1.
The Lightning started their playoff journey by defeating the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round in five games. They then battled the Boston Bruins, losing in the first game, but going on to win the next four to win the round with another 4-1 finish. In the Eastern Conference Finals, they faced off against the nearby New York Islanders, and moved on after a six-game series, securing their spot in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Dallas Stars.
The Lightning started off the finals with a loss to the Stars 4-1 in game one, but then rebounded with back-to-back-to-back wins, taking a commanding three games to one lead heading into game five. The Stars were able to hold on and force a game six, winning game five in a double-OT game, with a final score of 3-2. In the final game of the Stanley Cup Finals, the Lightning struck first with a power-play goal by Centerman Brayden Point and an assist by right-wing Nikita Kucherov. The former left-wing for the New Jersey Devils, Blake Coleman scored the second goal of the game with an assist from Patrick Maroon.
With this win, Patrick Maroon became part of a select few who have won back-to-back Stanley Cup championships on two different teams. Maroon helped the St. Louis Blues capture the trophy last year in 2019 and now won it as a part of the Lightning in 2020. “To be in that category is something amazing," Maroon said in an interview with Fox News. "… I can't believe I'm in this position again. … This is amazing. An amazing accomplishment for me and my teammates, and I'm happy to be still playing here.”
This is the second Stanley Cup in Lightning franchise history, the first being back in 2004. For head coach Jon Cooper, this is his first championship win. “I think it weighs like 35 pounds but when it goes into your hand it feels like a feather. Aside from my kids being born, it's the most remarkable feeling I've ever had,” said Cooper in an interview with USA Today.
With the conclusion of the 2019-20 season, the 2020-21 season is rumored to start December 1st. The NHL draft is the next major event and will start virtually on October 6th at 7 pm with the New York Rangers selecting the #1 overall pick. The Lightning has the 62nd pick in the second round of the draft.