Jon Cooper had every reason to be confident that the two-time defending Stanley Cup Champion, Tampa Bay Lightning, could keep his three-time championship bid alive.
“our story is not finished being written,” the coach said earlier this month as his team teetered on the brink of first-round elimination against the toronto maple leafs. “We have a lot left in us, we feel.”
andrei vasilevskiy is one of the reasons.
Reigning Trophy winner Conn Smythe has won six games in a row since Lightning fell behind the Maple Leafs 3-2 in their opening round series, including a Game 7 gem in Toronto and a four-game sweep of the florida panthers in the semifinals of the eastern conference.
up next is tampa bay’s sixth trip to the east finals in eight years, where they’ll face either the carolina hurricanes or the new york rangers.
“We’ve found a recipe that has obviously allowed us to go deeper into the playoffs, and especially in the last two and a half years, and we want to keep it that way,” captain steven stamkos said after Monday night’s game. The 2-0 win over Florida gave the Lightning its first playoff series sweep in 11 years.
“It’s the most fun, heartbreaking and stressful time of the year, but it’s an amazing feeling,” added stamkos. “You can’t really describe it unless you go through it, and this group has certainly been through it.”
vasilevskiy had 49 saves and recorded the sixth shutout in his last seven series-clinching wins.
since conceding three or more goals in each of tampa bay’s first six games against toronto, he has conceded four total in the last five outings.
“It’s my job to give our guys a chance to win, and I think we’ve done a good job of doing that throughout the series,” Vasilevskiy said, downplaying the way he has played over and over again during his race for the team championship.
“nothing special. I think it’s just the way the whole team plays in those games. The whole series is constant blocked shots, sacrifices and guys literally breaking bones to stop the puck.” “A great effort from everyone on our team. obviously it’s not just me. I just try to do my job the best I can.”
pat maroon, seeking his fourth straight stanley cup title, broke a scoreless tie just over six minutes into the third period. ondrej palat added an empty goal with 22 seconds remaining for lightning, who had two goals disallowed in a span of 48 seconds in the second period.
The Lightning joined the New York Islanders and Montreal Canadiens as the only franchises to win at least 10 consecutive playoff series. brown, who won with st. louis in 2019 before signing with tampa bay two years ago, he has been part of 14 consecutive series wins.
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“I’m lucky enough to play with two really good teams in the last few years, but this team has been very impressive,” Maroon said.
“the way we compete. the way we stay there every game, we never get left out. … it’s been tremendous to see what we’ve been through in the last couple of years,” Maroon added, “and it’s amazing to be a part of that.”
Tampa Bay is the third franchise to win at least 10 consecutive playoff series. Montreal has done it twice, taking 13 in a row from 1976 to 1980 and 10 in a row from 1956 to 1960. The New York Islanders won a record 19 straight wins between 1980 and 1984.
Two more series wins and the Lightning will become the first team to win three straight Stanley Cup titles since the Islanders won four in a row from 1980-1983.
“twelve would sound even better, wouldn’t it?” go ahead alex killorn said.
“it’s impressive. I know, Coop mentioned that, and then Patty is 14. So she has one, but it’s special to be a part of this group,” Killorn added. “Like I said, with Vassy. I think there are a lot of players on this team that are going to become pretty good players, hall of fame players. so I’m happy to be a part of this, to be honest.”