Stanley Cup: Tampa Bay Lightning beat Dallas Stars to be crowned NHL champions

The Tampa Bay Lightning celebrate with the Stanley Cup
The Tampa Bay Lightning last reached the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015 but had not won since 2004

The Tampa Bay Lightning won the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004 with a 4-2 series win over the Dallas Stars. Braydon Point and Blake Coleman’s goals clinched a 2-0 win for the Lightning in game six of the best-of-seven series. Following the coronavirus lockdown, the NHL’s final 130 games were played in bio-secure bubbles in Toronto and Edmonton in Canada.

It takes a lot to be in a bubble for 80 days or whatever long it was, said Lightning defenceman Victor Hedman. But it’s all worth it now, we’re coming home with the cup. The Lightning’s victory comes a year after they won a record-equalling 62 games last season, but failed to progress past the opening round of the play-offs. Hedman won the Conn Smythe Trophy for best player in the Stanley Cup having scored 10 goals during the play-offs, the most by a defence man in a single post-season since 1994.

He added, It’s a dream come true, it is the best thing that I have experienced in my hockey career, what we’ve done as a team inside a bubble is unbelievable. One of the things NHL commissioner Gary Bettman said when discussing whether or not the league would come back following their pause for coronavirus was that he wanted a post-season and playoffs with integrity, and despite every game being played in empty arenas, the players produced a series of memorable performances.

Tampa Bay have arguably been the best team in the NHL for quite some time now, but hadn’t been able to add to that title they won back in 2004, under head coach Jon Cooper, Tampa are bigger, faster and more skilled than any other team out there and through the post-season they wore everyone else down. In game six, that speed and energy strangled the Stars’ attempts to be creative and when Braydon Point gave them the lead, it was only a matter of time before they got their hands on the Stanley Cup.

I watched Dallas play their final game in Texas prior to lockdown and they were a side in such terrible form that they were in danger of disappearing out of the play-off picture altogether. Reaching the Stanley Cup finals was a great achievement, but in the end they just weren’t good enough to beat Tampa. The players and staff spent 65 days in a bio-secure bubble to ensure the games could take place without any Covid-19 interruptions. The NHL will say that plan worked to perfection.

Over the two months the players were in Edmonton or Toronto, the league conducted over 33,000 tests, without returning a single positive test which is incredible considering how many issues basketball’s NBA and baseball’s MLB have had. For the NHL top brass, they will now finally breathe a sigh of relief and look back on a moment where the players, owners and league pulled together to ensure the season was completed.

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