July 9 — Beer, Odds & Press Conferences

WE CAN’T WAIT FOR: NHL Expansion Draft: July 21 — NHL Entry Draft: July 23 & 24 — NHL Free Agency: July 28

Days until start of 2021-22 NHL Season: 95 days

Thursday’s Tap-in

PAGING THE PROFESSOR: After Tampa’s Stanley Cup-clinching win yesterday, forward Nikita Kucherov (more on him later) was sure to make one call… and boy, are we glad he made it!

GO DEEP: Did… did fellow Tampa Bay champion Tom Brady just accept a challenge from the Stanley Cup? Keep your eyes peeled on that boat parade!

DON’T WORRY, BE HABBY: On the flip side, the Canadiens will take some time to heal after seeing their magical playoff run come to a close, but there’s plenty to be excited about in the future. Keep your heads up!

SOMETHING BREWIN: In unrelated yet equally important news regarding beer, 1) Coors Light will be making a limited edition batch made with ice shavings from Amalie Arena, and 2) Bud Light is giving away free 12-packs to fans in Florida. Time to get those coolers ready!

Now, About That Kucherov Presser…

Championships last forever, but memories — not always. So while the Tampa Bay Lightning will forever have their names engraved on the Stanley Cup as back-to-back champions, there will inevitably come a day when the memories of their run fade. One day, we’ll likely forget that it was rookie Ross Colton who scored the lone goal in a deciding Game 5, or that Tampa mayor Jane Castor wished into being a Game 4 loss for her Lightning.

What we won’t soon forget, however, is Nikita Kucherov. Sure, recovering from hip surgery just in time to lead his team in playoff scoring (32 points in 23 games) was great, but what we’re really talking about here is the 28-year-old Russian’s legendary press conference. Shirtless — and grasping a Bud Light — a care-free Kucherov let it all out, dropping F-bombs, putting Marc-André Fleury and Montreal Canadiens’ fans on blast, and generally appearing… uh… well-hydrated.

Let’s break down some of the highlights from a presser that will certainly go down as one of the all-time greats, and will likely play regularly on SportsCenter.

The Intro

Right off the bat this clearly won’t be your typical press conference. Kucherov arrives sans shirt — but with a beer in hand — and proceeds to clap over his poor PR guy’s attempts to introduce him to the gathered media members. Joe Smith of The Athletic doesn’t get a chance to get his question out before Kuch chimes in with, “Hey Joe, let’s hear it.”

Love for Vasi

Unsurprisingly, it doesn’t take long for Kucherov to veer off course, turning a question about his current emotions into an emphatic, praising rant for Andrei Vasilevskiy — who delivered a 22-save shutout and earned the Conn Smythe Trophy. While his outspoken affection for his goalie speaks to the Lightning’s incredible chemistry, it doesn’t come without a shot at Fleury — the man who beat Vasilevskiy for the Vezina.

Addressing Vasilevskiy, Kucherov hilariously says, “[He’s] the best player, and then they gave it to — whatever, the guy in Vegas…”, which he then followed with a string of bleeped-out utterances. If this were the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards, there’s no question Kucherov would be Kanye West, Fleury would be Taylor Swift, and Vasilevskiy would be Beyonce.

Habs Fans? Not So Much

Before another question can be asked, the Russian sniper somehow transitions from his ode to Vasilevskiy to talking about Montreal — and not positively, might I add. Bristling at their boisterous celebrations following Monday’s overtime Game 4 sweep-avoiding victory, Kucherov calls out fans of Tampa’s Cup Final opponent, saying, “They acted like they won the Stanley Cup last game. Are you kidding me? Are you kidding me?”

Just when it looks like we’re getting another question from John Romano of the Tampa Bay Times, Kucherov continues on, stating, “Their Final was the last series, okay?”

Kucherov’s press conference had the two-layered benefit of being highly entertaining, while also representing a refreshing dose of athlete candor. He wasn’t necessarily wrong in anything he said — Vasilevskiy had similar numbers to Fleury this season while winning five more games, and Habs fans did seem pretty amped up given that they were still down 3-1.

Mostly, though, it’s just an incredible piece of video that Kucherov will probably be better remembered for, than anything he did on the ice this postseason.

Early Cup Favorites for the 2021-22 Season

The Stanley Cup was awarded not even 48 hours ago — so it is only fitting that we begin discussing the early Stanley Cup favorites for next year. With BetMGM releasing their initial Stanley Cup odds for the 2021-22 season, we wanted to examine how some teams are expected to do heading into this offseason. Let’s start with a team that is right on the cusp of success — as we take a look at some of this year’s playoff teams and where they are projected to fare.

New York Islanders — 18 to 1 Odds

This team has been so close but yet, so far. The Islanders have reached the Conference Finals/Semifinals the past two seasons — being eliminated by the Lightning both times. New York has a huge advantage over most teams — having Barry Trotz behind the bench and Lou Lamoriello at the helm. The Isles have a ton of depth and can roll all four lines in most situations. Defenseman Ryan Pulock had a career year, and was a standout in the playoffs. There is a reason fans say “In Lou We Trust,” and this team will be poised for redemption come October.

Vegas Golden Knights — 13 to 2

If there is any team in the league has been competitive since their inception, it’s the Golden Knights. They have made the Stanley Cup Playoffs every year since the 2017-18 season, and have remained a Cup threat over those four seasons. Most notably, Alec Martinez will be an unrestricted free agent. He was arguably the Knights’ best defenseman in their matchup against the Canadiens, and will create a hole that needs to be filled if he opts to sign with another franchise.

Montreal Canadiens – 18 to 1

The Canadiens learned a valuable lesson after they lost to the Lighting in Game 5. Forward Brendan Gallagher said it best, “You take more from a loss than a win, and maybe this needed to happen for the Canadiens to be able to learn from this and take that next step next season.” Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki are primed to return after proving they are effective in the postseason, while Carey Price will continue to lead the Canadiens onto the ice.

Tampa Bay Lightning — 15 to 2

If we learned anything this postseason it’s that the Lightning were on a different level than their competition. Is it possible that they can go back-to-back-to-back? It’s unlikely, considering this team will go through some kind of makeover during the offseason. Between the Expansion Draft and free agency, this team may be losing key pieces like Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow.

Colorado Avalanche — 5 to 1

They have to win eventually — right? For the past few seasons the Avalanche have been listed as the Stanley Cup favorite. It could be argued that if Nazem Kadri didn’t get an eight game suspension his team may have been Tampa’s opponent instead of Montreal. Nathan MacKinnon, Cale Makar, and Mikko Rantanen will all be back in October — while the Avalanche will be busy working out a deal for their captain and unrestricted free agent, Gabriel Landeskog. As long as the Avalanche’s core can stay intact, they will remain a favorite to win the Cup.