June 14 — Cup Resumes & Why Tampa Will Win

Last Night’s News 📰

STAYING IN SMASHVILLE: The Nashville Predators solidified their blue line for next season, inking trade deadline acquisition Jérémy Lauzon to a four-year, $8 million contract. Nashville now has seven defensemen under contract for 2022-23, although they still have to address the pending free agency of star forward Filip Forsberg.

MIKKO OUT: Edmonton Oilers goaltender Mikko Koskinen signed a two-year contract to play in Switerzland with HC Lugano next season. Koskinen’s departure adds another wrinkle to the Oilers’ goaltending situation after Mike Smith mentioned the uncertainty about his future, and general manager Ken Holland is interested in securing another starter. 

GOLDEN GALS: For the third time in the past calendar year, Team Canada defeated the United States for a gold medal in women’s hockey. Last night the Canadians exacted revenge on the Americans for a 7-0 round-robin defeat with a 3-2 victory at the IIHF U18 Women’s World Championship, following Canadian triumphs at the 2022 Beijing Olympics and the 2021 Women’s Worlds. 

FINNISH STRONG: Like Canada, Team Finland completed its trio of bronze medals with a 3-0 victory over Sweden after finishing third at Beijing and the 2021 Women’s Worlds. Senior team member and 16-year-old phenom Sanni Vanhanen scored all three goals for the Finnish U18 team to complete her hat trick of bronze medals. 

STANLEY CUP SCHEDULE: Games 1 & 2 will take place Wednesday and Saturday in Denver, while Games 3 & 4 move to Tampa on Monday and Wednesday, June 22. Should Game 7 be required, it will happen on Tuesday, June 28. Find the series schedule here

Trivia Tuesday

How Well Do You Know Conn Smythe Trophy History?

  1. How many past winners won while on the Colorado Avalanche or Tampa Bay Lightning?
    • Six
    • Five
    • Four
    • Three

  2. Conn Smythe was a former coach, general manager, and owner of which NHL franchise?
    • Montreal Canadiens
    • Detroit Red Wings
    • Toronto Maple Leafs
    • Boston Bruins

  3. Jean Béliveau won the first Conn Smythe Trophy as a member of the Montreal Canadiens in which season?
    • 1964-65
    • 1965-66
    • 1967-68
    • 1968-69

Answers can be found at the bottom of the email.

Stanley Cup Resumes

One day remains until the 2022 Stanley Cup Final between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche. Experience is a variable that can be valuable to a team trying to win a championship, and the Lightning, who have won the Stanley Cup each of the last two years, have the overwhelming advantage in that category.

Neither franchise has a lot of Stanley Cup Final appearances in its history, but both have fared pretty well when they get there. Tampa Bay, which joined the league in 1992, played for the Cup four times before this year and won it three times. The Avalanche, who were the Quebec Nordiques from 1979 until they moved to Colorado in 1995, only made it to the final round twice before this year but won both times. Here is a look at the Stanley Cup history of each of these teams.

1996 Avalanche

Joe Sakic and Patrick Roy with the Stanley Cup in 1996 (Photo by Steve Babineau/NHLI via Getty Images)

After making the conference finals once in their 16 years as the Quebec Nordiques, the rebranded Avalanche finished with the league’s second-best record in 1995-96. Colorado beat the team with the Presidents’ Trophy winners (the Detroit Red Wings) to prevail in the Western Conference Final before sweeping the Florida Panthers for their first Stanley Cup.

2001 Avalanche

Ray Bourque and Joe Sakic with the Stanley Cup in 2001 (Photo by B Bennett/Getty Images)

It took five years after moving to Colorado and making it to the Cup Final before the Avalanche returned. This time the team won the Presidents’ Trophy during the 2000-01 season, and star Joe Sakic won the Hart, making Colorado the Cup favorites. It took them seven games, but the Avalanche closed out the New Jersey Devils for their second Stanley Cup title.

2004 Lightning

John Tortorella with the Stanley Cup in 2004 (AP Photo/Chris O’Meara)

The Lightning only made the playoffs twice in their first 11 seasons in the NHL, but in 2003-04, Tampa finished the regular season with the best record in the Eastern Conference. They breezed through the first two rounds of that postseason, losing just one game. Then it got a bit tougher, but Tampa nipped the Philadelphia Flyers and squeezed past the Calgary Fames in seven games to win the Stanley Cup for the first time in franchise history.

2015 Lightning

Of the six combined Cup series that the Avs and Lightning have been in, 2015 is the only one that didn’t result in a victory. The Lightning edged the Red Wings in seven games, the Canadiens in six, and the top-seeded Rangers in Game 7 but fell to the Chicago Blackhawks 4-2 in the Final.

2020 Lightning

Jon Cooper with the Stanley Cup in 2020 (Photo by Andy Devlin/NHLI via Getty Images)

The 2019-20 Lightning bounced back from getting swept in Round 1 by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Tampa cruised through a postseason that was altered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, losing just six total games in the four rounds, including two in the Final against the Dallas Stars.

2021 Lightning

Pat Maroon with the Stanley Cup in 2021 (Photo by Florence Labelle/NHLI via Getty Images)

Tampa Bay carried that 2020 postseason momentum into 2021, beating in-state rival Florida Panthers in six games, dispatching the Carolina Hurricanes in five, and edging the New York Islanders in seven games. In the Final, the Lightning eased by the Montreal Canadiens in five games to win their second straight title.

Why the Lightning Will Win the Cup

As you might have noticed from my (Ben’s) predictions track record in Morning Skate, I’m not good at making picks. Yet, here we sit, on the eve of Game 1 of what promises to be a talent-loaded Stanley Cup Final, and everyone is getting in on the prognostication game. So I’m taking the coward’s way out and hedging. Over these two days heading into Game 1, I’ll explain why each team has a strong chance of emerging triumphant from what should be a thrilling Final.

The honor of going first belongs to the back-to-back reigning champs:

Tampa Bay Lightning

A Knack for Timing

While Tampa Bay’s return to the Final can hardly be considered a surprise, they weren’t the trendy pick ahead of this year’s postseason. The Lightning finished third in the Atlantic Division and barely squeaked by their first-round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs. Since then, however, they’ve trounced the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Florida Panthers and responded to an 0-2 series hole against the New York Rangers by reeling off four straight.

Waitin’ for Brayden

The Rangers series illustrated how dialed in Tampa’s star forwards Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Ondřej Palát are. Of course, getting a 28-goal scorer wouldn’t hurt, either. Brayden Point will almost certainly return to the lineup this round, giving the team another weapon up front that they’ve missed since Game 7 against the Maple Leafs. At this stage in the playoffs, getting a scoring threat with fresh legs is playing with found money.

Championship Resolve

That’s not to say that Colorado doesn’t have the same resolve, but the Lightning exuded such an even-keeled, “been there before” energy throughout this latest run. They had to win twice with their backs against the wall against Toronto and then had to recover down 2-0 against the Rangers. That Tampa Bay is still standing speaks to the preparation that Jon Cooper has instilled and the impact of knowing what it takes to hoist the Cup. Also, we somehow didn’t even mention Andrei Vasilevskiy!

Trivia Answers

  1. Five
  2. Toronto Maple Leafs
  3. 1964-65

Stanley Cup Playoffs Bracket

Stanley Cup Playoffs Leading Scorers

Stanley Cup Final Schedule