June 18 — Brind’Amour, GMs & the Old Barn

On Tap For Today — Vegas at Montreal; 8 pm EDT; USA, CBC, TVAS, SN

Thursday’s Tap-in

TOTALLY RODICAL DAY: Carolina coach Rod Brind’Amour had quite the day yesterday. First he agreed to a three-year contract extension and then he won this year’s Jack Adams Award. Go buy a lottery ticket, Rod!

PEER RESPECT: Both Patrice Bergeron and Sidney Crosby were named the most complete player(s) in the game — as voted on by their peers in the NHLPA — after each receiving 112 votes. There were plenty of other categories, and you can check out all the winners right here.

SOMEHOW I MANAGE: Montreal’s Marc Bergevin, New York’s Lou Lamoriello (Isles), and Florida’s Bill Zito were named finalists for the Jim Gregory General Manager of the Year Award. Regardless of who wins, congratulations to all on fantastic seasons!

RIGHT WHERE THEY WANT ‘EM: The Lightning’s 2-1 Game 2 victory gave them a 2-1 series lead over the Islanders, and if that sounds familiar, it is. New York lost Game 3 at home against Pittsburgh in the first round, and did the exact same thing against Boston in the second round, before ultimately rolling off three straight wins in each series.

POINT BREAK: Tampa’s Brayden Point has scored in six straight playoff games, a first in franchise history. He’s now two games away from setting a new NHL record.

Cup Final Forecast

As the Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Islanders, Vegas Golden Knights, and Montreal Canadiens all battle for a berth in the Stanley Cup Final, we inch closer to learning the identity of the two teams that will cap off an unconventional 2020-21 NHL season. In this segment, we look at the possible matchups that may await as the playoff field narrows down to the final two.

Golden Knights vs Lightning

Hockey traditionalists may scoff at the idea of teams based in Tampa Bay, Florida and Las Vegas, Nevada vying for the Stanley Cup — but a clash between the Lightning and Golden Knights is likely the most anticipated Cup Final matchup out of the teams remaining.

You have two powerhouse franchises — the loaded defending champions and a model organization with three semifinal and a Final appearance in only four seasons of existence. Forget the storylines — this would simply be the best that the NHL has to offer going head-to-head.

Looking for a goaltending duel? Here, you’ve got Vezina finalists Andrei Vasilevskiy and Marc-André Fleury battling it out after exceptional seasons. It would also pit the past two Stanley Cup-winning captains against each other, with Tampa’s Steven Stamkos going up against former St. Louis Blues captain Alex Pietrangelo.

Alex Pietrangelo, St. Louis Blues (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

And the list goes on. Nikita Kucherov versus Mark Stone, Brayden Point against Max Pacioretty, and Victor Hedman battling Shea Theodore. That’s an awful lot of star power packed into one series. While there’s no foundational issue between the franchises apart from their respective pursuit of Stanley Cup glory, it has been interesting watching Keegan Kolesar develop and even achieve top line minutes during the postseason after being drafted with a pick acquired from Tampa (from, “Inside Golden Knights rookie Keegan Kolesar’s impressive development, from bubble taxi squad to first line fill-in,” Jesse Granger, The Athletic, 06/17/21).

I recognize that it might seem like heresy to some to highlight a potential battle between teams that don’t possess a storied history or any evident enmity toward one another, especially when alternate Final participants include the iconic Montreal Canadiens and legendary New York Islanders. While history and rivalry are nice tools to add fuel to a clash between foes from opposite conferences, there’s also something to be said for the best in the league being represented on hockey’s biggest stage.

Admit it — unless you’re a Habs or Isles fan — you’re kind of hoping for this too!

The Old Barn on the Island

As I sit here and watch Game 3 of the Lightning/Islanders series, I can’t help but think this is a fitting farewell to Nassau Coliseum. At the conclusion of the Isles’ postseason run, they will be saying goodbye to the only arena they have ever known on Long Island. Home is where the heart is, and for Islanders fans, that will always be the Coliseum.  

The first Islanders game played in the Coliseum was on Oct. 7, 1972, which resulted in a 3-2 loss to the then Atlanta Flames. It was not until five days later, on Oct. 12, that the Isles secured their first win on home ice. A few years later they defeated the New York Rangers in the spring of 1975 to win their first playoff game in front of their fans. This was the start of years of success at home in the playoffs, leading fans to nickname the arena “Fort Neverlose.” 

Inside the walls of Nassau Coliseum, Stanley Cups were won, jerseys were raised to the rafters, and franchise records were broken. The Coliseum is one of the oldest active arenas in the league, and is affectionately known as “The Barn” by Isles fans. While it may not have luxury suites or modern amenities, fans tend to love it just the way it is. Often regarded as one of the loudest arenas in the NHL, past players have recalled having to learn to read lips because they could not hear the player next to him — even if they were screaming. 

For the second year in a row the Isles find themselves in the third round of the playoffs. The last time they made an appearance in the Stanley Cup Final was the 1983-84 season, which resulted in a loss to the Edmonton Oilers and the end to the Islander dynasty. It is unknown if a Stanley Cup Final appearance is in the Islanders future, but fans are celebrating the last games played at Nassau Coliseum the only way they know how — pregame tailgates and an unmatched energy that the players feed off of when the puck hits the ice.

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