The 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning are Stanley Cup Champions once again. They defeated the Dallas Stars in six games in the Stanley Cup Final to capture the franchise’s second Stanley Cup and first since 2004. It was a completely different team that won the Stanley Cup than we have seen in previous years. Through all the ups and downs, the Lightning learned what it takes to win hockey games. But it could have all been for not if the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning had lost in Game 1 of Round 1 to the Columbus Blue Jackets. Let’s take a look at how the Lightning won the Stanley Cup in Game 1 of Round 1.
2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning Win Stanley Cup in Round 1
All the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning heard about was their failure during the 2018-19 season. The best team in the NHL that season. The Lightning that season had 62 wins and won the President’s Trophy as they were the clear cut favourites to win the Stanley Cup that year. However, the second half of the season didn’t really mean much to them as they were on cruise control. They did not play a meaningful game down the stretch. Many wondered if the Lightning could just turn it on again. Their first-round opponent that season was the Columbus Blue Jackets. The Blue Jackets were playing for their playoff-type hockey down stretch and had a ton of momentum entering the playoffs. It was the worst matchup for the Lightning.
Early on things looked good for the Lightning, up 3-0 on the Lightning and just rolling over the Blue Jackets. But that all changed when then Blue Jackets goaltender Sergei Bobrovsky made a huge stop early in the second period of Game 1. Instead of 4-0 Lightning, the Blue Jackets were able to climb back in the game. Eventually, the Blue Jackets would tie the game and win it in overtime. From their the Blue Jackets swept the Lightning out of the playoffs. The Blue Jackets took advantage of the Lightning’s frustration. And a great season ended in disappointment. Tampa Bay was left to wonder what might have been.
Entering the Playoffs
The 2019-20 season did not start off as well as the Lightning would have liked. They were still hanging onto the loss of last season as they had a slight hangover. Eventually, the Lightning started to get it together as Jon Cooper used the loss of last season as motivation. Just about the point where the Lightning were hitting their stride, the season was put on pause because of COVID-19. The Lightning were left to wait on whether or not the season was going to continue. Once the NHL announced the season was going to resume, the Lightning went back to work. Tampa Bay knew that this season was going to be different. The Lightning were on a mission to win the Stanley Cup.
Through the round-robin series between the top four seeds, the Lightning looked good winning two games finishing as the second seed in the Eastern Conference. Their reward in the first round for being the second seed was the same team that knocked them out a year in the Columbus Blue Jackets.
Five Overtime Marathon
Entering Round 1 many people were calling for an upset of the Lightning. The Blue Jackets had just taken out the Toronto Maple Leafs in the qualifying round playing the same style that beat the Lightning a year ago. Game 1 of Round 1 was a marathon that tested the will of both teams. Columbus jumped out to an early 1-0 lead on a by Pierre-Luc Dubois. And the questions started to creep in about could the Blue Jackets do it again. Tampa Bay tied the game on a goal by Brayden Point. The two teams exchanged goals and from there it was a goalie battle between Andrei Vasilevskiy and Joonas Korpisalo.
Even when the Lightning were down in the game, they never gave up on their system. Unlike the previous season, when the Lightning quit on the system and forced plays, it was different this time around. Tampa Bay matched the intensity and work ethic of Columbus. Bringing in guys like Pat Maroon, Blake Coleman, and Barclay Goodrow helped. Not to mention, the Lightning now could adapt to any style of playing having players like that on their roster. These players were brought in for a reason for more grit which was lacking from the team a year ago.
The Lightning and Blue Jackets battled into the evening as overtime after overtime passed. Each team had chances to win the game. But neither team was going to make that mistake that was going to end the game. The Lightning continued to match the Blue Jackets’ mentality as the game headed into a fifth overtime period. It appeared the game was heading towards another overtime period, until halfway through the fifth overtime. Yanni Gourde ended the game on a fluky goal that beat Korpisalo and the Lightning left the rink tired but as the victors.
The Rest Is History
This game changed the fortunes for both teams. While the Blue Jackets did tie the series at 1-1, the Lightning avoided another loss to the Blue Jackets. Imagine if the Lightning had lost that five-overtime marathon. Questions would have been raised about could this team actually get it done in the playoffs. The Lightning finished the Blue Jackets in five games as they outworked a John Tortorella coached team. That is hard to do. But give credit to Jon Cooper and the coaching staff. Instead of just relying on their skill to carry them, the Lightning learned that hard work and not giving up on the system wins hockey games. Not to mention all the sacrifices on defence that are necessary to win.
While each series was harder than the previous, the 2019-20 Tampa Bay Lightning can point to Game 1 of Round 1 as the turning point of their season. In that game, the Lightning won the Stanley Cup. No team was going to beat them after what they went through in that marathon game. And it showed through the rest of the playoffs and in their victory in Game 6 against the Stars.
Embed from Getty Images