Tampa Bay Lightning leave NHL’s bubble champions

Austin Eigen, Staff Writer

The 2020 Stanley Cup Finals was an unusual one, with the series being played in Edmonton and neither team on their home ice.  During the conference finals, the Eastern Conference teams moved from their bubble in Toronto to converge with the Western conference finalists in their bubble in Edmonton.  The matchup featured the Dallas Stars from the Western Conference and the 2020 Stanley Cup Champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning from the Eastern Conference.  The favorite Tampa Bay Lightning won the series in six games, bringing the Stanley Cup to Tampa for the second time ever, and for the first time since 2004.

In game six, the Lightning beat the Stars, securing the Stanley Cup by a score of 2-0.  The first goal of the game came from Brayden Point, the Lightning center who, despite having a phenomenal postseason, did not win the MVP award, or the Conn Smythe Trophy.  The 24-year-old center from Calgary, scored  33 total points over a span of 22 games.  Point led the NHL in playoff goals, racking up an incredible 14 goals and looked amazing during the playoffs.

“My Instagram feed was filled with his highlights,” said sophomore Sean Agin.

 His last goal was the game six goal that gave Tampa Bay the lead to win the Stanley Cup.

The first line of the Tampa Bay Lightning, consisting of Brayden Point, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat, definitely gave them a huge advantage in winning the Cup.  Point led the line  throughout the Stanley Cup Finals, with eight of his 33 total goals coming in the final six games of the season.  Kucherov obtained eight goals  as well, although seven of his eight  came as assists.  Palat was not far behind with five.  Two of the five came in game four in the form of a goal and an assist.

The Stars’ offense was not nearly as productive as the Lightning’s.  They did have a lights out performance in game five of the series, scoring four goals in a row to beat a high scoring Tampa Bay Lightning team, including five goals to four in overtime.  Otherwise, the Lightning defense put up a brick wall in front of the net.  The defensive lines played especially well in game six, allowing a below average 22 shots on goal.  The Lightning also had possession of the puck for 73.5% of the first two periods of that game.  During the four games that the Lightning won, their defense only allowed eight goals.  Combined with their upper tier offense, Tampa was able to push ahead and win the series.  

“I wasn’t surprised that the Lightning won the series.  They have been a dominant team for at least the past three or four seasons,” said junior Jamie Goldman.

Even Brayden Point’s stunning postseason performance was only enough to bring him to a Conn Smythe Trophy finalist, not the winner.  Nikita Kucherov was also a candidate for the Stanley Cup finals MVP.  The Conn Smythe Trophy went to Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman.  Hedman posted a less impressive 21 points throughout the playoffs.  Hedman was the first defenseman to win the trophy since Duncan Keith won the award with the Blackhawks in 2015.  He also was only the fourth defenseman to win the award since 2001.

This year’s Stanley Cup playoffs drew the smallest number of TV viewers in many years.  The playoffs drew less than a million  viewers per game on NBC, NBCSN, USA, and NBCs sports streaming platforms, including the NBC Sports app.  This was a 28% decrease in viewership from last year.  The Stanley Cup Finals only captured  an average audience of just over two million viewers.  The sixth and final game of the Stanley Cup Finals drew only 2.88 million viewers, which was less than the Monday Night Football game that was on at the same time.  

“I’m not surprised at the decrease in viewers. This is the first time in Stanley Cup history that football, the largest sport in America, was playing at the same time. Also, from my standpoint, the teams were so evenly dislikable, that it wasn’t worth rooting for or against any of them,” said junior Alex Pelossof.