Author: Julia Brennan
Posted October 10th, 2020
For hometown sports fanatics and hockey lovers alike, both were fortunate enough to be able to watch an abbreviated, yet action-packed 2019-2020 NHL post-season. To begin, a round-robin consisting of the NHL’s top 24 teams ensued, with the teams from the Western Conference playing at the home of the Edmonton Oilers, and the teams from the Eastern Conference playing at the home arena of the Toronto Maple Leafs. Within these “bubbles”, the competition quickly ramped up, and by the end of September, only two teams remained. While many fans were at first skeptical of how the competition of this shortened season would compare to past years, it was made clear from the jump that every single team was fully determined to win.
In spite of the new conditions regarding COVID-19, each matchup was a thrilling, high-intensity battle, and it was as if the players had never stepped off the ice in March. In like manner, the support of each team’s fan base was as enthusiastic as ever, even without in-person attendance. Right off the bat in Round 1, history was made by the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Columbus Blue Jackets as they played in a nail-biting, 5OT game in which Tampa Bay prevailed victorious 3-2. In this mind-boggling match, CBJ goalie Joonas Korpisalo made an astounding 85 saves, the most in NHL history. In Round 2, fans watched as three of the four series went a full seven games, providing plenty of entertaining competition. The incredible determination and play of both the Colorado Avalanche and the Vancouver Canucks forced two Game 7’s after surviving 3-1 deficits. Unfortunately, both came up just short, falling respectively to the Vegas Golden Knights and the Dallas Stars. Perhaps the most exciting series came in the form of the New York Islanders and the Philadelphia Flyers. Over the course of 7 games, three of which went into overtime, the No.7 New York Islanders were able to pull out a hard-fought win against the No.1 Philadelphia Flyers, surprising many.
As the number of competitors began to wind down, the level of play began to ramp up once again. In the first game of the Eastern Conference Final, the Tampa Bay Lightning scored an astonishing 8 goals, setting the tone for the rest of the series with a hefty win over the New York Islanders. In the west, the Dallas Stars, hungry for their first trip to the finals in 2 decades, nearly swept the Vegas Golden Knights in a quick series of well-matched, intense play. Finally, the Stanley Cup Finals rounded out with a physical, fast-paced, 6-game series between the Dallas Stars and the Tampa Bay Lightning. The series went back and forth, with two matches going into extra time. The Dallas Stars featured intelligent defensive play and stellar goaltending throughout, while the depth of the Tampa Bay Lightning’s relentless offensive line-up was critical to their successes. In the sixth game, Tampa Bay stole ahead and seized their opportunity to clinch the series and their second cup in franchise history. For a team that has come so close to victory so many times in the past few years, Tampa whole-heartedly deserved to raise Lord Stanley’s Cup following their incredible effort and determination in such a tumultuous year. Key players for the Lightning included Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point, and of course, goaltender Andrei Vasilevsky. Power forward Victor Hedman was awarded the Conn Smythe Award for MVP of the postseason for his stellar play and offensive contributions.
In the final game, Captain Steven Stamkos, who had been injured throughout the entirety of the playoffs, made quite the impact in his sole appearance, scoring in the final game of the season. Stamkos was finally able to raise the cup with his team in celebration of a remarkable victory, and a season, that will not soon be forgotten.