Justin Cuthbert and Julian McKenzie gush over the Tampa Bay Lightning after making the Stanley Cup Final for a third consecutive season.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I think we should focus in on the Lightning for just a second, because I just found myself marveling at them last night. It's like they are the greatest chess players on the planet or whatever. Like they can just figure out the opponent every single time.
They're going on there, what-- it'll be their 11th straight postseason series victory they've got now. Pat Maroon has what, 15 in a row--
JULIAN MCKENZIE: 15
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: --which is insane. He might be the biggest winner in the history of the NHL or at least modern NHL. But
JULIAN MCKENZIE: At least.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: They just find a way to figure out what your weakness is, figure out how they can beat you, and execute a game plan. What they did in games 5 and 6 was remarkable. I mean, they just basically shut down the Rangers at every turn. They had maybe one or two blips that they were able to immediately answer with Steven Stamkos scoring, what, seconds after they finally gave up a goal in game 6.
Their ability to prevent the opposition from getting shots, the ability to play a lockdown defensive zone-- unbelievable. This team really is bulletproof, and I continue every single time we see them win, it just gets more and more impressive to me.
Like-- like it was kind of expected against Montreal. And then it was impressive against the Leafs. And then they just blew Florida out of the water. And then this series, the way that they rebounded from that 0-2 deficit, unbelievable. Like I just have not seen a team like them in the Stanley Cup playoffs.
And it's what they-- it is the exact opposite of what they were. They were a team that was vulnerable. They were a team that was one note. And now they figured out how to be the best possible version of themselves in the playoffs. And nothing can beat them.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: The salary cap at this point is the best thing that could beat them, with the way that they try to put together their rosters. But just especially in this postseason, the way they found ways to win games and take series leads, and basically take away the will and souls. I'm thinking particularly of Florida here. But they just have this killer instinct that I don't think many or any other NHL team has.
Like that game-- that first series against the Toronto Maple Leafs, that game 7, Nick Paul coming up in the clutch, like that was insane. I still think about that game 2 or game 3 in that Florida series where Ross Colton scores, after the Panthers go on the power play. And they have, arguably, their best looking power play of that series. And Tampa still finds a way to get it done.
Tampa, a 2-0 series deficit, when was the last time they had a two series deficit? Because it had been some time before they had lost--
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: Columbus, I guess.
JULIAN MCKENZIE: Yeah, it's been some time before they had lost back to back games in the Stanley Cup playoffs. Their backs were against the wall, as far as we've seen them over the last two or three years. And they just go off and just win four straight. And Ondrej Palat is a huge reason why they end up winning all of those games.
And remember people were asking, oh Andrei Vasilevskiy doesn't look the same. He just looks-- he looks fine. He's no big deal, just still being the best goaltender in the world, just when we were ready to just pass it off to Igor Shesterkin who had himself a great series. But Andre Vasilevskiy reminded everyone who is.
This is-- this could easily-- this could arguably be the most impressive of all three of their Stanley Cup Final runs. And I'm somebody who is big on the fact that the Lightning were able to win those cups in a bubble, in a shortened COVID season. Like the fact that they were able to do all of this amidst COVID, I still have high marks for them.
I mean, look, we probably shouldn't have even been playing in COVID. So the fact that they were able to do this, they deserve a lot of marks. But the fact that if the Lightning are able to pull this off, having gone through a full NHL season, having gone through a tough seven game [INAUDIBLE] in the first round against a top team in the Toronto Maple Leafs, sweeping the Presidents' Trophy winners and knocking off an upstart Rangers team after being down 2-0.
I mean-- I mean, if we want, we can go through every-- look through every single series they went through leading up to that. But that might be a bit too time consuming. But considering the challenges they went through this postseason to get to this point, and now they have to go up against the Colorado Avalanche. If they pull this off, you can make the argument this is the most impressive of their three Stanley Cup wins, if they get to that point.
JUSTIN CUTHBERT: I agree with you. It would easily be their greatest accomplishment. Because the path was more difficult. I don't even think there's any doubt. We were talking, I believe, near the start of the Toronto Tampa series, that whoever gets through this, has the most difficult path to the Stanley Cup. And sure enough, it's literally played out in front of us. And we've seen it. It has been incredibly difficult, but the Lightning have sort of done it with ease.
I mean, it was ease over of the Presidents' Trophy winning Florida Panthers. It was tight against Toronto. And it was tenuous at times against the New York Rangers. But they found a way. And what's most impressive, especially after winning two Stanley Cups, is that there were opportunities for them to be like, OK, we just don't-- we don't have it. We don't got it.
There were opportunities presented to them, both against Toronto and New York, where they could have folded. Instead they decided to be perfect. They decided to be literally perfect across four games versus the New York Rangers. And yes, the New York Rangers ran out of gas a little bit, I think.
A lot of injuries were piling up. You could see it affect their performance. But guess what? Brayden Point hasn't been seen since game 7 versus the Toronto Maple Leafs. And what, they've got a 8 and 2 record since then. Unbelievable. 8 and 2 without Brayden Point. They just figure out a way to be as malleable as possible, and fit in all the gaps, and play the weight that they need to play when they need to play it.
They are the most versatile team in the NHL. They can play and beat you in any way possible. And now they have the biggest challenge ahead of them. You're right. In the Colorado Avalanche, who are faster than any of the teams they played, more talented at least from a balanced standpoint, with two immensely talented defensemen, Nathan MacKinnon, all these great forwards, they are going to be another stiff challenge.
But who-- who's not believing that Tampa will figure out the best way possible to play this team. Because they figure out the best way possible to play everyone. And more often than not, or at least every time over the last 11 series, they've found a way to beat the team with the recipe needed in order to beat that team.