Bock’s Score: Bolting Into History

AP Photo/Chris O'Meara

As they head into the Stanley Cup Finals for the third straight year, the Tampa Bay Lightning are writing NHL history.

They own the last two Cups and it would surprise no one if they add another this month. Is that a dynasty, the kind of dominance the Montreal Canadiens once produced?

In its own way, yes.

The Canadiens have a long history of dominance in the NHL. They won four Cups in five years from 1965-69 and then strung four more together from 1976-1980.

But the original Montreal dynasty resulted in five straight Cups from 1957-62, an exceptional string of success molded by some of the game’s greatest players like Jean Beliveau, Bernie Geoffrion, Doug Harvey and Jacques Plante. But keep in mind, those five straight Cups required winning just 10 playoff series, two each year in the cozy little six-team NHL.

Expansion bloated the size of the league to the current 32 teams which means it now requires winning four playoff rounds to claim the Cup. The Lightning won four rounds in each of the last two seasons and have won three more this year after eliminating the New York Rangers. That means they have won 11 playoff rounds – one more than the original Montreal dynasty managed.

Like most current NHL teams, this Lightning squad is loaded with players from all over the world. Perhaps the most impressive is their goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy.

Just as Jacques Plante was the defensive anchor of Montreal’s first dynasty, Vasilevskiy has been at the heart of Tampa Bay’s string of success. He has led the league in wins for five straight seasons and posted shutouts six times in playoff series clinchers.

That was why it was so startling to see the Lightning surrender six goals in their Eastern Finals opener against the Rangers. It turned out to be nothing more than a speed bump for Vasilevskiy and the Lightning.

After Tampa Bay lost the first two games in the Eastern Conference finals against the Rangers, Vasilevskiy took over the series. He allowed just five goals in the four straight Lightning victories and through three rounds of the playoffs has a 2.27 goals against average and .928 save percentage.

So now, it is on to face Colorado in the Cup final. And with their goalie at the top of his game, don’t be surprised to see the Lightning skating around the rink hoisting the Cup once again.

 

 

 

About the Author

Hal Bock

Hal Bock covered sports for 40 years at The Associated Press including 30 World Series, 30 Super Bowls and 11 Olympics. He is the author of 14 books including most recently The Last Chicago Cubs Dynasty and Banned Baseball's Blacklist of All-Stars and Also-Rans. He has written scores of magazine articles and served as Journalist In Residence at Long Island University's Brooklyn campus where he also served on the selection committee for the George Polk Awards.

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