The gap between champions and contenders

The gap between champions and contenders

The story is nothing new. The Presidents’ Trophy winners just missed out for the 28th time in 36 seasons. But there is still hope for the Florida Panthers.

His idols, the Tampa Bay Lightning, won the Stanley Cup back-to-back after failing miserably in the 2019 playoffs.

That year, the Lightning set a team record with 128 points, the fourth-most in NHL history. But in the first round of the playoffs, he was swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets, whom he had outscored by 30 points in the standings.

wet firecracker

The 122 points accumulated by the Panthers this season are also a peak in their history.

This is nothing.

In the first round, they overcame two deficits in the first four games to defeat the Washington Capitals.

The series against the Lightning, which took seven games to fire the Toronto Maple Leafs, looked promising. But we finally got a big wet firecracker.

The Panthers got a hockey lesson from the two-time defending Stanley Cup champions.

Jonathan Huberdeau, Aleksander Barkov, Sam Reinhart, Sam Bennett, and Anthony Duclair were invisible.

Andrei Vasilevskiy and his Lightning teammates limited the Panthers to three small goals in four games.

If the next few weeks are going to be a long one for the Panthers, they’ll have to get back on their feet come training camp.

It is in the next few years when we will see if they have the strength of character necessary to reach the cup.

a good core

Everything is still possible.

The players who form the core of the team are at their best. Aaron Ekblad, MacKenzie Weegar, Barkov, Bennett and Huberdeau are between 25 and 28 years old.

His other best elements like Carter Verhaeghe, Brandon Montour, Mason Marchant and Duclair are between 26 and 28 years old.

Sergei Bobrovsky, a two-time winner of the Vezina Trophy, is less efficient than with Columbus. But if Mike Smith of the Edmonton Oilers finds a way to do well at 40, Bobrovsky should still be able to do great things at 33.

To the Panthers, therefore, to move on.

A lightning without weakness

As for the Lightning, they are halfway to a third straight cut.

Will it get there?

Before the season, I predicted that I would face the Avalanche in the finals, with a win for Colorado.

My prediction still stands, but the Lightning would score a hat-trick that wouldn’t surprise me.

It was without Brayden Point that the team made up in part by our brilliant Julien BriseBois and led by the conscientious Jon Cooper outclassed their Florida rivals.

With an additional bye week, Point could be available for the Eastern Conference Finals.

Tampa Bay is the most balanced club in the NHL. He’s learned how to win since tripping over the flowers on the carpet against the Blue Jackets three years ago.

experience and rewards

The merits of their dominant players have been recognized many times.

Victor Hedman has already won the Norris trophy, Vasilevskiy the Vézina, and Nikita Kucherov the Ted Linday awarded by the Players Association to the player its members consider most useful to their team, the Hart awarded for the same distinction by the Players Association Professional Hockey Writers and the Art-Ross, the emblematic trophy of the scoring championship.

Steven Stamkos has won the Maurice-Richard Trophy twice.

Hedman and Vasilevskiy have taken turns receiving the Conn-Smythe for the past two years.

That’s 13 players on the current roster who have entered their name in the Stanley Cup in the past two seasons.

And they are obviously not satisfied.

That’s the lesson the Panthers and other cup contenders need to practice.

Win, win and win again!

Stories from the series…

In this age of social media, celebrities need to be in control of their actions in public places.

Plus, it’s suggesting that allegations that Florida Panthers players partyed at a Tampa strip club the night before Game 4 of their series against the Lightning are false.

Otherwise, we would have immediately seen photos on Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook, lark!

Good for manager Andrew Brunette, whose return to the team’s bench is yet to be determined.

AK-46 and Radu

This is not the first time we have heard these kinds of stories in the series. But it happens to be true.

Ten years ago, Andrei Kostitsyn and Alexander Radulov, whom we know well in Montreal, were seen chilling their throats on the roof of the hotel where the Nashville Predators were staying in Phoenix. The story had made the news that morning.

Trailing 3-1 in the series against the Coyotes, the Predators suffered elimination that same night.

Both players were on the roster, but for Kostitsyn it was the end of the NHL. The one we nicknamed “AK-46 » he then played nine seasons in the KHL before ending his career in the Czech Republic last year.

As for himself, Radulov returned to America four years later with the Canadian.

The lamppost affair

Speaking of the Habs, we’ll remember the streetlight affair during the 1988 playoffs.

Shayne Corson, Chris Chelios and Petr Svoboda escaped from ‘Alcatraz Prison’, a nickname given by players to the hotel where they were kidnapped on Charron Island, to party at a strip club off 132.

When they got back, they ran over a utility pole on the freeway with a borrowed vehicle. By the time police arrived, the trio had disappeared into the wild. A few weeks later, Jean Perron lost his job.

The same year, Jacques Demers had a letter published in the Detroit newspapers, apologizing for the disorderly conduct of six of his players: Bob Probert, Petr Klima, John Chabot, who also played for the Habs, Joey Kocur, Darren Veitch and Darren Elliot. , who spent the night in various Edmonton bars.

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