(Denver, Colorado). The Ball Arena meeting room is bustling with activity on a Tuesday afternoon. For the first time since 2019, the NHL is organizing a True Media Day, the event where all players of the two final teams are available for interviews. They are six or seven at the same time, spread out on different platforms, to answer questions.
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This is the last chance to talk to them before everyone goes to endgame mode. Before the answers get shorter. So this is an opportunity to tackle lighter topics. For example, when Nick Paul was asked to tell about his in-between interview with Renaud Lavoie on TVA Sports.
We don’t see him in the video, but Lightning’s coach, John Cooper, calls out his striker. “He was right behind me, I just heard him, I didn’t see him,” Paul said Tuesday, on the eve of the final kickoff between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Colorado Avalanche.
“We just allowed a goal, and I lost my fight along the ramp. I wasn’t too happy either. John arrived, saying, ‘Come to the locker room right away!” I had never before. There was no way to stay here!” »
It was during the first break of Game 2 of the Eastern Conference Finals. The New York Rangers had won the first game and had a 2-1 lead in the second. They won that match, but Team Lightning won the next four games to end up here in the Finals.
“It was an important match. We understood what we had to do. We lost but the message was clear. Then we go home, and that’s what started our revival,” Paul continued.
Twelve days later, Lightning is in the Final for the third year in a row. It’s unheard of since the New York Islands from 1980 to 1983. The Lightning is also trying to win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row, another feat unprecedented since Alger Arbor and his forces.
In fact, lining up three championships in a row is an achievement in any sport. It never happened in the NFL in the Super Bowl era. In major baseball, the New York Yankees from 1998 to 2000 were the only ones to have achieved this in the past 40 years. In the NBA it was more common, but the Los Angeles Lakers from 2000 to 2002 are the last true breed.
The topic of back-to-back tournaments has been studied by the Lightning crew. “One of the things we wondered about is, why is it so rare for a team to win twice in a row? Is it because these teams are breathing a little bit, once they put their names on the trophy, and that gives them a few years of peace of mind?” Cooper said.
“Firstly, humans can do so much more physically, more than you think. Two, NHL players are elite athletes. It’s amazing what they can do with their bodies. It gets even more challenging on a psychological level,” noted Julian Presboa, Lightning’s general manager.
“I’ve talked to people in different organizations who won two titles, not necessarily three. What happened often was that the players lacked appetite in the third year. I never felt like that with our team. In the meetings with my players, they always said that we still On a mission. ”
In the specific case of hockey, a strict salary cap creates a parity that makes it nearly impossible to maintain the core of the team in the long run. Lightning has been around in recent years, including last summer, when the team completely lost their third streak in the off-season due to a lack of salary space. For once, BriseBois, who has only one contract to renew in his heart, will be able to breathe this summer, Ondrej Palat.
It’s just the opposite with an avalanche. This team has 10 unrestricted Free Agents on its roster, including goalkeeper Darcy Comber and forwards Nazim Kadri and Valery Neshushkin. Not to mention the fact that Nathan McKinnon only has one year left to play with $6.3 million under the salary cap, a pittance (in context) for anyone who is among the top three players in the NHL.
“Over the next few years, other teams will face this challenge,” said Joe Sakic, general manager of Avalanche. So we must take advantage of our opportunities. But we have a good young core. »
Avalanche’s chance is first to win the Stanley Cup, after years of looking at it as a force in the making. From 2009 to 2013, the team drafted three times into the top three, but good results in the season did not turn out to be long springs.
Next is to prevent lightning from becoming a strain. If we trust the words taken from one platform to another, they are definitely a source of motivation.
“This is interesting. Defender Cal Makar has expressed that they are the best for a long time, and we have a chance to beat them off a pedestal. We try to start something special, they try to continue writing their dynasty.”
“They lost to Columbus in 2019 and it’s as if everyone forgot about them. There they are trying to win a third cup in a row. Another defender, Eric Johnson, added, ‘The entire league is trying to emulate them.'”
If anyone understands what’s at stake, it’s Sakich.
Long live the former Quebec Nordic glory. As a player with an avalanche, Sakic particularly suffered from a fierce rivalry with the Detroit Red Wings. In 1999, these two teams met in the second round, and the winger was then the double champion. Avalanche won six games before losing the Western Conference Final.
We had a lot of admiration for them. We didn’t like them, but we had to respect them. I’m sure they thought the same of us. These teams, you have to respect what they did.
“There, we face the double heroes, and we want to bring them down.”
The avalanche should succeed as the last 11 competitors failed in a playoff.
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