On Monday night the puck dropped on the 2020-21 Stanley Cup Final. For the second year, the Cup will be awarded in a COVID-19 restricted environment.
The defending champion Tampa Bay Lightning have had a rugged path in defence of their title. In the first round they needed six games to eliminate the Florida Panthers in the Battle of the Sunshine State. Round 2 saw the Lightning eliminate the Carolina Hurricanes in five to win the Weather Forecast Challenge. Their third round matchup with the New York Islanders went to seven fatiguing games before Jon Cooper won the coaching dual.
The challengers are the plucky Montreal Canadiens, the eternal underdogs. After falling to 3-1 against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, Montreal won three straight games to advance to the second round where they met the Winnipeg Jets. The Habs swept the Jets to advance to the semi-final against the Vegas Golden Knights. Vegas, a Cup hopeful, was eliminated by Montreal in six games. The unlikely Stanley Cup run has folks naming them a team of destiny.
The Canadiens have been underdogs in every series, but never more so than on Monday night. They came out holding their sticks a little tight, perhaps a little too impressed by the team from Tampa. They lost game 1 by a score of 5-1, a quick wake up call that being a team of destiny will mean playing above their heads every single night and making no mistakes.
If there is to be a cup parade in Montreal this summer, Interim Coach Luke Richardson will have to outsmart Cooper with his line matchups, and the big four defencemen will have to defy age and exhaustion for a few more games. But most of all, the Habs might need to lose a little respect for the Lightning, go out and play their game, and leave it all on the ice for one more round.
An early press deadline due to the Canada Day holiday leaves us here. Hopefully when you’re reading this there will still be lots of hockey left to play.
Speaking of Canada, the most interesting Raptors news this week pertains to Coach Nick Nurse, who will coach the Canadian Men’s National Team in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament. The tournament began on Tuesday in Victoria, BC.
Blue Jays Babble
On Tuesday the Blue Jays kicked off what is expected to be an active trade season, landing left-bat Corey Dickerson and right-handed relief pitcher Adam Cimber from the Miami Marlins. In return, the Marlins receive veteran infielder Joe Panik and minor league pitcher Andrew McInvale.
The trade fills a couple of holes for Toronto. Injuries have ravaged the Jays’ pitching depth and it is expected that Cimber, who is having a career year, can come in to support. Dickerson, who is currently injured, will bring depth power from the left side of the batter’s box.
Don’t change the channel. This is just the beginning.
Lori Bennett is a social worker, policy professional, recreation softball player and coach, and newbie ukulele-ist. A Newfoundlander living in Toronto, Lori loves a good hockey chat or debate, just as long as it remains respectful. She posts her game time thoughts on twitter as @lori10habs.