The NHL pause on March 12, 2020, with 189 games still reaming to play in the regular season. The regular season was scheduled to end on April 4, and the playoffs starting on April 6. After six months, the NHL is beginning to play on August 1 with an unconventional playoff format. NHL typically uses a 16-team playoff format, but due to COVID-19, the NHL is using a 24 team format. The NHL is starting with the Stanley Cup Qualifiers, which is 16 teams paired in eight best of 5 series. The other four teams, the top two teams from each Division, are playing in a round-robin to determine seeding.
Now that you what happened to the NHL playoff format, we can get into the Tampa Bay Lightning and how they have been doing to in these playoffs. After what happened last year, us Lightning fans are calling this playoff run the Redemption Tour. If you don’t know what happen last year here’s a little recap after a record-breaking year for the Lightning winning the President Trophy, they got swept in the first round of the 2019 playoff by the Columbus Blue Jackets. Now for Lightning in the 2020 playoffs, in the first round for the second year in a row, the must face the Columbus Blue Jackets again. As a fan, you are a little nervous about what’s going to happen in this series because of what happen last year. But the Lightning made quick and easy work of that series, winning it 3-1. I believe that Brayden Point made the biggest difference in this series, coming in the clutch in Game 1, getting the game-winning goal in the 5th overtime, and getting the series-clinching goal in overtime of Game 5.
The Lightning’s round 2 matchup was against the Boston Bruins; if watch or follow hockey, you that these two don’t like each other. This is always a big series the Lightning and Bruins are in the same Division, and it always determines who is the big dog in the Division. The Lightning started this series off struggling and losing Game 1, but the Lightning came back strong and fast, winning the next four games to clinch the series and moving on the Eastern Conference Final. In this series, I would have to say that Ondrej Palat was the difference-maker in this series, tallying a total of 4 goals in this series, including one in overtime.
The Eastern Conference Final is one series away from the big dance, which is something that Tampa Bay Lightning haven’t gone to in 5 years. In this series, the Tampa Bay Lightning faced their Conference Rival, the New York Islanders; fans are always a fun match up to watch. Watching this series was fun but watching my team win the series 3-2 and advancing to the Stanley Cup Final was great. I can’t just pick one player that had a breakout series. It was a real team effort, but I think there is one player that every Lightning fan can thank, and that is Anthony Cirelli for getting the series-clinching goal in overtime. The Tampa Bay Lightning are on to the Stanley Cup Final. Will this be the year for The Stanley Cup to make its return Tampa Bay after a long 16 years and for the Lightning complete the REDEMPTION TOUR. In the wise words of Jon Copper (Head Coach of the Lightning), “You’ll have to tune in to find out.”