2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs: Wraparound

AH, how it pains me to say this: hockey season is over. It ended on Monday, June 15 when the Chicago Blackhawks beat the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final. Chicago won the cup and then: The End. I was planning on doing an extensive recap of the playoffs, including each round, once the season ended but honestly I don’t want to anymore. The 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs were an absolute roller coaster of ups and downs, but they were two of the best months of my life, too. My home team made it all the way to the Final for the first time since 2004, when they won the Stanley Cup. While they didn’t end up taking home the big, coveted hardware this year, I couldn’t be more proud of the players, the organization, and the fans. We had a record-breaking season that was so, so fun to watch and the support this city has shown for the home team has been unprecedented (aside from maybe 2004) and unbelievable.

I’m going to quickly gloss over the rounds and their outcomes:

  1. The Lightning faced the Detroit Red Wings with home ice advantage in the first round. This round was probably the most difficult aside from the fourth because the Lightning struggled to counter the Red Wings’ clutch-and-grab style of play. Bolts won in seven games.
  2. Next, the Lightning found themselves up against the Montréal Canadiens, who swept them in the first round of the playoffs last year. The Lightning won the first three games despite not having home ice advantage, but it took them six to close the Habs out for good.
  3. The third round was the Eastern Conference Final, and the Lightning were up against the 2014 ECF champions: the New York Rangers. This series played out like a track meet, with blowout games followed by tight defensive games. It went all the way to Game 7 in New York, but the Bolts pulled out a big shutout 2-0 win to become the new Eastern Conference Champions. They are the only NHL team to beat three Original Six teams in the playoffs to get to the Final.
  4. And finally, the Lightning faced their fourth Original Six matchup in the Stanley Cup Final: the Chicago Blackhawks. A modern day dynasty, the Blackhawks won in six games, despite the Lightning having home ice advantage. Every game was close, with neither team holding more than a one goal lead at any point until the third period of Game 6, which the Blackhawks won 2-0 to capture the first Stanley Cup for Chicago on home ice since 1938. The Lightning were burdened with injuries in some of their stars, lost their spark, and ran out of gas a little too soon. Congratulations to the Chicago Blackhawks on their third Stanley Cup victory in the last six years. They earned it.

I was fortunate enough to attend every home game during the playoffs. My little brother did the pregame Thunder Skate for the Lightning three times: once during the ECF and twice during the SCF. I got to take him the third time and we sat right across the hall from the Blackhawks’ warmup soccer game. I made my first meme (and second and third) during the playoffs to use on Twitter. My dad flew to Game 6 in Chicago and got to see the Stanley Cup ceremony. The on-ice pregame show was absolutely stunning at every home game. The entire playoffs experience was amazing and I am so incredibly grateful that I got to take part in it, up close and personal. This season and these playoffs have been unforgettable and I can’t wait for October. Go Bolts.

And now, here is a gallery of images from my 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs adventure. Mon Dieu, merci.

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Kick-Start to Hockey

Tonight was the first game for the Tampa Bay Lightning since the team was swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs. The game was at home, at the newly renamed Amalie Arena, against the Nashville Predators. It was the 2015 Preseason Home Opener for the Lightning, and they did not disappoint the rather small but enthusiastic crowd of fans that gathered on a Tuesday night. The final score was 4-2, with the Lightning scoring one goal in the first period and three goals in the third. My dad and I left after the second period when the game was 2-1 Predators because he has to get up really early tomorrow morning. 26 seconds before the end of the second period, a linesman was badly injured, so the final seconds were postponed to the start of the third period. There were only five or so players who played with the Lightning last year on the ice tonight, and one of the rookies got into a massive (and totally awesome) fight with a Predators player. That was definitely one of the highlights for me. And it was also great to see Andrei Vasilevsky in goal.

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In other hockey news, the Columbus Blue Jackets beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0 and the Toronto Maple Leafs beat the Philadelphia Flyers 4-0. Poor Steve Mason.

I can’t wait for hockey season to get going in a few weeks. WOO HOO.