by Senji Torrey
Media Production Editor
On Sep. 28, the Tampa Bay Lightning finally broke their 15-year championship drought by defeating the Dallas Stars 4 games to 2 to win this year’s Stanley Cup. This championship is especially unique since it is the first cup won in the “NHL bubble.”
The bubble, established by the NHL, forces all players and team personnel from going outside of a dedicated area – in this case a small region in Edmonton and Toronto – in order to reduce the probability of a COVID-19 outbreak. The bubble format also means fans cannot attend any games.
In the final championship game, Dallas found themselves under pressure to win as they trailed Tampa Bay 3-2 in the seven-game series; another loss would officially send the cup Tampa’s way. Because of, or perhaps in spite of, these high stakes, Dallas found themselves overshooting the runway.
In 60 minutes, Dallas only had 22 shots on goal, and gave away the puck 11 times. Interestingly enough, Tampa Bay’s first goal, scored by centre Brayden Point, resulted from poor defending and slow reactions from Dallas’ back line, and proved to be a decisive turning point in this game. By the end of the game, Tampa Bay came out on top, winning by a score of 2-0, with left-winger Blake Coleman scoring the second goal.
In the first five games, Tampa Bay seemed to have the upper hand. Even in Game 1, when the Stars blew out the Lightning by a score of 4-1, Tampa Bay dominated. The Lightning shot 36 times, forcing Dallas’ Alexander Khudobin to block 26 of those pucks. So, although the scoreboard showed Dallas coming out comfortably on top, the game film told another story.
The Stanley Cup isn’t the only trophy heading down to Florida this year. Tampa Bay’s own Swedish defenseman, Victor Hedman, earned the Conn Smythe trophy, a prize awarded to the most valuable postseason player. Hedman, a player assigned to defend the net, scored 10 postseason goals, which led the league among defensemen. Furthermore, Hedman chalked up 12 assists for a total of 22 points, which put him at second place overall.
The Conn Smythe Award is far from the only trophy the NHL gives out. The Hart Trophy, designated for the MVP of the entire season, was awarded to forward Leon Draisaitl of the Edmonton Oilers. Draisaitl scored 43 goals and made 67 assists for an impressive 110 points, which put him in first place in both assists and points.
Draisaitl also won the Ted Lindsay Award for MVP, voted by the NHL Players’ Association, largely due to his sweeping of the statistics table. Other than the aforementioned two top placements for this Oiler, Draisaitl also led the league in average points per game, with 1.55, and power play points, with 44. He also ranked first among forwards for average time-in-game with 22:37 minutes/game. In a statement, Draisaitl passed on some of the credit to his teammates, saying, “Obviously, I found some chemistry with [Kailer Yamamoto] and [Ryan Nugent-Hopkins]…We clicked at the end [of the season] and had a good run, so that definitely helped.”
Another prestigious trophy given out annually is the James Norris trophy for best defenseman. This year, Roman Josi of the Nashville Predators took home this award. As a defender, Josi placed second in every major category of the NHL leaderboards. These categories include points (65), goals (16), and assists (49). Though he did not find himself at the top of any leaderboard, Josi’s consistency on the ice gave him this highly sought-after trophy.
One award that is extremely relevant in today’s political and social climate is the King Clancy Trophy, which is given to the player who makes the biggest humanitarian contribution to their community. Minnesota Wild defenseman Matt Dumba won this year’s trophy for his efforts in racial justice within the Minnesota region. In his acceptance speech, Dumba commented, “When the passing of George Floyd happened months ago, I took to my social media and knew that I could do more. I didn’t exactly know what that meant at the time, but I knew that I could…be an even bigger leader in my community.”
While Dumba remained humble in his speech, his actions spoke for themselves. Shortly after the death of George Floyd on Mar. 25 in Minnesota, Dumba began a fundraiser to support the local businesses in Minnesota that were damaged during the protests. Dumba has also worked on the “Hockey is for Everyone” initiative, and founded the Hockey Diversity Alliance, or HDA, to allow more young African-American individuals the opportunity to play hockey.
Whether it was the nail-biting Stanley Cup Finals, the countless history-making feats, or the new “bubble” format, the 2020 NHL season is one that is undeniably destined for the history books.
(Sources: NHL.com, ESPN, CBS Sports, YouTube)
Photos courtesy Tribune News Service