Tuesday, October 4, 2022

The NHL's Eastern Conference still runs through Tampa Bay. CBC Sports

Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning are accustomed to the short off-season.

This one, said the Lightning captain, “wasn’t as fun as the last two.”

The Stanley Cup was moved to Colorado after two-time defending champion Lightning’s avalanche in a six-game final in July.

However, the Eastern Conference is still very likely to run through Tampa Bay. Despite another round of the off-season, salary cap-forced departure, the Lightning believe they will remain the team to beat.

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Colorado defeated two-time defending champions Tampa Bay by winning 2–1 in Game 6 and winning their first Stanley Cup in 21 years.

“Certainly, there are a lot of factors going against us in terms of losing some good players, and people are going to talk about the core getting a little bigger,” Stamkos said. “But I still think we are a team that is going to compete for the Stanley Cup at the end of the season.”

Minus defenseman Ryan McDonagh and winger Ondrej Palt, the Lightning still have a playoff-tested corps that enabled them to become the 14th NHL franchise to reach the finals in three consecutive seasons, and the first time the Edmonton Oilers won from 1983–85. did so.

It is a group led by John Cooper entering its 10th season, and a lineup that also includes Nikita Kucherov, Viktor Heidman and Andrei Vasilevsky, the only goalkeeper of the NHL in the top five in the Vezina Trophy voting in each of the last five seasons. has ended.

“We’ve got some fresh faces, fresh blood for our team,” Wasilewski said. “And we will do or do the best we can to come back on top.”

It will not be easy.

The degree of difficulty intensified after an off-season in which the change in talent was tilted too far east.

Panthers, Blue Jackets, Senators doing tricks

A conference already featuring Alex Ovechkin, Sidney Crosby and Auston Matthews became the landing spot for a trio of 40-goal-scorers, with Johnny Goudreau signed with Columbus, Florida, in Ottawa of Matthew Tkachuk and Alex Debrincat. received arrival.

The additions reflect a growing arms race between teams that have rebuilt through youth (Columbus, Ottawa, Detroit, New Jersey and Buffalo) over the past few seasons — and over a long period of time — and the traditional elite one of the top But he is demanding to keep his grip. eight spots.

The talent boom followed a season in which 16 points separated eighth-placed Washington and ninth-placed Islanders, the biggest difference between a final playoff qualifier and its nearest rival since the NHL was an east/west format in 1993–94. I had gone.

“It’s full steam ahead,” said Blue Jackets defenseman Zack Verensky. “The former is obviously tough. But it’s one of those things where I feel like we’re a year older now. We add a piece like Johnny, there’s no reason we didn’t make the playoffs Can.”

Bruins GM Don Sweeney has taken notice and is doing his best to stay ahead of the pack with a new coach in Jim Montgomery, and a lineup that will end the season with Brad Marchand (hip surgery), Charlie McAvoy (shoulder surgery). and will potentially make Taylor Hall (upper body) disappear.

“You look at Florida, they’ve made a lot of changes and they don’t want to take a step back. And neither have we,” Sweeney said. “You can’t look in your rearview mirror.”

Rangers want to back up last season’s game

The New York Rangers made, perhaps, the biggest jump they made during a season in which they finished with 110 points and beat Pittsburgh and Carolina in a seven-game playoff series before eventually running out of steam against Tampa Bay in the East Finals. First rally.

And yet, nothing has been given, said Rangers captain Jacob Trouba.

“We were clearly in the Eastern Conference finals, and we were one game away from being out in the first round. So, you can look at it both ways,” Troba said. “You really can’t get too ahead of yourself.”

coaching carousel

In an indication of how competitive the former is, the off-season coaching carousel was not limited to non-playoff teams. In addition to Montgomery in Boston, the Presidents’ Trophy-winning Panthers had experience in hiring former Jets coach Paul Morris to replace Andrew Brunet.

John Tortorella is back behind the bench in Philadelphia. Detroit hired former Lightning assistant Derek Lalonde. And the Islanders promoted Len Lambert after suddenly firing Barry Trotz.

Maple leaves, capitals need results

Has this season the Toronto Maple Leafs shed the label of a playoff pushover? GM Kyle Dabas is in the hot seat entering the final year of his contract, and he has been sticking with the roster since the fall of his latest first round.

Toronto have not won a playoff round since 2004 and have lost a decisive game in each of their last five matches.

“I think it’s a real vote of confidence to keep our group together because there’s the belief that we have people where we can be successful,” said defenseman Morgan Reilly.

Speaking of early exits, Capitals GM Brian McLellan hasn’t been happy with Washington’s first-round exit in four years in a row since winning the Cup in 2018.

“Everyone is a little disappointed that we haven’t had much success,” McClellan said of bowing out of the Capitals in six games for Florida after enjoying a 2-1 series lead. “We should all be motivated to get past that point, and I think it’s important for this group to do so.”

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