by Dan Adkisson
Catch Up With All the Latest Goings-on and Stories Coming out of the NHL
Has it really been over four months since the 2020/21 NHL season finished, and the Tampa Bay Lightning lifted the Stanley Cup? It doesn’t feel like it, but that is certainly the case. For those who don’t remember, or are only now getting into the world of hockey, last year’s Stanley Cup was contested between the Lightning and the Montreal Canadiens. It was a five-game series, that the Lightning were in charge of from the start, winning the first three games 5-1, 3-1 and 6-3. While the Canadiens did stage a mini-comeback in game four, it was short-lived, as the Lighting achieved a 1-0 victory in game five to secure their second consecutive Stanley Cup.
Last season was great, but it’s finished now. What happened has happened, and the results can’t be changed. Therefore, NHL teams and fans will instead be looking forward, wondering what they are in for in the 2021/22 campaign, which is just now starting. They certainly will be glued to their phones, searching for all the latest NHL odds on their sports betting apps. Let’s take a moment to review the best of the pre-season action and preview some of the best opening games in the first round of this new NHL season.
Can the Lightning make it three in three?
People often say that it is harder to retain a trophy or title than it is to win it in the first place. Well, the Tampa Bay Lightning didn’t seem to pay much attention to those people, as they had no difficulty in claiming the 2021 Stanley Cup, despite the league being heavily impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Their 2021/22 pre-season kicked off on the 29th of September, against the Carolina Hurricanes. It wasn’t exactly the start they were hoping for, as the game ended 3-1 in favor of the the Hurricanes. While this game was relatively low scoring, the next time the two faced off three days later, the result was very different, with the Lightning securing an impressive 8-5 victory.
As well as taking on the Hurricanes, the Lightning have also played the Florida Panthers (twice) and the Nashville Predators (three times) during this pre-season. Their results against the Predators were poor, losing 6-2 in the first meeting, and 6-1 in the second. Things were slightly improved against the Panthers; while they lost the first meeting 3-2, they improved in the second and third games, winning 6-2 then 4-2. So it is safe to say they have had a mixed pre-season overall. Their first game of the regular season is against the Pittsburgh Penguins on the 12th of October.
Will the Canadiens bounce back?
Losing in a final is always incredibly tough to take. It would have been even harder for the Montreal Canadiens, as it means the wait for them to win their first Stanley Cup since 1993 continues into its 28th year. It seems crazy that it has been that long since they were last champions, considering they are the most successful hockey franchise in the history of the NHL.
Their first game sees them take on one of their oldest rivals, the Toronto Maple Leafs. Interestingly enough, the two sides have already played each other three times in pre-season, so we have an idea how this one might go. While the Canadiens did win the second game 5-2, they had a tough time in the other two games, losing 4-1 and, most recently, 6-2. They also struggled in their pre-season games against the Ottawa Senators, losing two (7-2, 5-4) and winning one (2-1) of these games. If this sort of form carries on into their regular season 82-game stretch, they might struggle to make it to the Stanley Cup again this year.
Islanders hoping to go one better?
If you are going to lose in the playoffs, it sometimes makes it a little easier to bear if it is against the team that goes on to win the championship. That is certainly how the New York Islanders will be trying to spin their Stanley Cup Semifinal loss to the Lightning.
The Islanders are another team who have had mixed form during the pre-season, with some very positive results (4-0 victory against their rivals, the New York Rangers, plus 3-0 and 3-2 wins over the Philadelphia Flyers) but also some fairly poor ones, as well (a 2-1 loss against the New Jersey Devils, and dropping a game 5-4 to the Rangers). Of course, all pre-season results need to be taken with a grain of salt, but the best way to start the season well is to be already in winning form by the time it starts.
The last time the Islanders won the Stanley Cup, Ronald Reagan was president, and the Berlin wall was still standing. They’ll be eager to go all the way this year, to win their first championship in 39 years.