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Sizing Up Tampa Bay's Dominant Stanley Cup Playoff Streak

The Tampa Bay Lightning haven't lost a playoff series in three years, and they're looking like favorites to win the Stanley Cup once again. Here's how they got to this point.
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The Tampa Bay Lightning have joined the Montreal Canadiens and New York Islanders as the only teams in NHL history to win 10 consecutive playoff series, following their sweep of the Presidents' Trophy-winning Florida Panthers.

The Canadiens have accomplished this milestone twice in the team's 104 seasons, winning 10 straight from 1956-60 and 13 straight from 1976-79. It was the Islanders, however, who owned the early 80s, and it's unlikely that any team will touch their NHL record 19 straight series wins from 1980-84.

Since the Lightning streak began in 2020, they have hoisted two Stanley Cups, defeating the Dallas Stars in six games during the NHL Bubble season and their run in 2021, where they defeated the Montreal Canadians in five.

This Tampa team isn't like years past, though. Their defense isn't as good; it’s not the same team from last post-season that averaged a playoff best 1.96 goals against per game. This team's style of play isn't recognized as much on the stat sheet, blocking 77 shots in this series against the Panthers.

This year, they’ve relied more on offense; their 3.27 goals for a game is the highest since the streak began. They've been led by Nikita Kucherov, whose 81 playoff points since 2020 is an NHL best and has led the team in scoring during their two cup runs and continues to lead Tampa this post-season with four goals and 11 assists.

Then there’s the special teams, something that never seems to struggle. Since their run began, the Lightning has had the third-best power play, converting 26.2 percent of the time, while on the man advantage, and killing 85.8 percent of their penalties has them ranked fifth best.

But regardless of how good the offense and defense have been and continue to be, the one constant outlier in every postseason run has been their netminder, Andrei Vasilevskiy, one of the more dominant goalies in the NHL over the past decade.

Vasilevskiy has held it down in goal for the Lightning and has been at his best when the team has needed him the most. In the team's series against Florida, Vasilevskiy stopped 151 of the 154 shots he faced, including a 49-save shutout on Monday, giving him an NHL record, sixth shutout in a series-clinching game.

The first of those shutouts came in Game 6 of the 2020 Stanley Cup Finals, where he posted a 22 save shutout in a 2-0 victory over the Dallas Stars, giving Tampa Bay their first cup since 2004. In the following playoffs, Vasilevskiy posted a shutout in each series-clinching game. Posting a clean sheet against the Panthers in Game 6 of the first round, in Game 5 of the semi-finals against Carolina, against the Islanders in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, and another 22 save shutout in Game 5 of the Stanley Cup finals against the Montreal Canadiens, on route to winning the Conn Smythe Trophy.

Despite handling the majority of the workload in net, Vasilevskiy's longevity has proven to be crucial during their run. Since the 2020 playoffs began, no goalie has appeared in as many playoff games or has won as many playoff games as Vasilevskiy. He's been in net for all of Tampa’s 59 games, with a 42-17 record, a goals-against-average of 1.96, and a save percentage of .932.

The team deserves full credit for keeping the core together, with 13 of their 20-man roster being a part of both cup runs. Lightning GM Julien Brisebois is responsible for making the key transactions that have played significant roles this post-season—resigning Brayden Point, who missed this last series due to injury, and Ross Colton, who’s tied for the team lead in playoff goals. Colton and veteran winger Corey Perry, who signed a two-year deal back in July, have five goals each this post-season.

As for the trade market, the front office made minor moves during the deadline, the biggest being forward Nick Paul, who Tampa acquired from the Ottawa Senators. Paul is currently second on the Lightning in playoff +/- (4) and was the hero in Game 7 of the first round, scoring both of Tampa's goals in their 2-1 win over Toronto.

Of course, there's coach Jon Cooper has one losing record over his 10-year coaching career and has a win percentage of .714 since the 2020 playoffs. He doesn't need a bucketload of Jack Adams awards to show his value – he has the rings to prove it.

Tampa now awaits either the Carolina Hurricanes or New York Rangers as they continue their battle for a chance to face the defending champs in the Eastern Conference finals and try to prevent them from extending the streak to 11. And as it stands, there's no point in picking them as anything but the top Stanley Cup contender right now.

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