TAMPA — The Tampa Bay Lightning vs. the Montreal Canadiens. The pairing everyone expected in this year’s Stanley Cup final, right? The Boys of Summer compete for sports’ most famous trophy starting tonight.
Welcome to the Stanley Cup final in a sort-of pandemic season.
If you’re a casual hockey fan getting swept up in the buzz that always permeates a professional sports town when trophies are at stake, we’re here to help you make sense of the broadcasts.
Grab a sweater (jersey), get ready to yell at the refs about icing (not the sweet stuff) and prepare to lose a lot of sleep. The home team is pretty good about bouncing back after a loss and a jolt from the Bolts (acceptable team nickname) will keep you up well past bedtime, even on weeknights.
Hockey terms to know
Icing: When a player shoots the puck down the ice and it crosses the center line and the red line at the back of the rink (called the goal line) without a player touching the puck. Officials will blow their whistles and teams will line up for a faceoff in the defending zone of the team who “iced” the puck.
Power play: When the opposing team is called for a penalty, the other team gets a one-man advantage for two or four minutes, depending on the severity of the penalty.
Penalty kill: The team that is down a player is trying to “kill” the opponent’s chance at scoring.
Offsides: Just like football, hockey has its own version. A player can’t enter the offensive zone (cross the blue line — yes, that’s the technical term) before the puck does.
Fate decided late: Overtime in hockey consists of 20-minute periods. The first team to score wins, no matter how many extra periods it may take. The Lightning have some experience with this, playing three overtime games during the postseason. Keep caffeine handy.
Intermission: Other sports are split up nicely into halves and quarters; hockey leans toward periods (three total). Don’t let the second intermission fool you into thinking the game is over.
Hands off? It’s a superstition of sorts that most teams do not touch their conference trophy, the East’s Prince of Wales and the West’s Clarence S. Campbell Bowl. Teams instead prefer to get tactile with the Stanley Cup only. The Lightning ignored that tradition a year ago, and were totally touchy-feely with the trophy again last week.
Mind games: Don’t expect either coach to share injury updates (cough, Nikita Kucherov, cough) or the game’s lineup at any time in the series before puck drop.
Line up: Touching the conference trophies may be taboo, but in the playoffs, hockey players form a handshake line at the end of the series; coaches often participate, too.
Lightning’s Stanley Cup journey so far
Round 1, Florida Panthers (4-2): For the first time in NHL playoff history, the two Florida teams went head to head. The Lightning edged out the Panthers in six games, but Florida wasn’t a pushover by any means in a physical, hard-checking matchup.
Round 2, Carolina Hurricanes (4-1): The Lightning’s tight-checking play continued against the Hurricanes as the final series coming out of the Central Division. The two teams were fairly even in the regular season but Tampa Bay’s fourth line helped make the difference in the series finale, despite spending little time on the ice.
Round 3, New York Islanders (4-3): The Islanders pushed Tampa Bay to its first seven-game series since 2018 (when the Lightning met the Capitals in the Eastern Conference final). Forward Yanni Gourde locked up the 2021 series win with the only goal of the game and goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy registered his fourth consecutive shutout series-clinching win.
Tonight: at Amalie Arena, 8, NBCSN
Wednesday: at Amalie Arena, 8, NBCSN
Friday: at Montreal, 8, NBC
July 5: at Montreal, 8, NBC
July 7: at Amalie Arena, 8, NBC*
July 9: at Montreal, 8, NBC*
July 11: at Amalie Arena, 7, NBC*
* If necessary
Radio: All games 970-AM
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