TAMPA — David Savard is still struggling to find the words to describe what it meant to him to to raise the Stanley Cup Wednesday night at Amalie Arena.
Unlike most of the players on the ice, the Lightning defenseman was celebrating an NHL championship for the first time in his 10-year career.
When Savard checked his phone after the game, hundreds of messages from family, friends and former teammates flooded the screen. Many sent pictures of their televisions, too, as evidence that they had seen him hoist the hardware.
“It was pretty special,” Savard, 30, said. “It was fun. It took me a while to answer most of the texts, and I’m still not done.”
Savard spent the entirety of his NHL career with the Columbus Blue Jackets before he was acquired by the Lightning in April, just before the trade deadline.
“I spent a lot of years (in Columbus),” Savard said, “And you battle with those guys, I think they were proud of me and happy for me to finally get to touch (the Stanley Cup) and go on a lap. It was definitely special to me to see how much those guys were happy for me.”
Savard was one of two players (along with rookie Ross Colton) who skated with the Lightning this postseason that were not part of last season’s Cup run. He was the third player to receive the Cup, following captain Steven Stamkos and defensemen Victor Hedman, the longest-tenured players on the team.
From the moment he arrived in Tampa Bay, Savard knew he had a special opportunity in front of him, with the Lightning’s sights on a second straight Cup. He saw firsthand how the team operated day in and day out during its playoff run.
“I think it’s just the commitment to winning (that makes this group special),” Savard said. “Everybody has their role. Everybody has thrived in their role, and they’re trying to be the best they can be and that’s why it’s working.”
Savard said having teammates willing to sacrifice individual needs for the good of the group — some, like Alex Killorn and Nikita Kucherov, fighting through injuries — created a tight bond that was hard to break.
“They’ve been really good for years before I showed up, and I know how hard it was to play against them,” Savard said. “And when you get a chance to see it from the inside, they’re a special group.”
The Quebec native contributed in a big way to the Cup-clinching victory, assisting on Colton’s winning goal in the Lightning’s 1-0 triumph over the Canadiens.
With just over six minutes to play in the second period, defenseman Ryan McDonagh pulled the puck out of a scrum along the boards, skated to the center point and passed to Savard.
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Savard moved into the right circle and passed through traffic to Colton, who was standing just outside the crease. Colton redirected the puck past goaltender Carey Price and into an open net.
The assist was one of five in 20 games this postseason for Savard, including two in the final series.
Savard doesn’t know what will happen to him in the weeks to come as he enters unrestricted free agency this offseason. The Hockey News lists him as one of the top 30 unrestricted free agents available.
But for now, he’s enjoying celebrating the Cup win with his current team.
“It’s hard to go back-to-back,” Savard said. “I got really lucky to be here and to get to enjoy the second ride with them.”
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The Tampa Bay Times will commemorate the Lightning’s second consecutive Stanley Cup title with a new hardcover coffee table book, Striking Twice. Pre-order now.
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