TAMPA, Fla. (AP)– Winning Stanley Cup champions in successive seasons is unusual. The Tampa Bay Lightning are positive they can do it.

Even without leading scorer Nikita Kucherov, who’ll miss the year after going through hip surgery.

The Lightning are that gifted with a highly experienced offense including captain Steven Stamkos, Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Yanni Gourde and Alex Killorn, along with an experienced, playoff-tested defense anchored by Vezina Trophy finalist Andrei Vasilevskiy and Conn Smythe Trophy winner Victor Hedman.

Equally essential, basic supervisor Julian BriseBois said, is the champs got in training camp with the type of attitude needed to offer themselves an opportunity to become just the 4th team in almost thirty years to win back-to-back NHL titles.

” It’s not going to be easy. It wasn’t going to be easy even with Kuch in the lineup, and now it’s more of an obstacle,” BriseBois said. “The mindset of the gamers as a whole, the hunger and how excited they are to get an opportunity to go after another Cup and go back to back … I have actually simply been truly struck by how favorable everyone’s mindset is.”

The Pittsburgh Penguins were the last club to hoist the Cup in consecutive seasons, winning in 2016 and 2017.

The only other groups to accomplish the feat in the past thirty years were the 1990-91 and 1991-92 Penguins, and the 1996-97 and 1997-98 Detroit Red Wings coached by Scotty Bowman.

Bowman, a Hall of Famer who won a record 9 Stanley Cups as a head coach, was also behind the bench with the 91-92 Penguins following the death of Bob Johnson. He believes it’s harder to win back-to-back titles in today’s video game.

Throughout a 15-season stretch from 1973-74 through 1987-88, Philadelphia won consecutive titles, Montreal and the New York City Islanders each won four in a row, and Edmonton won back-to-back champions on two various celebrations.

” I think it’s more of the reality that teams are more relatively equivalent,” said Bowman, now a senior advisor with the Chicago Blackhawks. “Just a certain player or a specific injury, something might throw you off in the next season. How starving are they?”

Forward Pat Maroon joined the Lightning last year after winning the Cup with St. Louis the previous season. He thinks Tampa Bay has all the elements necessary to reign once again.

” I’m really positive. We’ve got all the pieces. We’ve got the goaltending. We’ve got the defensemen. We have the offending power,” Maroon said.

That may hold true, but there are no assurances.

” We’re quite familiar with how we require to play to hopefully have some success. But it’s going to be a grind,” coach Jon Cooper stated. “All of these groups have actually enhanced themselves. It’s a various year, and I think you simply have to clean the slate clean.”

ANOTHER HURDLE

To duplicate as champs, the Lightning when again will have conquered obstacles provided by the pandemic.

” It’s going to be incredibly difficult, but we’re going to need to depend on ourselves and ultimately other teams, too,” stated Stamkos, who appears to be healthy once again after missing out on the end to the regular season and all however one game of the playoffs because of a core muscle injury.

” The guidelines are in place. Everything has actually gone smooth up until now. But we’ve seen what can take place in the NFL, MLB and the NBA in terms of one guy kind of breaking the guidelines and other guys need to quarantine or not have the ability to play,” Stamkos included. “The NHL has done an excellent job of putting these procedures in place and the men have to follow them.”

When the team won its only other Stanley Cup title in 2004, Tampa Bay didn’t get an opportunity to defend the following year because labor strife forced cancellation of the 2004-05 season.

NEW APPEARANCE

Center Cedric Paquette and defensemen Kevin Shattenkirk, Braydon Coburn and Zach Bogosian are gone, and the Lightning haven’t done a lot to replace them. The group got extreme right Marian Gaborik and goalie Anders Nilsson from Ottawa, however both will be put on long term injury reserve.

” We lost some men that were a huge part of our group and big reason we won, but we have a big part of the core still left here.” Hedman stated.

SCHEDULE VIEW

The pandemic-shortened season begins Jan. 13 at house versus the Chicago Blackhawks. Stanley Cup runner-up Dallas won’t have to wait wish for a rematch, visiting Tampa on Jan. 17 and 19. The groups are both playing in the Central Division this season due to the pandemic.

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