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Steven Stamkos has been key to Lightning’s sustained run


Mystique and Aura, those famous nightclub dancers who once lived at 161st and River Ave., have settled in Tampa.

And those ladies of fortune — as much as Steven Stamkos, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman, Ondrej Palat and Nikita Kucherov — will be part of the opposition on Sunday when for the second time in 48 hours the Avalanche will attempt to kayo the two-time defending champ Lightning and capture the Stanley Cup.

There have been way too many late-game victories to discount the impact of the self-belief that beats in Tampa Bay’s collective championship heart. They have seen, they have conquered. Eleven straight opponents, one by one, year by year.

The Islanders had them. No they did not. The Maple Leafs had them. No they did not. The Rangers had them. No they did not. The Avalanche have them. We will see about that.

There is no doubt that the Lightning organization has a significant built-in systemic advantage by virtue of their location in a no-state-tax state. But management deserves credit for exploiting that advantage in identifying the right people to sign, retain, extend and acquire. Once upon a time the Ranger$ had a huge systemic advantage in the pre-cap era, and look where that got them.

Steven Stamkos
Steven Stamkos
NHLI via Getty Images

The past couple of years, the back-to-back Cups, it has been easy to overlook Stamkos. The spotlights were on Vasilevskiy or Kucherov or Hedman or Brayden Point. But now it is impossible to look away from No. 91, who has turned in one compelling performance after another and who has simply refused to allow his team to lose.

This all started when Stamkos was selected first overall in the 2008 draft, a year before the Lightning grabbed Hedman at second overall after the Islanders had chosen John Tavares.

But you could make a more salient point by suggesting this all was actually enabled when Stamkos eschewed unrestricted free agency in 2016 and instead signed an eight-year extension with the Lightning for an annual cap hit of $8.5 million.

The no-state-tax implications were massive in the equation, but the fact is Stamkos did exactly the opposite of what Taveras would do two years later when he became the No. 91 to succumb to the allure of going home and playing for the Maple Leafs.


There is a fair amount of chatter from multiple industry sources that the Devils will be in on impending Toronto free agent goaltender Jack Campbell if he hits the open market on July 13.

Jack Campbell
Jack Campbell
USA TODAY Sports

We’re told by one informant that New Jersey may attempt to jump the process by dealing for the 30-year-old’s rights if the Maple Leafs cannot or will not extend the netminder, who started more than 26 games (47) in a season for the first time in his career.

The idea would be to move Mackenzie Blackwood, whose career has somehow careened off course during a couple of drama-filled seasons this fragile team does not need. It also does not need an older veteran coming off injuries to serve as the backup; e.g., Corey Crawford; Jonathan Bernier.

We’re hearing as well that the Devils could have interest in Alex Georgiev if he becomes unrestricted this summer, but likely as part of a tandem operation rather than as a No. 1.

It is unlikely that the Blueshirts would send No. 40’s rights to New Jersey without an overpay, though if Michael McLeod becomes part of the conversation, I’d be all in.


So we’re hearing this new Pittsburgh ownership group may not be so enamored with Brian Burke keeping his post as president of hockey ops after a second straight first-round flameout.

Which reminds me. It was made clear in advance of the 2020 bubble tournament that just the 16 teams that advanced through the qualifiers and seeding round would be considered to have made the playoffs. Qualifying round losers, not.

This would be consistent with, say, the U.S. Open tennis tournament, where losers in the qualifiers are not considered to have played in the main draw.

Any questions?

Nevertheless, the Penguins felt it necessary to engage in false advertising, displaying a banner outside their arena proclaiming their “16th straight playoff appearance,” or some sort of equally misleading language, during their series with the Rangers even though it was in fact the team’s second straight appearance — standing ovation, please — after having lost the 2020 qualifiers to Montreal.


Alexander Mogilny
Alexander Mogilny
Neil Miller

The Hockey Hall of Fame Class of 2022 will be announced on Monday, and if Alex Mogilny does not headline the list of inductees, then something is very wrong indeed with the selection committee.

The ongoing omission of Mogilny, who joined the Sabres in 1989 after defecting from the Soviet Union as a 20-year-old, is a mystery. Over 1,000 points (473-559-1,032), better than a point-per-game (1.04 in 990 NHL contests) while becoming one of the most responsible defensive wingers in the league and a signal member of the Devils’ 2000 Cup championship squad.

Henrik and Daniel Sedin, Daniel Alfredsson, Patrik Elias and Rod Brind’Amour are all worthy candidates but none quite matched Mogilny. There will be no acceptable explanation if No. 89 is bypassed yet again. Of course, there is literally never an explanation at all from the committee whose work is confidential.

Pierre Turgeon, meanwhile, who is the only induction-eligible player among the NHL’s top 44 all-time point-getters at 34th with 515-812-1,327 in 1,294 games, is never going to get a sniff, is he?

And if Roberto Luongo, fourth in all-time victories with 489 and ninth in career shutouts with 77 but without a Stanley Cup championship, does not gain admission, then why would Henrik Lundqvist, sixth with 459 career victories and 17th with 64 shutouts, when he becomes eligible next year?



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