Blackhawks Banter: Final Review, Lightning’s Legacy & Line Picking

With the 2021 Stanley Cup now awarded, it gives teams not named the Montreal Canadiens or Tampa Bay Lightning a chance to re-join the conversation. The NHL has officially entered its offseason and there will be no shortage of Chicago Blackhawks content to cover throughout it.

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In this episode of Blackhawks Banter, we’ll recap how things concluded as we look ahead to what’s next. Our panel will include Greg Boysen, Gail Kauchak, and Brook LoFurno. And I, Shaun Filippelli, will be the host for our upcoming show.

As always, here’s a sneak peek of just some of what we’ll delve into. Be sure to catch the full episode when it drops, across every major social media and podcast platform, so you can decide which side of the debate you most align with.

Fan Reactions to That Final

Despite the Canadiens battling back to avoid the sweep, the Lightning still came out victorious and took this one 4-1 en route to becoming the 2021 Stanley Cup champions. They made it look rather easy, too.

Tampa Bay Lightning, 2021 Stanley Cup Champions
Tampa Bay Lightning, 2021 Stanley Cup Champions (Photo by Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

Regardless of your feelings towards either side, as a fan of the game in general, do you feel that this Stanley Cup Final provide a successful conclusion to the 2020-21 campaign?

Greg

I think the term successful is in the eye of the beholder. Obviously, fans in Tampa Bay feel this was a successful conclusion, but outside of Florida might be a little different. I was hoping for a better series and I thought the Canadiens would give the Lightning more of a challenge, but the boys in blue flexed their muscles and got the job done.

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The Bolts were the best team, from top to bottom, heading into the postseason and proved it throughout the playoffs. However, the Stanley Cup Final was rather disappointing to someone who is not a fan of either team.

Gail

I do believe it was a successful conclusion. Sure, the actual Final was a bit boring. It wasn’t the epic battle we all hope a Final will be, but I still believe the Canadiens deserved to be there. They beat the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Winnipeg Jets and the Vegas Golden Knights. That’s no small feat.

Would a Final between the Golden Knights and the Lightning have been more exciting? Yeah, Vegas probably would’ve created more offense. And the Lightning arguably might have scored more goals than they did against the Canadiens. Let’s face it; everybody likes to see goals.

But the Habs proved that defense can get you pretty darn far. It’s an awfully important aspect of the game that many take for granted. I know the Blackhawks could certainly learn a thing or two from this team about how to shut down your opponent, and then take advantage of your opportunities when you get them.

Speaking of which, it was really cool to see the Habs’ youngsters take that next step in their development. Players like Cole Caufield and Nick Suzuki were integral contributors to this Cup run. It will be exciting to follow them in the future.

So I have no complaints. I was happy to watch David take on Goliath. And even if they didn’t win the ultimate prize, the Canadiens gained a lot to take with them moving forward. It’s always fun to watch any team’s progression, no matter how lopsided the outcome.

Brooke

Yes, I think it did. In general, this year’s playoffs contained a lot of fun surprises with the Islanders, Canadiens, and Jets. While the Final itself seemed lopsided, the better team prevailed in that sense with Tampa, so yes, I think it was a successful conclusion.

Shaun

I know there are fans out there that have been quick to complain that it was too lopsided of a Final, with the outcome seemingly set before it even began. However, that happens in sports. There are going to be favourites and, oftentimes, they will do what’s expected of them.

With that said, it’s unjustified to downplay the reality that Montreal created for itself in being there. The series still needed to be played and they had the opportunity in front of them to, again, prove any skeptics wrong. Ultimately, the Lightning was the better squad and I have no problems with how it all unravelled.

Can Lightning Strike Again?

Winning back-to-back Stanley Cups in 2020 and 2021, Tampa joins an exclusive group of organizations that have achieved that feat. Obviously, each was unique and shortened seasons. Nevertheless, the Lightning still achieved the highest prize possible both times and should be recognized as such.

Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup Champions
Chicago Blackhawks, 2010 Stanley Cup Champions (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)

Outside of capturing a third Cup, what more would this team need to do to reach (or exceed) the dynasty status the Blackhawks were able to throughout the 2010s? Or have they already?

Greg

I think the Lightning have reached dynasty status. They made the Stanley Cup Final in 2015 with a lot of the same players. They won the Presidents’ Trophy in 2018-19 before winning their back-to-back championships. Shortened seasons or not, it doesn’t take away anything from their accomplishments. To win a title in the bubble situation with no contact with the outside world for nearly two months was no easy task. A 56-game condensed schedule in a pandemic world was another strange and extremely stressful season.

The Lightning came out of both scenarios as the top team after the major disappointment of 2019. People can bring up shortened seasons or not having a salary cap in the postseason, but that is just sour grapes and doesn’t change the fact Tampa Bay is the class of the NHL.

Gail

I won’t by any means belittle the Lightning’s back-to-back Cup wins. It’s insanely difficult to win just one Cup, much less two in a row! And I don’t think it was easier to do because of the shortened seasons. Every team was working within the same structure. I believe the pandemic and playing in a bubble only added more difficulties.

So kudos to the Lightning for their accomplishments. They are a strong, deep team, and I believe they will be contenders next season as well. But until they win three in a row, or three in six years (hee, hee) I wouldn’t call them a dynasty just yet.

Brooke

I think Tampa is a great team, but I don’t consider them a dynasty. With the Blackhawks, they were fortunate enough to be in a position where they could keep every high-impact player and it showed in the results. I don’t think that will be the case for Tampa with the flat cap and the expansion draft. They will likely lose a lot of their depth.

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If they can find a way to three-peat with a different roster look, then I will be thoroughly impressed.

Shaun

While the Blackhawks never did win back-to-back through their run of three Cups in six years, they were clearly among the most dominant throughout that span. A level of eliteness that Tampa Bay can now call their norm, with what their franchise has accomplished in recent seasons.

However, I don’t think they’re at the point where they can align with the Blackhawks’ dynasty just yet. Can they get there? It would be silly to suggest otherwise. They still have years ahead of them to match, or even surpass, what the Blackhawks did through the 2010s. But I would like to see what Tampa can do with a full schedule and a more typical postseason bracket, before concluding that they’ve done enough to align with the league’s all-time best teams.

Pick a Line, Any Line

A lot can change from now until the start of next season. Including, but not limited to, the implications that come out of the Seattle Kraken Expansion Draft. In the meantime, let’s play with the roster that’s currently in place.

2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks
2020-21 Chicago Blackhawks (Photo by Dave Reginek/NHLI via Getty Images)

Of the options listed below, if you had to stick with a specific lineup in a must-win situation, knowing that it’s the only collection of forwards, defensemen, and a goalie that you can play the entire game, which group are you going with?

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We’ll give readers the who for now and save the why for the show.

Option A:

Hinostroza-Kampf-Kane
de Haan-Boqvist
Soderblom

Option B:

Kubalik-Kurashev-DeBrincat
Stillman-Murphy
Delia

Option C:

Hagel-Toews-Connolly
Beaudin-Mitchell
Subban

Option D:

Suter-Dach-Hardman
Keith-Regula
Lankinen

Greg

Option B

Gail

Option B

Brooke

Option A

Shaun

Option B

Hopefully, you’ve enjoyed this preview of what’s to come on Episode 36 of Blackhawks Banter. Be sure to subscribe to our YouTube Channel, like our Facebook Page, follow us on Twitter, and find us on your preferred podcast platform, so you catch every new show the moment they drop.

Miss last week’s debate? Get caught up, below.

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