The Stanley Cup Final has become a regular haunt for the Tampa Bay Lightning, now in their third straight year of making it to the final series of the season, something that’s unbelievable even to them.
As coach Jon Cooper said, “When you’re growing up in Canada, you always dream about having your name on the Stanley Cup. And to get there the first time, it was a dream come true. To get there a second time, the next year, there’s no way we’re going back. To go a third time is unthinkable.”
The fifth episode of the seventh season of “Quest For the Stanley Cup,” which is available on ESPN+ in the United States and YouTube/NHL in Canada, opens with the Lightning having just defeated the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Final, setting up a chance for them to become a dynasty with a third consecutive Cup win.
“Having won back-to-back Stanley Cups is surreal it itself,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “To get here a third time is pretty crazy when you think about it. But when you’re in the mix, during the season it’s tough to really look back and appreciate this type of run. But we’re hoping we’re on the right side of history here for No. 3.”
Standing in their way is the Colorado Avalanche.
“It’s going to be a fun series because to be the best you’ve got to beat the best,” Avalanche captain Gabriel Landeskog said. “And I don’t think they’ve seen anybody like us and we haven’t seen anybody like them.”
And the Avalanche come out rolling in Game 1. Still, the game makes it way to overtime, tied at 3-3, a fitting start to a series between the defending Stanley Cup champion and a preseason favorite pick. It doesn’t take long, though, for Andre Burakovsky to score, sending the Avalanche into a celebratory scrum.
The aftermath is less screaming and hugging and more resolve, as the cameras show Colorado coach Jared Bednar driving back to his home from Ball Arena on a day off.
“Day One of training camp, we asked our guys to go about their business in a way that a championship team would,” Bednar said. “They’ve really kept that mentality and that focus for the entirety of the season and the playoffs. I think we’ve grown a lot as a team and matured a lot as a team.”
So has he. Bednar has come a long way from the first-year NHL coach who oversaw a Colorado team that went 22-56-4 and finished last in the League with 48 points in 2016-17. He has grown in his role, has stepped into the Colorado lifestyle, with its outdoor space and inviting places to walk his Bernese Mountain Dog, Riggs, named after the character in Lethal Weapon.
He isn’t the only one enjoying his day off, as Nicholas Paul and Brandon Hagel of the Lightning both get to enjoy a dinner out in Denver between Game 1 and Game 2, vowing to play better the next game.
“Obviously we’re going into that next game with the mindset of let’s go home 1-1 and go from there,” Hagel said.
It would not go according to the Lightning’s plan, a 7-0 drubbing despite Cooper’s exhortations in the intermissions to “Get [expletive] angry.”
The Lightning would have to head back to Tampa down 2-0 in the best-of-7 series.
When the episode shifts to Tampa for Game 3 of the series, there’s a moment of levity with Zach Bogosian and his son, who we see rollerblading around the kitchen with a hockey stick.
“He’s been obsessed with hockey ever since he could even process what anything was, really,” Bogosian said.
Cade Bogosian hasn’t had time yet to become obsessed. He was born, five weeks prematurely, on May 18. Zach and Bianca Bogosian’s fourth child is now home from the NICU. Bogosian kisses his family goodbye to head to Amalie Arena for Game 3. He’s left with an exhortation from daughter Mila to “Win.”
“We’ll try our best,” Bogosian said.
And that was exactly what they would do, winning Game 3, 6-2, narrowing the gap to a 2-1 series lead for the Avalanche, as the teams — and “Quest For the Stanley Cup” — head toward Game 4.