TAMPA, Fla. (WFLA) – The Lightning could not have asked for a better start to their second-straight Stanley Cup Final. With the 3-0 series lead, they now find themselves one win away from hoisting the Stanley Cup for the second time in the span of about nine months.
But before they get to their first series-clinching opportunity in Game 4 Monday night, they’ve got two days off this weekend in Montreal.
With the NHL protocol for traveling to Canada for Montreal’s home games in the series, this means the team is once again in a “bubble” situation, strictly confined to their team hotel and the arena only. They are not permitted to go anywhere else.
For the Lightning, they’ve been here and done this before — and it worked out pretty well for them last season — so a few days sequestered is no big deal.
“We’re just back in the bubble scenario again,” said Head Coach Jon Cooper. “It’s just a different hotel. Hat’s off to where we are staying right now. They have been wonderful to us. If we were going into this for the first time, it would most certainly be different. But we spent 65 days in this exact same environment and thrived in it. We know what to expect. There’s no complaining. There’s no ‘I can’t believe we can’t go outside,’ especially when we look out and everyone’s walking around maskless and living their lives. Especially in, to me, one of the greatest cities in the world. When you come to Montreal, you get to come here twice a year, and you circle your restaurants and your little coffee shops, and the places you want to go. It’s a phenomenal place to people-watch and you’re not afforded that opportunity. But this is a business trip for us. We’re here to work.”
Cooper went on about the hotel accommodations and how they’re spending Saturday and Sunday.
“The hotel’s set up a room for the players that’s second to none,” Cooper said. “It’s got games. It’s kind of got that (Dave and Busters) feel to it. There’s space. There’s an area that you can get a little bit of fresh air. But today’s probably the one day that it’s a recovery day. Then tomorrow’s a preparation day and then Monday’s a workday. We’ve kind of set the stage for that. So today’s kind of get your rest, recover. It’s never a bad thing to have a day off or two in the Stanley Cup Final to heal some wounds and so we’ll just sit here and make the best of it as a group.”
And the extra day off between games is getting no complaints from players either. As Cooper said, it’s just more time to recover and prepare.
“That was the schedule that we were given,” said Lightning defenseman Ryan McDonagh. “We knew it was going to be this little bit of a break here so we wanted to set ourselves up to try and be in a good spot within the series here. When we looked at the schedule as a whole, we’ll use these couple days to do what we always do—first and foremost get your rest and get away from the game and try and recover. Then tomorrow will be a big workday at the rink—a practice day to really fine-tune and work on some things and slowly ramp up our intensity. When you get to the game day it’ll be all business again and we’re going to have to earn it just like we have every other game here and try and set ourselves up for success and have to bring our best effort.”
Families of Lightning players and staff living in the United States were not allowed to travel to Montreal with the team because of Canada’s COVID-19 border restrictions that are still in place. However, several members of the organization have family already living in Canada, who are able to attend the games but cannot have contact with the team.
“We’re secluded,” Cooper said. “We’re kept away from everybody. It’ll be similar to last year— again, if we’re fortunate enough to win—because of just the scenario of what’s going on and what’s been agreed to. But there’s no question, we do have a lot of French influence here and I know they’re proud of where they’re from. I know they’re really, really excited to play here with limited family members and stuff in the stands.”