TAMPA, Fl. – Steven Stamkos was walking very slowly with his head bowed as he entered the interrogation room.
As Captain Lightning stood up to answer the first question, his tearful eyes illustrated, far better than the words he uttered in a dead voice, the crushing agony of a defeat in the Stanley Cup final.
“It hurts so much I’m sick of it,” Stamkos admitted without hesitation.
This answer and above all the way it was pronounced when every word seemed to hurt the captain called to order who, like me, believed that having raised the cup for two consecutive years could easily counterbalance the penalty of having stopped at two. victories from a third in a row.
“Maybe in hindsight, in the end we can console ourselves to see the magnitude of what we have just achieved by getting so close to the third cup, but at the moment it is impossible. I am so proud of our team. You have no idea how many sacrifices we made to get here. But despite all that pride, this defeat in the final hurts as much as the first I suffered in 2015, ”Stamkos continued, slowly, very slowly, scrolling through his answers.
Wonderful medical report
Patrick Maroon was more upset than his captain when he appeared in front of reporters. The great striker, however, had not only two, but three consecutive conquests, to absorb the pain of seeing a fourth slip through his fingers.
“It doesn’t relieve the pain, though,” Maroon said, letting the tears fall from his eyes without even trying to wipe them away or lower his head to hide them even a little.
“We gave our all. Absolutely everything. And we should be very proud of what we have achieved. You’ll get a better idea when the team’s medical report comes out. It hurts just to think about it. You will fall on your back when you learn the nature of the injuries that have undermined many of our players. And despite those injuries, all those guys wanted to stay in training, ”Maroon continued.
A debt to Perry and Bellemare
The Maroons are great friends of Corey Perry in everyday life and not just in the life of hockey players. Usually talkative and playful, Maroon became even more emotional when asked how he felt seeing his friend after losing to the Lightning in the Stanley Cup Finals in Canadiens last year and the Dallas Stars two years. ago, he found himself back in the losing camp for the third consecutive year.
“I feel very bad”, launched by the Maroons.
He felt bad not just for Perry, but for all of his other teammates who have not yet had a chance to raise the cup in their careers and who believed they had the opportunity to make that dream come true by joining the Lightning.
“I feel bad for Bellemare – Pierre-Édouard Bellemare his fourth line center – for Riley Nash and Brandon Hagel – both acquired by the Coyotes and Hawks at the end of the exchange – for Brian Elliott – Andrei Vasilevskiy’s assistant – and of course for” Pears “. We owe them a championship and I can only hope that we will be back in the final again next year and that the sensations will be much better than they are tonight ”, concluded the great forward.
Coming off the stage where he had just spent ten minutes answering reporters’ questions, Maroon found solace in hugging very tightly without arms his son who had been waiting for him since the beginning of the interview period.
He held his son firmly against him for long seconds before finally leaving the interview room.
A memorable club and course
Defenders Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh also came out to answer questions after the defeat. They also testified how hard it was to endure the pain of loss, but the four Lightning players also gave the new champions a lot of credit.
“They are a really good team,” said Hedman.
“When you look at our journey, you realize how much we had to struggle to get here. We just lost to a club that had the Norris Trophy winner (Cale Makar). In the final of the conference we beat the winner of the Vézina trophy (Igor Shesterkin). In the first round, we beat a very good team that had the Hart Trophy winner and Ted Lindsay (Auston Matthews) in their ranks, ”added Stamkos.
Beyond the disappointment and pain related to the elimination suffered in six games, Stamkos had nothing to blame: nor for the 2-1 defeat that prevented his team from forcing the holding of the seventh game. No more than in all series.
On Sunday in Tampa, Stamkos scored his team’s first – and only – goal. It was the fourth time in the playoffs that the captain scored the first goal of a match. Nobody has done so much this year.
In addition to an interesting offensive production (11 goals, 19 points), Stamkos was abused and very solid in signing circles, also blocking shots as a support player whose mandate is to be fulfilled and not as a maverick.
In many ways, Stamkos was better or certainly more useful in defeat than he was in streak victories in 2020 and 2021. his captain.
Jon Cooper, who appeared in the interview room surrounded by all of his assistants, offered a plea that speaks volumes about the importance he attaches to his team having two wins from a third Stanley Cup.
“For obvious reasons, we always remember the champion teams. But I will never forget this team, the players that make it up and the team of coaches that surround me. If we had been in the regular season, half of the school club would have been in uniform, because we have players suffering from injuries. We fought against an extraordinary team. We were involved. Unfortunately, we lost two games in extra time to finally run out of energy before going all the way, ”said Cooper, who finds solace in the pride that unites his team.
“I don’t come before you with a prepared speech, because I was convinced that we would win tonight. Losing sucks. Losing hurts. But we did it as a team. With the family. There isn’t a guy who left the locker room to go home. They’ll all be here long to take the shock together. Coming this far with this team, I can never forget that, ”concluded Cooper.
It will be interesting to see how Cooper, his boss Julien BriseBois and the rest of the Lightning staff manage to bring back on the ice next October a team that can not only aim for a place in the series, but perhaps once again win the top marks.