ORLANDO, Fla. – So yeah… even though Central Florida may not have its own NHL team (but we’ve got our Solar Bears!), we do pay attention to our friends on the other coast in Tampa Bay, especially right about now.
For the third straight year, the Tampa Bay Lightning have made it to the NHL Finals, looking to keep Lord Stanley’s Cup kicking around Tampa/St. Pete/Clearwater for another year.
The Lightning, considered one of the best teams in the NHL, are 3-1 in the Finals. Their lone Stanley Cup Finals loss came at the hands of the Blackhawks in 2015, but the team’s three championships span almost two decades: 2004 (beating the Flames), 2020 (beating the Stars), and another in 2021 (besting the Canadiens).
Those last two championships are important as being reigning champions two years in a row is impressive. But with the Lightning in the finals for a third straight year, the possibility of another championship — a three-peat — is the kind of stuff that starts a sport dynasty.
Just ask the Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders and Toronto Maple Leafs.
The record for the most consecutive championships in the NHL lives in Canada with the Canadiens (who have an astonishing 35 appearances in the Finals and 24 championships since 1909) with five straight Stanley Cups from 1956-60. The Canadiens are the oldest professional hockey team in the world and even predate the founding of the NHL. Their last championship was in 1993.
Next up are the New York Islanders with four consecutive championships between 1980 and 1983. In fact, the Islanders made it to the 1984 Stanley Cup Finals but were beaten by an upstart expansion team (that was new to the NHL from the World Hockey Association) and some guy named Wayne Gretzky (editor’s note: I grew up on Long Island during the ‘80s and we’re still kind of bitter about being denied that fifth consecutive championship. Thanks, Wayne).
Before the Islanders, the Montreal Canadiens had also won four championships in a row (1976-1979). As for the three-peat only teams, there’s just one: the Toronto Maple Leafs did it twice from 1947-49 and 1962-64.
The Lightning have a lot of company in the category of back-to-back championships: the Pittsburgh Penguins (2016/2017 and 1991/1992), the Detroit Red Wings (1997/1998, 1954/1955 and 1936/1937), the Edmonton Oilers (1987/1988 and 1984/1985), the Philadelphia Flyers (1974/1975), the aforementioned Montreal Canadiens (1968/1969, 1965/1966 and 1930/1931) and the Ottawa Senators (1920/1921).
And what are their chances of making it three in a row? In the history of the NHL, only three teams have had two consecutive championships but were then denied a consecutive third.
The 1974/1975 Flyers were defeated by the Canadiens in the Stanley Cup Finals in 1976, the 1965/1966 Canadiens were defeated by the Maple Leafs in 1967, and the 1954/1955 Red Wings were defeated by the Canadiens in 1956. By the way, if the Canadiens would have won that championship in 1967, it would have bridged championships in 1965/1966 with championships in 1968/1969, possibly giving the team their second stint winning five consecutive Stanley Cups.
So what have we learned? Odds are just about even the Lightning will win a third consecutive Stanley Cup. Three times back-to-back champions have lost a chance at a third consecutive championship (Flyers, Canadiens, and Red Wings) and twice the back-to-back championship team has gone on to win a third straight Stanley Cup (the Maple Leafs did it twice).
The Lightning have a lot of company in the two-championships-in-a-row arena, but would like to elevate themselves to the next level (less crowded) in the three-championships-in-a-row category.
But first things first: they have to get past the Colorado Avalanche.
This brings us to our trivia question: what makes this year’s Stanley Cup Final (which has not yet crowned a champion) unique among all other Stanley Cup Finals? It doesn’t have to do with their Stanley Cup wins, the team histories playing each other, or any sort of records, special players, or even where the two teams are from.
Want a hint? This could only happen with four NHL teams making the finals.
It’s the first time in the history of the Stanley Cup Finals that the two teams playing each other have names that don’t end in the letter “s.”
Of the 40 teams in the NHL’s four divisions, only four of them have names that don’t end in the letter “s.” For this year’s Stanley Cup Finals, we have the Lightning and the Avalanche. The other two teams missing an “s” at the end of their names are the Minnesota Wild and the Seattle Kraken.
How rare is it to not have an “s” at the end of a sports team name?
Out of the 30 teams in the NBA, only four are missing an “s” at the end (the Miami Heat, the Oklahoma City Thunder, the Orlando Magic, and the Utah Jazz).
In MLB, out of 30 teams, there are only two: the Boston Red Sox and the Chicago White Sox.
And in the NFL, out the league’s 32 teams, all of them now have names that end in the letter “s.” We say all of them now because if we look back just a year ago, there would have been one NFL team that did have a name that didn’t end in the letter “s.”
The Washington Football Team.
Now ya know.