Two trades in an eight-day span in February 2020 could deliver two Stanley Cup championships for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
General manager Julien BriseBois paid the hefty price of two first-round picks and a blue-chip prospect to acquire Blake Coleman and Barclay Goodrow, figuring they would be able to help on two playoff runs. After they combined on the goal that won Game 2, Tampa Bay is two wins away from a second consecutive title.
“They were a piece of the puzzle, but they were the final piece,” coach Jon Cooper said. “You’re looking for winners. Colesy and Goody are winners, and they prove it time and time again.”
Combined with Tampa Bay mainstay Yanni Gourde, Coleman and Goodrow form a line that has added not only necessary sandpaper to the lineup but scored at some important times.
“I don’t know why these goals happen, but it was a big one for our team,” Coleman said.
Coleman and Goodrow are free agents this summer, and the Lightning’s precarious salary cap situation and the Seattle expansion draft mean they may depart for big paydays elsewhere. But BriseBois can certainly shrug off all the criticism he received giving up so much in two deadline deals 16 months ago.
The same goes for Montreal GM Marc Bergevin trading P.K. Subban to Nashville in 2016 for Shea Weber and Max Pacioretty to Vegas in 2018 for Nick Suzuki, Tomas Tatar and a second-round pick. Weber has become the Canadiens captain and face of their defense, while Suzuki centers their most important offensive line.
Bergevin said he knows “there’s a lot of people that were guessing or second guessing” the Subban-Weber trade. Subban went to the final with the Predators in 2017 and was later traded to New Jersey, while Weber is part of Montreal’s big four on the blue line.
“To get something that special you have to give up a good player,” Bergevin said. “I’m not taking anything away from P.K., but to get Shea Weber here in Montreal, and what he brings on and off the ice for me, it’s special.”
While Suzuki is only 21, he has already shown the kind of leadership that could make him captain one day. He scored Montreal’s only goal in Game 2 and been vital to 19-year-old linemate Cole Caufield’s immediate success since jumping into the NHL from college.
“Getting to play with him and being with him every day, you can see how calm he is, how mature he is as a player and a person, how he carries himself every day,” Caufield said. “He’s a big part of our team. I’m glad he’s had success to this point.”
Suzuki is the Canadiens’ leading scorer in the playoffs with 14 points in their first 19 games. Unlike Coleman and Goodrow, his team can count on keeping Suzuki around for a long time.
But the Lightning are not currently focused on the changes ahead that will certainly break up this group. For now, they’re enjoying the impact Coleman and Goodrow are having.
“Games are elevated — the microscope is on you at all times,” Cooper said. “There are guys that rise to the occasion and sometimes there’s guys that don’t. These guys, the moment doesn’t seem to be too big for them.”
Follow AP Hockey Writer Stephen Whyno on Twitter at https://twitter.com/SWhyno
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