Lightning used Virginia basketball team as Stanley Cup inspiration
The Tampa Bay Lightning completed the big turnaround from 2019 to 2020, and they gave credit to Virginia as a source of inspiration.
The Lightning were the best team in the regular season last year by far. They had 128 points, which was 21 more than the next closest team and more than any other team in NHL history. They won the Presidents’ Trophy and had the top seed in the playoffs. Then they went out and got swept in the first round of the playoffs by the Blue Jackets.
Going from best in the league to being swept in the first round was embarrassing and led to jokes and apologies. Similarly, Virginia was a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament in 2018 and then got embarrassed by becoming the first No. 1 seed to ever lose to a No. 16 seed. But in 2019, Virginia came back to win March Madness.
Kevin Shattenkirk, who signed with Tampa Bay last year, said the team used Virginia’s turnaround as inspiration.
“We fought it the first 10-15 games. We were finding our identity. Guys were still dwelling on the sweep against Columbus. And then once we realized we had a brand new team here, lot of new faces … we looked at the Virginia men’s basketball team and what happened to them and used that as a source of inspiration as well. Everyone wanted to make this happen and had that hunger,” Shattenkirk said in a postgame interview with NBC.
Just like Virginia, Tampa Bay came back from an embarrassing postseason exit to win the championship the following season. Winning it all in the bubble circumstances made the championship even more memorable for Tampa Bay.