Chronicle of François Gagnon: The Flash and the Agony of Defeat

TAMPA, Fla. — Steven Stamkos walked very slowly with his head bowed as he entered the interview room.

Once the Lightning captain sat up to answer the first question, his tear-filled eyes illustrated far better than the words he uttered in his dead voice the crushing agony of losing the Stanley Cup Finals.

“It hurts so much I’m sick of it,” Stamkos admitted without hesitation.

That answer, and especially the way it was delivered when every word seemed to suffer the captain, called to order those who, like me, believed that winning the cup twice easily offset the penalty of having stopped on two wins could be a third in a row.

“Perhaps with hindsight we can take comfort in seeing the magnitude of what we have just achieved by coming so close to a third cup, but right now that’s impossible. I’m so proud of our team. You have no idea how many sacrifices we made to get here. But for all our pride, this defeat in the final hurts just as much as the first one I suffered in 2015,” Stamkos continued, slowly, very slowly, scrolling through his answers.

Stunning medical report

Patrick Maroon was more horrified than his captain when he appeared in front of reporters. However, the tall striker had not just two, but three straight wins to absorb the pain when a fourth slipped through his fingers.

“It doesn’t take away the pain, though,” Maroon said, letting tears flow from his eyes without even trying to wipe them away or bowing his head to hide them even a little.

“We gave everything. Absolutely everything. And we can 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 thinking about it. You’ll fall on your back when you experience the type of injuries that have left several of our players debilitated. And despite those injuries, all of these guys wanted to stay in the lineup,” Maroon continued.

A debt to Perry and Bellemare

Maroon is a great friend of Corey Perry in everyday life and not just in life as a hockey player. Normally chatty and playful, Maroon got even more emotional when asked how he felt seeing his pal in Canadian uniforms after losing to the Lightning in last year’s Stanley Cup Finals, and by the Dallas Stars two years ago, he found himself back in the losers camp for the third year in a row.

“I feel very bad” that Maroon has launched.

Not only did he feel sorry for Perry, but for all his other teammates who hadn’t had a chance to win the trophy in their careers and who believed they had the opportunity to achieve that dream by making themselves connected the Lightning.

“I feel bad for Bellemare – Pierre-Édouard Bellemare his fourth-line center – for Riley Nash and Brandon Hagel – both acquired from the Coyotes and Hawks at the close – for Brian Elliott – assistant to Andrei Vasilevskiy – and of course for ‘Pears “. We owe them a league and I can only hope that next year we’ll be in the grand final again and the feelings will be much better than tonight,” the great forward finally concluded.

Coming down from the platform where he had just spent ten minutes answering journalists’ questions, Maroon found solace in hugging his son, who had been waiting for him since the beginning of the interview period, without his arms very tight.

He hugged his son tightly for a few seconds before finally exiting the interrogation room.

A club and course to remember

Defense attorneys Victor Hedman and Ryan McDonagh also came out to answer questions after the loss. They also testified to how hard the pain of loss was to endure, but the four Lightning players also gave a lot of credit to the new champions.

“They’re a really good team,” said Hedman.

“If you look back at our journey, you realize how much we had to fight to get here. We just lost to a club that had the Norris Trophy winner (Cale Makar). In the conference finals, 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.

Aside from the disappointment and pain of being eliminated in six games, Stamkos had nothing to blame, including the 2-1 loss that prevented his team from forcing a seventh game to be played. 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 had scored the first goal of a game. No one has accomplished that much this year.

In addition to an interesting offensive performance (11 goals, 19 points), Stamkos was overwhelmed in the face-off circle and very solid, blocking shots like a support player whose mission he has to fulfill and not as a lateral thinker.

In many ways, Stamkos has been better, or certainly more useful in losses than back-to-back wins in 2020 and 2021. his captain.

Jon Cooper, who appeared in the interview room surrounded by all of his assistants, made a request that says a lot about the importance he attaches to the fact that his team is within two wins of a third Stanley Cup.

“For obvious reasons, we always remember the champion teams. But I will never forget this team, the players who make it up and the coaching staff around me. If we were in the regular season half the school club would have been in uniform as we have players who have been plagued by injuries. We fought against an extraordinary team. We were there. Unfortunately we lost two games in overtime to finally run out of energy before going all the way,” said Cooper, who finds solace in the pride that holds his team together.

“I’m not coming to you with a prepared speech because I was convinced we were going to win tonight. Losing sucks. Losing hurts. But we made it as a team. With family. There’s no guy who left the dressing room to go home. They will all be here for a long time to get through the shock together. I can never forget that I’ve come this far with this team,” concluded Cooper.

It will be interesting to see how Cooper, his boss Julien BriseBois and the rest of the Lightning team manage to return to the ice next October, a team aiming not just for a spot in the series, but maybe the one again can win the highest accolades.

Leave a Comment