When the Tampa Bay Lightning checked into the JW Marriott throughout the road from Rogers Place, coach Jon Cooper bumped into half of the Vegas Golden Knights and rode the elevator with some Dallas Stars gamers.

“That is stuff that simply would not occur,” Cooper stated.

It does this 12 months. Welcome to the NHL’s first “Remaining 4.”

Due to the distinctive circumstances of the Stanley Cup playoffs amid the coronavirus pandemic, the Jap and Western Convention finals are going down in the identical metropolis, giving it a really feel like faculty basketball’s signature occasion, regardless that video games are being performed in an empty area. The top objective of profitable a title is similar, however the Lightning, Golden Knights, Stars and New York Islanders will all the time have the ability to say they made hockey’s 2020 ultimate 4.

The Islanders and Lightning spent six weeks within the Toronto bubble. They did not minimize down the nets in Toronto after advancing however did take a couple of moments to cherish the accomplishment of transferring on.

“Once we began this, we stated let’s play one sequence at a time and let’s examine if we are able to get to Edmonton,” Islanders coach Barry Trotz stated. “It’s a must to have a good time the moments as a result of these moments do not come by very a lot. And I do not imply go loopy or something. I believe you acknowledge and perceive you took one other step.”

In contrast to the NCAA Remaining 4 or Frozen 4 that is determined in three days, the NHL’s model will play out over the subsequent two weeks beginning with Sport 1 of the West ultimate Sunday evening between Dallas and Vegas. There’s one recreation a day — so no want to fret about an time beyond regulation marathon disrupting the schedule — and loads of alternatives for in-person cross-conference scouting in contrast to ever earlier than.

“It is good to see it reside when you’ll be able to,” Stars coach Rick Bowness stated.

Attention-grabbing encounters

Due to the restricted house contained in the Edmonton bubble, gamers and coaches can not help however see one another off the ice. Tampa Bay defenceman Ryan McDonagh, who performed within the 2010 NCAA Frozen 4 whereas at Wisconsin, stated everybody has gotten used to that after greater than a month in quarantine collectively, however it’s nonetheless not the norm from a typical playoffs.

“It is means completely different,” Cooper stated. “Normally at any level within the playoffs, you might have zero contact with the opposite group besides once you’re on the ice and in any other case you do not ever appear them. And the second time you see them is through the handshake line.”

All 4 groups left have gone by means of not less than two handshake traces this summer season to get up to now, and the Islanders three as a result of they needed to win the qualifying spherical to succeed in the spherical of 16. With Trotz the one coach left who has led a group to the Stanley Cup, New York is attempting to rapidly transfer previous the group reaching the East ultimate for the primary time since 1993 and understand it is solely midway there.

“Edmonton for all of us was clearly an enormous objective of ours on our solution to doing what we wish to do,” captain Anders Lee stated. “Simply the subsequent step in that.”

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