Jon Cooper addressed the media after his team’s 2-1 win over the Toronto Maple Leafs in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
On whether the series was decided by the experience of the Lightning in finding ways to win playoff series vs. the Leafs‘ inability to get over the hump:
That was as evenly matched of a series as you are going to see. Adversity rears its head in so many different ways. Sometimes, an urgency that is already there… It kicks something into gear.
The Leafs came out in that period and had a good start against us. We had to kind of weather the storm. When Pointer got hurt, it seemed to lock the entire team in. I don’t think we looked back after that.
I don’t think you have done what we have done the last couple of years unless you have players who can respond the way they did. They’ve done it time and time again. Shouldn’t be surprised they did it.
On the team’s ability to lock it down in the third period:
Basically, all 20 guys, you might as well put #88 on their back. That is what they were doing. They were fully committed to blocking shots. When you play with that passion, usually good things happen.
In saying that, you still have to get the lead. I thought the big thing for us was after Rielly scores, Point answers three minutes later. We never gave them a chance to get any momentum going. I thought that was a huge part of the game.
On the Leafs‘ play in the series and the notion that they may never get over the hump:
I am not in that room. I coach the Tampa Bay Lightning. I know some of their players. I have been behind a bench with Morgan Rielly. I have been behind a bench with Mitch Marner. I have been behind a bench with Auston Matthews. If those guys became available, I would be first in line to put them on my team.
This wasn’t a 4-0 sweep. We were down 3-2 in a series and found a way, but it was as close as it can be. I have personally answered the same questions that they are going to answer now three years ago. Maybe in a different way, I guess, because we had gone to a final a few years earlier, but they gave us everything we could handle.
The bottom line is that there were eight teams with over 100 points in the Eastern Conference. Three of them went to Game 7s. One, the President’s Trophy winner, went to overtime and had to battle back to win their series. That’s how even it was.
There were going to be four teams with 100+ points out in the first round. Fortunately for us, we are not one of them, but it took everything to knock these guys out.
On the adjustments after the Brayden Point injury:
I don’t want to sit here and say you throw the game plan out the window, but when guys are laying out and are fully committed to keeping the puck out of the net, some of it is game plan, but a lot of it is heart. The boys showed a lot of heart tonight.
On Andrei Vasilevskiy saving his best performance of the series for Game 7:
He is a winner. I could tell early he was dialed in more than any game in this series. He was seeing pucks and tracking them. If pucks were getting through the guys laying out, he was there for us. He is a big reason why we win.
On the challenge against the Panthers:
Florida is a hell of a team. We’ve watched them all year. We have had some amazing battles with them. Some people, especially in Florida, have been begging for the two teams to be contenders and go at it.
I think last year many people said it might have been the series of the playoffs. They have retooled their team and brought some big names in there. It should be a ton of fun. They are fun to play against. It is competitive as hell. I think it is really good for hockey.