Some of the most talented hockey players of their generation played against each other for the second time in their careers in the Stanley Cup. And they looped a loud story from 2019.
The semi-final series of the Stanley Cup between Tampa Bay and the Rangers ended 4-2, and the battle of the best forwards of their generation, Artemy Panarin and Nikita Kucherov, was in favor of the latter. But just three years ago, the Russians played against each other for the first time, and Tampa lost to Columbus without a chance. That series was remembered by the failed handshake of our hockey players, which they finally completed in 2022.
That 2018/19 season ended with an unexpected failure for the Lightning: the team won the regular season for the first time in club history and entered the playoffs with championship ambitions. But in the end, she suffered a resounding defeat with a score of 0-4 in the very first series from an absolutely average Columbus, for which the passage to the second round was already an event.
Nikita Kucherov, who shone in Tampa, who won the Hart Trophy that season and broke the record of the Russians in terms of the number of points, did not justify his leadership hopes, and in the second match of the series he even earned a disqualification for dangerous power. Tampa’s head coach John Cooper reacted sharply to the episode, making it clear that emotions need to be kept under control:
“This is a test, he needs to grow,” the specialist said about the Russian.
The incredible regular season did not result in the same successful playoffs, and the game did not go well not only for Kucherov, but for the entire Tampa. As a result, “Columbus” issued a pass to the second round, and after the final victory, the joyful Panarin tried to knock out a handshake from the dejected Kucherov. The episode drew attention to the difference in mood between the two friends: the Blue Jackets forward was really inspired and drove up to the Tampa striker in the hope of hitting him with a “five”. But Kucherov, which is understandable, was not in the mood and, having exchanged a few words, did not extend his palm. However, Panarin nevertheless grabbed his hand and hugged him, making it clear that he understood all the emotions that he was experiencing.
As a result, the Columbus path to the playoffs did not last long, the Blue Jackets flew out in the next round from Boston, and in the summer Panarin signed a life deal with the Rangers. For Tampa, that defeat was the last in the playoffs at the moment: the club from Florida gave two incredible championship seasons. And Columbus coach Joe Tortorella even joked that as a result of that series from 2019, he “created a monster.”
Since then, the best Russian forwards of their generation have not met in the playoffs. And now, three years later, the handshake finally took place: Kucherov, inspired by the success of the team, greeted Panarin with a broad smile, who not only did not refuse a handshake, but even managed to smile and laugh at something.
For his good mood, Artemy got a little bit from disappointed Rangers fans, who considered him inappropriate. The short meeting between the two Russians was dubbed by the fans as the “handshake of revenge”, in which Kucherov had the last word. It took hockey players three years to finally shake hands.
However, taking into account the composition and playing ambitions of Tampa and the Rangers, there is no doubt that the paths of compatriots will converge more than once in the Stanley Cup in the future.