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Badgers in the NHL: Ryan McDonagh and the Tampa Bay Lightning are back in the Stanley Cup Finals

Former UW goaltender Brian Elliott is joining McDonagh in the quest for the Cup.

New York Rangers v Tampa Bay Lightning - Game Six Photo by Mark LoMoglio/NHLI via Getty Images

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the New York Rangers 2-1 on Saturday night to win the Eastern Conference Finals in six games. With the win, their third straight Eastern Conference title, the Lightning will face the Colorado Avalanche in the Stanley Cup Finals. Alternate captain, and Wisconsin Badgers legend, Ryan McDonagh was his usual steady self on the blue line as he leads the team on their quest for a third straight Stanley Cup. This year he is joined by backup goalie, and UW legend himself, Brian Elliott.

Skating in all 17 games that the Lightning have played in the playoffs, McDonagh has tallied one goal and three assists while sitting at plus-three. The stout defenseman is second on the team in minutes played behind Victor Hedman, averaging 22:15 of ice time per game. McDonagh got dinged up in Game 5 against New York and missed most of the third period, but he was back on the ice for Game 6 and played 33 shifts, his most of the playoffs.

Elliott has yet to see the ice for Tampa this postseason as defending Conn Smythe Award (given to the MVP of the playoffs) winner Andrei Vasilevskiy has been stellar in net for the Lightning again. While I’m sure it’s a bummer for Elliott not to play...Vasilevskiy between the pipes gives Tampa the best chance of winning so one would assume he’s ok with it.

Tampa’s road to the Finals has been exciting, to say the least. They were down 3-2 in their first round series against the Toronto Maple Leafs before winning Games 6 (in overtime) and 7. Then they swept their in-state rivals, the Florida Panthers, before going down 2-0 to the Rangers, and former UW defenseman K’Andre Miller, in the Eastern Conference Finals. Returning home for Game 3, Ondrej Palat scored with 42 seconds left to give Tampa their first win of the series and that kick-started the team to rattle off four straight and reach the Stanley Cup.

Game 1 of the Stanley Cup Finals is on Wednesday night at 7 p.m. CT on ABC in Denver. The Avs have only lost two games in the playoffs so far and zero away from home. They’re averaging over 4.5 goals per game and as Tampa Bay captain Steven Stamkos said after beating the Rangers, “Colorado? Probably the best team in the league.”

Should be a great series and if you’re looking for someone(s) to root for, McDonagh and Elliott, who is looking for his first career Cup, are a pair of excellent choices.