Answer This: The Playoff Collapse

Andre Ringuette

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a hell of a regular season, but got demolished in a first round sweep by the Montreal Canadians. Now everyone can come out and say the Lightning suck, right? But wait, can't we put the whole thing in context? "Look, buddy..."

It's hard to believe that the first round of the playoffs is still going on. It feels like the Lightning were eliminated a million centuries ago. And now that everyone has settled down, we can all agree on a few things. The Lightning are just, just terrible.

Wait, what? No they're not. Sure, the Montreal Canadiens took them apart, but the regular season was pretty good. The team pushed for a bunch of franchise records, and they did it with a squad full of rookies and youth, without Steven Stamkos for a big chunk of the year, and with Martin St. Louis... well, let's not talk about that any more.

As well, things can't be too bad. Ben Bishop has been nominated for the Vezina, and Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are nominees for the Calder. Things are fine!

And yet, there is that loud voice from that persists in marginalizing a Southern team that got swept by a Canadian franchise. So I asked the Raw Chargers, and anyone else who would listen, what they would say if some loudmouth ass-helmet get up in their grillz saying the Lightning sucked. "Put this playoff sweep in context," I said.

And they got right to the point.

Clare Austin, Puckology Blog, @CPuckologist.

"Look buddy...

They gave the puck away too much and too easily. They couldn't enter the offensive zone for anything. Their speed was neutralized. And, more important than any other thing, they couldn't figure out how to pull themselves out of that tailspin. Add in the injuries and goaltending issues and you get a sweep."

David Baldwin, Raw Charge Staff Writer, @dbaldwin1215.

"Look buddy...

They gave it all they had, I truly think that. But, in the end, their NHL playoff inexperience caught up with them. Their play in the neutral zone was sloppy because Montreal gave absolutely no room. Their goaltending was less than stellar. They did not play a cohesive team defense like that had done all season. And, damn it, they could not catch a break with the injuries. Even in that all-important Game 4, Radko Gudas was out, Sami Salo was out, and Ondrej Palat was playing at less than 100%. Deal those cards to any team and they will get swept more often than not."

Brett Frieman Raw Charge Staff Writer, @brttfrmn.

"Look buddy…

Factors that enabled the team to be as successful as it was in the regular season were virtually nonexistent in the playoffs. No Ben Bishop in net, an injured Ondrej Palat, and minuscule professional experience that eventually caught up to a majority of the roster provided no contest against a healthy Montreal team. This Tampa Bay team was unprepared, due to some circumstances beyond its control."

John Fontana, El Generalissmo Supremo de Raw Charge, @Johnny_fonts.

"Look buddy...

Have you been paying any ounce of attention outside flippant coverage from Canadian media sources that have treated the Lightning like a canker sore since the team's inception?  Let me shrink that down, have you been paying attention at all this season?  The Bolts overcame, that's the season in context.  Things happened that should have ended the season at any given time and they just kept on trucking...  Up until the season concluded.  THEN the wheels fell off, the only problem was they had another possible 28 games to play.

You wanna say they suck? Yeah, good, fine, great, go to it.  Write'em off.  Just don't come back bitching and moaning about how they took everyone by surprise next season and how if this-and-that hadn't happened to other teams the Lightning wouldn't have done jack.  The evidence just smacked you in the face, by way of the season, that TB is planning to contend for a while. Might as well sit back and enjoy it instead of giving me crap because Montreal got revenge for 2004."

Clark Brooks, Raw Charge Staff writer, Ridiculously Inconsistent Trickle of Consciousness, @clarkbrooks.

Look buddy, where are you from? Toronto? How do you even have the nerve to talk to anybody about playoffs??

Wait, you said Chicago?

Oh. Never mind.

Look buddy, if you know anything about how champions are built, with notable flukes, it requires going through all those old cliches like "taking steps" and "paying your dues" and "taking your lumps" and "getting swept by the Montreal Canadiens in the first round". Some cliches are more specific than others. The point is the Lightning are learning. You add knowledge and experience to talent and that's how champions are made.

Also, the Lightning don't stink. You stink.

Justin Godfrey, The Hopeful Chase

"Look buddy, you wait till next year!" Great, another sign, along with elevated cholesterol, that I've been in Chicago too long. Seriously, despite the shame of getting swept Lightning fans have nothing to apologize for. The reason the Lightning are making golf plans in Toronto instead of flying back and forth to Montreal is that they never stopped playing regular season hockey.

They kept making the same mistakes and, without Ben Bishop to bail them out, they dug their own grave. Defenders pinching at the wrong time, blown coverage in front of the net, scrambling in their own zone, too-cute passes that were easily intercepted - all of the same things that we saw October through early April. Chalk up the fact that Matt Carle had the same amount of goals as Teddy Purcell, Tyler Johnson and Alex Killorn and you can see why the series lasted shorter than a Khardasian wedding.

I could stand here and argue that the breaks just didn't go the Lightning's way (the puck hopping over Gudas' stick in overtime in game one, Stamkos' stick breaking while he was wide open in the slot in game 4 bookend the series pretty well). However, you tend to make your own luck and Montreal earned all of their "lucky" breaks by outplaying the Lightning for the large majority of all four games.

Montreal played better than the Lightning and Carey Price, outside of Game One, made the saves he needed to make. Unfortunately, I don't think we need to dig any deeper than that. Let's chalk it up to a learning experience for the young 'uns and move on to next season. Which should feature a postseason with another kid by the name of Jonathan Drouin.

What do you think? Give us your comments below!

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