“What’s wrong with the Tampa Bay Lightning?”
This question has become a common refrain of Twitter over the past couple of weeks. And frankly, it’s a fair question to ask. This is a team that on paper has one of the deepest forward groups in the league. It has solid defense, led by not one, but two number-one defensemen. They have one of the best young goaltenders in the league, and this season they’ve busted a**.
Looking at how the Bolts have done all season, we know this team can get it done when they want to.
So what’s going on?
Well, I think the answer is rather simple.
They’ve lost their chips.
No, I don’t mean Lays Potato Chips (though I must admit those are quite delicious with a turkey sandwich). I mean the chips on their shoulders. This is a team that has a lot of pride. They haven’t accomplished everything, but they’ve been so close they could taste it. The sting of not even being in the running last season gave this group a tremendous, collective chip on their shoulders that drove them in their off-season training, training camp, and the first couple months of the season.
Once Christmas rolled around, it seemed they had lost that chip. The team began to coast. And even while coasting, they were still winning a lot of games. They have that talented of a roster. But as we come down the home stretch into the playoffs, the coasting effort isn’t cutting it. The players and coaches are saying all the right things about working on their effort level and cutting down on mistakes. But they’re not back to the way they played early in the season.
Ultimately, I think what they need is to get that chip off the floor and plant it firmly back on their shoulder. They’re no longer the favorites to win the Stanley Cup. They’re no longer the darlings of the media. Their players are no longer being seriously talked about for most of the major postseason awards.
You’re the underdog now, Lightning. Maybe not against the Toronto Maple Leafs in the first round, but overall, you are. You’re not the top dog. So go out there, and show everyone that they’re wrong. Re-gain your chips.