After (almost) every Tampa Bay Lightning playoff game, I’ll be here to offer up my thoughts about the game. Some of these thoughts will be analytical, some emotional, and some just whatever. Sometimes these thoughts will be really nicely structured and thought out ahead of time. Sometimes, they’ll just be a stream of conscious talking. We’ll never know until I start writing.
Finished. Fini. Färdiga. Dokončeno. Dokončené. Законченный.
I don’t really know that I have much more to say. The Lightning put themselves in an early hole allowing two goals in the first four minutes and were behind the eight ball all night, and all series really following the first period of game one. Give it to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They came up with a game plan to counter the Lightning and they executed it in all four games. The Lightning couldn’t overcome that plan, that effort, that execution.
Sure, there’s blame that can go around. But does it really matter? Everything is still too raw for me to even want to dive into it right now. It’s already going to be heartbreaking enough seeing the interviews from after game four and the exit interviews as the players clean out their lockers and head home for the summer. Not to mention all of the national media that is going to be out in force with awful narratives. And all of the fools on Twitter that will be clamoring to take their shots at the Lightning and their fans while they’re down.
Instead of looking backwards, let’s look ahead.
In a couple of months, we’ll find out if any Lightning players won end of season awards. Nikita Kucherov is a leading candidate for the Hart Trophy. Andrei Vasilevskiy and Victor Hedman could theoretically be finalists for the Vezina and Norris Trophies respectively. Plus we’ll find out some First and Second team All-Stars.
After that, we’ll have the 2019 NHL Entry Draft. The Tampa Bay Lightning will select 27th overall in the first round. Why you might ask? Division winners get placed lower in the first round if they lose in the first or second round. Division winners get the lowest picks of the teams that lose in the first two rounds. Since the Lightning are the highest seeded division winner, the only teams that will pick lower than them in the first round are the four teams that make it to the Conference Finals. I’m looking forward to checking out some draft prospects and doing some profiles.
We’ll also have to look ahead to July 1st and free agency. The Lightning are going to have a lot of work to do on their blue line. Only four defensemen are under contract for next season. Cedric Paquette, Adam Erne, Danick Martel, and, most importantly, Brayden Point are all restricted free agents. Raises also kick in for Ryan McDonagh and Nikita Kucherov. There’s going to be some roster re-shaping that’s needed and I will dig into it sometime in the next couple of months.
Thank you to everyone that has come along with us on the journey this season. Obviously, it didn’t turn out the way we wanted it to. But let’s not forget all of the great moments we had from 2018-19. We saw one of the most dominating teams in the regular season the NHL has seen in 20 years. We saw records fall. We saw a lot of fun hockey games. And maybe we became a little too entitled.
So here’s to next season. May it be better than the last one.