After a four-month pause, an abbreviated training camp and a busy week of qualifying games, the final sixteen teams are set, and it is time for the Tampa Bay Lightning to start competing for the Stanley Cup for real. So how far will the Bolts make it this year?
It’s not easy to win the Stanley Cup. Commissioner (and Hall of Famer) Gary Bettman loves to say it’s the hardest trophy to win in professional sports and, for once, he’s right. So to say the only measure of success is to win the Cup is a high bar to set. This year the struggle could be even harder considering all of the lingering injuries that teams normally have to deal with after a long season aren’t there. All the teams competing are, for the most part, healthy.
On paper, the Lightning should be a favorite to make their way through the Eastern Conference. Beating Washington and Boston in the play-in round only helps their case. Still, it’s the playoffs, anything can happen. It’s possible that they can play really, really well and still not make it to the Finals.
Every year, every team says their goal is to win the Stanley Cup. Every year thirty teams fail to achieve their goal. That doesn’t mean their season wasn’t successful or that they didn’t have a good season. Sometimes, they just don’t get the breaks or run into an outstanding goaltender.
So, with that in mind. How far do the Lightning have to advance to consider this a successful season?
If the Lightning can add an Eastern Conference Champion banner to their collection I believe that’s enough to consider the season successful. Yes, they are primed to win the Cup this year. Yes, things will get exceedingly more difficult for them to do it next season and the seasons after that. Still, being one of the final two teams standing after everything this season has thrown at them is a success in and of itself.
To get there they will have to knock off a team that survived a five-game series (most likely a club that has already pulled off an upset). After that, their competition will be tough. By the second round their should be no easy teams left to beat and most likely the Eastern Conference Finals will be against Washington or Boston. Based on what we saw in the round robin, either one of those series would be a bloodbath.
Another Stanley Cup loss would certainly be disappointing, but nowhere near as bad as getting eliminated prior to that.
There is only one way for this postseason to be considered a success at any level. It is by making it to the Stanley Cup Final. This is a team that has made deep playoff runs before and has no room for excuses. Even last season after their embarrassing defeat to the Columbus Blue Jackets they had very little room for excuses. Now, given the flat cap that is coming and how the roster is constructed; this is the time to, at a minimum, make another Final appearance with this core. The goal is to obviously win, and no matter who Tampa Bay plays they will be favored, not by much, but they will be the favorite.
Anything less than a Final appearance can only be categorized as a failure. This team is as deep and as talented, if not more, than any other team in the NHL. The excuses have to come to an end and results need to start appearing. Make it to the Final and this crazy postseason should be considered a success. Win it all and it would be the culmination of a journey that started back in 2014 with this cores first playoff appearance.
I have to agree with Matt on this one. First goal to a successful season is certainly exorcising their demons with the Columbus Blue Jackets. Then take it from there. There’s no doubt this team has the talent and depth for a deep run into the playoffs. Anything less than making it to the Stanley Cup Finals is a failure. There is also a high probability that there are going to be some significant changes to the team this offseason because of the flat cap. For at least one or two players that have been with the Lightning for a long time now, this is their last chance to get across the finish line with the team.
With how close this team has been, with many of them coming up through the minor leagues together (Alex Killorn, Tyler Johnson, and Ondrej Palat in particular), it would be gratifying to see them get it done together. The Lightning’s window may not be closing because they still have talented players in their prime, but it’s definitely going to narrow for a little bit and this might be the best team they’ll have for a while.
As a Leafs fan, I haven’t had my team win a playoff round in my living memory, no I don’t remember 2004 very well. So for the franchise and fanbase that adopted me all the way back in 2017 when I joined this loving blog, I just want to see this team do well and be proud of themselves, wherever things end up.
The last few years have been tough. Missing the playoffs, losing steam against Washington, losing to freaking Columbus (which hurts a lot when it happens twice, take my word for it). I want to see the Lightning play their style and make other teams keep up, because hockey is so much fun when it’s played the way the Lightning do it. Unrelenting offense, smooth and purposeful moves up the ice, and a little bit of scrappiness to get the blood going. I love the team’s commitment to offense and hounding the front of the net, and I love the team’s commitment to defense and blocking shots.
For me, I’d be happy with watching some hockey games where I can be proud of my team by the end of it, where I can feel like they earned it and didn’t leave anything on the table. If they lose with their heads held high, they lose, that’s good enough for me.
But at the same time, I know how much this team wants a championship. I know how much they’ve sacrificed. I know how much pain they’ve felt. For the players to feel like they found success, it’s the Cup.
So I’m with them, let’s go win a Cup.
What level of success are you happy with?
This poll is closed
They survived an upset in the first round. It’s all gravy now!
They made it back to the Eastern Conference Finals. Four times in six years is pretty impressive.
They broke the Eastern Conference Finals losing streak. It’s just an honor to make it to the Stanley Cups Finals.
Stanley Cup or Bust.