Game 69: Tampa Bay Lightning at Florida Panthers

Dear Tampa Bay Lightning players,

We need to talk.

Some of the fans have been, well, concerned about your play of late. They're wondering if you've lost that winning touch. Some are even panicking, thinking that you might take such a nosedive that you'll miss playoffs altogether.

I'm not one of those. I know that you guys will make playoffs. You might not win the division, but you'll make playoffs.

And that's what's upsetting many. For a long time now, only the winner of the division has made it into playoffs. That's not the case this season, of course. But it's become such an ingrained thought that you have to win the division to get into the postseason that it's like it's true no matter what the standings are like. And that's got a lot of people worried.

We know you're a good team. We know that you can play better. We've all seen it. And while we know that this is just a slump, it's making everyone a little jumpy.

The jumpiness also comes from the past couple of seasons. And this losing thing is looking an awful lot like the end of last season. It's not a flattering nor inspiring comparison.

I wouldn't go on like this except, well, you've been losing a lot of one-goal games lately. Like tonight's game against the Florida Panthers. You start out slow and finish strong, but you're still coming up short and losing in overtime 4-3. Everyone can see that you're trying - so that's not really an issue. But frankly, you guys are a little banged up right now, and you're looking a little rundown both physically and mentally.

And, you know, it's all because we care. We as fans want you to win. We want to be jumping up and down with joy with you guys over every goal you score and every game you win. We want that chapter from last season to be fully over so we can all move on to better and shinier Stanley Cup like things. And we all know that you want it, too.

We just want you to play like you want it. That competitive fire seems to have gotten a bit low the past couple of weeks. You're not clicking together as you once were, and it's looking a little sloppy.

Personally, I think you guys need a bit of a mental break. Someone needs to go out and buy the card game Apples to Apples, and you guys need to spend an afternoon playing it. Clear your head, have a good laugh. Then get back to work on Monday ready to play the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Because it won't be getting any easier from here on out.


Your fans.

Lightning vs Panthers recap [TSN]

Lightning vs Panthers boxscore [TSN]

Litter Box Cats [SB Nation]

Lightning vs Panthers coverage [SB Nation]