The Tampa Bay Lightning are the best team in hockey
We’ve avoided saying it for a while, but it's time to embrace it.
“The Tampa Bay Lightning are good this year.”
[Bolts fans nod in agreement]
“They’re really really good this year.”
[Continued nodding, occasional furrowed brows]
“They’re the best team in hockey!”
[Throw projectiles and scream, “DON’T JINX IT!”]
It’s an understandable reaction. The team has been through a lot. From almost winning the Stanley Cup in 2015, to watching the team make it to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals in 2016, to missing the playoffs entirely last year after a spate of injuries, to now finally being back on top.
We don’t like the attention. We prefer a quiet dominance... or at least, we did.
This year’s squad is anything but quiet. It’s loud, obnoxious, and directly in your face. They’re not going to sneak up and surprise you. In fact, they’ll tell you exactly what they’re going to do and you won’t be able to stop them.
Go ahead. Try to defend Nikita Kucherov - you’re just leaving Steven Stamkos wide open. Okay, so you’ve figured out how to cover both of them. That lets Vladislav Namestnikov score a few more goals.
All right, so now you’ve got all three forwards covered. Did you forget about Victor Hedman? Have you met Mikhail Sergachev yet?
Take a deep breath. You’ve survived the top line. Let’s introduce you to the tenacity of Brayden Point, Ondrej Palat, and Yanni Gourde.
Honestly, everywhere you look, it’s overwhelming. That’s the perfect word for the Bolts attack this year - overwhelming. That’s not to discredit other teams (the St. Louis Blues are working miracles with some key components missing from the lineup), but take a look at how the Bolts systematically dismantled two of the top defenses in the league. In back-to-back games. On the road.
What makes this team feel so different is their drive. In previous seasons, they would sit back and protect a one-goal or two-goal lead. Not this year. They look to score with every single possession. Last week’s game against the Los Angeles Kings is a perfect example of that attack mentality - four goals from four different players in the span of 122 seconds.
The Bolts sit atop the league, but they’re not acting like it. From every interview, it’s become increasingly apparent they’re not measuring themselves against any other team. They’re motivated to be the best version of themselves, and they know there’s still room to improve.
“Obviously things are going well, but you can’t really get ahead of yourselves. We wanted to come out and have a good start to the season. We’ve accomplished that, but as we all know, you don’t win championships at the beginning of the year. We’ll continue to grow. [There are] still some areas to improve, but we’ll look to continue - like I said - playing the right way because that’s what’s leading us to victories.” - Steven Stamkos
Being the best simply isn’t good enough. Anything short of the Stanley Cup is unacceptable. The Lightning have settled into being a dominant force, focused solely on hockey’s ultimate prize. They look (and sound) confident. It’s time to embrace that.
There may be rough patches this season, but let’s enjoy the view from the top - and trust this team to get it done when it counts the most.