Better luck next year: The Tampa Bay Lightning ran out of gas and whiffed on their refill
They have played a lot of hockey over the past four years.
Welcome back to Better Luck Next Season where we will take a look at what went wrong, what went right, and what sits ahead for all of the teams that missed the Stanley Cup Playoffs or were eliminated from the Stanley Cup Playoffs. Today we look at the Tampa Bay Lightning, whose run of Stanley Cup Final appearances came to an abrupt end in the First Round.
There has not been a more consistently successful team in the NHL over the past nine years than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Going back to the start of the 2014-15 season and right up through this past season, they are first in the NHL with 430 regular season, first with 2,310 goals scored, third in goals against (excluding Vegas and Seattle who have only existed for a handful of years), and first by an absolutely staggering margin with 86 playoff wins.
Vegas (shockingly) is second with only 54 during that time, while nobody else has won more than Pittsburgh’s 45.
They have been a regular in the Eastern Conference Finals, reaching the league’s final four in six of those nine years and playing in the Stanley Cup Final four times, winning two of them.
It has been an incredible run of success, highlighted by expert-level salary cap shenanigans, a steady pipeline of talent coming through its farm system, shrewd trades and free agent signings, and an elite core of future Hall of Famers.
It has all worked in perfect harmony to build a powerhouse franchise.
This year their run of three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances was ended with a six-game loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs in the First Round. There was an element of sour luck to that loss with three of the four losses — including the decisive Game 6— coming in overtime at home.
It very easily could have been a series that went in a different direction with a bounce or two going their way.
But even with that bad luck element this still seemed like a team that simply ran out of gas after three consecutive deep playoff runs, and it was starting to show that over the last quarter of the season.
Nowhere was that more evident than in the play of starting goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It also did not help that a usually on-point front office completely whiffed in terms of bringing in help and reinforcements at the trade deadline.
Keep reading with a 7-day free trial
Subscribe to Adam's Sports Stuff to keep reading this post and get 7 days of free access to the full post archives.