The Tampa Bay Lightning fought through everything this year that a season of professional hockey can handle. The slew of injuries, the drama in the locker room and the lack of belief by media and other teams around the league, they battled it all.
For a team that wasn’t supposed to make the playoffs this year, they did. Unfortunately, that’s all they did.
The Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens but they didn’t go down without some sort of fight. After coach Jon Cooper pulled Anders Lindback in favor of Kristers Gudlevskis, the Bolts seemed to click and were able to tie the game up at 3 and were pressing for a fourth goal. However that all ended with a tripping penalty to Cedric Pacquette. The Habs ended up scoring the game winner with less than a minute left.
It was a disappointing way to go as the Bolts had a promising lead into the playoffs, but the team, as well as Lindback, wasn’t able to perform up to playoff standards.
“Were we better in spurts? Absolutely,” Steven Stamkos said. “We have that in us, but we didn’t show that in the four games. It’s tough, it comes back and bites you in the end of the year.”
Stamkos felt that his team didn’t play consistently and it showed. Montreal had an answer for every Tampa move and play. Montreal outplayed Tampa for the better part of four games and only when the Lightning played desperate hockey.
“You have to play consistent in the playoffs, you have to play the way that got you there,” he said. “You just have to kick it up in the playoffs.”
“For the long run, you have to go through something like this to get better,” he said. “We want to be a perennial playoff team.”
Ideally, at the helm of a potential perennial playoff team would be the coach. Jon Cooper was able to take a squad who was in consideration for a top lottery draft pick and make them a second seed team in a newly formed, tougher division. He also coached them through all the adversity that they faced this year.
“We wanted to make sure that Tampa Bay Lightning fans were proud of their team,” Cooper said. “And I am proud of our team, they have made me a better coach.”
Cooper echoed what his players said in regards to the future and what this series will mean to them.
“I always compare it to getting your drivers’ license. You may have passed the test but you have to be behind the wheel. Until you are in it, you don’t realize what it’s all about. I don’t want this to look like a failure for these kids, they had a hell of a year. To get north of a hundred points is an outstanding achievement for a bunch of guys who haven’t played in the league before.”