Where are the Real Tampa Bay Lightning?
By Patrick Hoffman
The Tampa Bay Lightning took the league by storm in the regular season.
They dominated in every facet of the game, finished with the league's best record with 128 points, had the league's top scorer in Nikita Kucherov, and had a Vezina Trophy-like season from goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy. Essentially, this team had everything going and was considered the Cup favorite.
For whatever reason, I don't think the Bolts got the memo. If they did, it appears that it went right in the garbage, which is exactly how they are playing right now in the first round against the Columbus Blue Jackets.
As of this writing (April 15) the Bolts are down 3-0 in the series and should they lose Game 4 on Tuesday night, April 16, their season will be over well before anyone expected it to be. In fact, should they get knocked out by the Blue Jackets, this season will be considered an epic failure.
There are several reasons why this team has yet to win a game in these playoffs. For starters, their offense has disappeared.
As of this writing (April 15) guys like Kucherov (0 points), Steven Stamkos (0 points), Kucherov (0 points), Brayden Point (0 points), Ryan McDonagh (0 points), and Victor Hedman (0 points in two games) have all been non-factors. During the regular season, these guys were fantastic, but they have been awful in the playoffs.
What's troubling is the play of Stamkos. He's not scoring, he's not playing well on the other side of the puck (he is currently a -5), he only has eight shots on goal, and as the team's captain, he really has not done much leading for this hockey club.
This is a team that led the league in goals scored this year. It's stunning that at the most important time of the year, they've gone quiet.
Defensively, the club has been atrocious in the postseason this year. They have currently (April 15) given up the second most goals in these playoffs as they have allowed 12 goals in three games.
These guys are getting caught out of position, not blocking enough shots, not doing a good enough job of protecting Vasilevskiy and are not being smart with the puck. Simply put, their defensive play is one of the main reasons why these team is in a deep hole in this series.
Lastly, Vasilevskiy has not been nearly as good as he was in the regular season. As of this writing (April 15) he is 0-3 with a 3.73 goals-against average and a .866 save percentage.
If the Lightning don't find a way to come back in this series, there will be a lot of blame to go around for what will be an epic failure.
Patrick covers the NHL for The Ultimate Hockey Fan Cave.
He has previously covered the league for WTP Sports, Sportsnet.ca, Kukla’s Korner, Spector’s Hockey, NHL Network Radio blog, TheHockeyNews.com, The Fourth Period, Stan Fischler’s “The Fischler Report”, as well as a slew of others.