The Ultimate Choke Job
By Patrick Hoffman
I still cannot believe that the Tampa Bay Lightning got swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of this year's Stanley Cup playoffs.
It does not make any sense to me. The Lighting were the league's best team and absolutely dominated the regular season.
In the end, that did not seem to matter at all come playoff time this year. In fact, it did not make one bit of difference to the Blue Jackets as they went ahead and with the exception of the first period in Game 1, dominated every single game.
There were several things that surprised me regarding the Lightning in this series. For starters, there was no sense of urgency.
It was the Stanley Cup playoffs, you were the best team in the league, and were expected to win it all this year. Instead, you went out and got swept by a team that you should have beaten.
After the Bolts went up 3-0 in the first period in Game 1, they took their foot off the pedal. Instead of trying to do everything they can to bury the Blue Jackets and take away all of their confidence, they thought that it was going to be so easy that they took their foot off the gas.
Secondly, where the heck was this team's offense. They struggled to put the puck in the net and all their best players from the regular season could not do a darn thing.
That's inexcusable. Your best players are supposed to lead your team when it matters most. Instead, they fell off the face of earth and were not really heard from.
Lastly, I'm not sure what Lightning head coach Jon Cooper was doing in this series. He showed a bunch of emotion when a Blue Jackets' goal got called back in Game 4, but where was that passion the rest of the series?
I realize that it is on the players to perform and that they clearly did not do their jobs. With that said, it is on the head coach to motivate the players, which is clearly something he did not do in this series.
This was the ultimate choke job, folks. It will be interesting to see how the franchise comes back next season.
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.