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The Ultimate Disappointment

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The Ultimate Disappointment

Karma can be something that hits the puck where you least expect.

Karma can be something that hits the puck where you least expect.

Elliot Lowe

Karma can be something that hits the puck where you least expect.

Elliot Lowe

Elliot Lowe

Karma can be something that hits the puck where you least expect.

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In sports, expectations are given from a various number of outlets: the media, the fans, ownership, management, the players themselves. Pressure can amount to the biggest triumphs, or the most heartbreaking collapses.

Nobody knows about this better than the Tampa Bay Lightning from this year. The Lightning finished the NHL regular season with 62 wins, a tie for most in NHL history and totaled 128 points over the span of the 82 game stretch. They had the leagues highest point scorer in Nikita Kucherov, superstar Steven Stamkos was fourth in the league in goals scored, Andrei Vasilevskiy had the most wins for a goalie at 39, and defenseman Ryan McDonough had the league’s second best plus/minus ratio.

The Lightning had everything going for them heading to postseason play. They had momentum and earned the number one seed in the eastern conference. One thing stood in their way to get to the next round and continue on their historic run: the Columbus Blue Jackets.

The Jackets went from being a temporary pothole on Tampa’s road to the Stanley Cup, to their roadblock preventing them from reaching their ultimate destination.

Entering the postseason, Tampa was the enormous favorite (at 2-1) to win the Stanley Cup for the first time since 2004. What happened next was the unthinkable.

Tampa Bay got swept 4-0 by the Columbus Blue Jackets, ending their postseason run way earlier than anticipated and sending the team home asking themselves, “What had gone wrong?”

“We hurt ourselves in a lot of different fashions,” Ryan McDonough said in a postgame press-conference after the 7-3 loss in the fatal fourth game that ended his team’s season. The Lightning fell down 2-1 after the first period were never able to recover. “We couldn’t find our game,” head coach Jon Cooper said after the defeat of his team.

From the beginning of the series until the end it was clear the Lightning were outmatched. In every aspect of the game they looked a step behind the Blue Jackets. Columbus head coach John Tortorella simply out-coached Cooper. His defensive pressure forced Lightning players to make mistakes, and the way his team got out and pushed the puck for early goals in transition was to much for the defense man to stop.

“If you don’t accomplish the goal of winning it all, it’s a failure.” Stamkos, the team’s captain, said after he realized his season had ended. As the team’s captain Stamkos was expected to deliver this series, but failed to total a single point through the first three games, after having 45 goals in the regular season. Brayden Point, who scored 41 goals in the regular season, also failed to show up totaling zero points.

The Jackets were able to exploit the Lightning defense early on in the series and scored at least three goals a game and scored five or more twice. “We didn’t defend well enough as a team, this entire series,” Stamkos stated as the realization his season was ending came into full effect.

Most hockey fanatics understand the magnitude of the Lightning loss in the first round. It was a historic under-achievement by a team with extremely high expectations. For a team that dominated the full 82 game regular season the thought of a first round sweep was in nobody’s mind. The reaction across the country from sports fans was as most would expect. People were stunned.

“For non-hockey fans, it was like the 73-9 Warriors being swept in the first round,” Holt Senior Brandon Lacke said in an interview after the Lightning were bounced.

“Consider me surprised,” Senior Evan Mead stated in class one day after looking on ESPN’s headlines and seeing Tampa Bay was eliminated the night before.

The Tampa Bay Lightning have a very wide window left to win a title, as most of their core is still relatively young and can compete with each other and contend for a long time, but this season had a storybook ending written for them that ultimately was not fulfilled and the numbness they feel now will only fuel them to persevere next season.

They are going to have to take a serious look at what went wrong this postseason in order to prevent it from happening again in the future. The feeling of disappointment will linger with them the entire off season as they prepare to hopefully make a much deeper run in the playoffs next April.

1 Comment

One Response to “The Ultimate Disappointment”

  1. Josh Berg on April 22nd, 2019 12:24 PM

    Best article on the website

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