Lightning in Unfamiliar Territory after Blowing Two Straight Games

Photo Credit: Mark LoMoglio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Closing out games for the Tampa Bay Lightning was pretty close to perfect over the last three to four seasons. When it came to the postseason, they were money from 2020 to 2022.

Since defense and goaltending are a staple of many championship teams, it’s no secret that ability to shut things down late contributed to this team coming within inches of accomplishing the rare feat of becoming the first team to win three straight Stanley Cups. As it was, they went to three straight Cup Finals.

Unfortunately, the 2023 playoffs see the Lightning in unfamiliar territory after four games. This is the direct result of doing something they haven’t done in a while, blowing a lead and the game in back-to-back games.

Plenty of things have attributed to this collapse. The defense hasn’t been blocking enough shots late in games, Andrei Vasilevskiy hasn’t been the same dominant goaltender he was early in his career, and taking penalties at inopportune times are all reasons why the Lightning find themselves on the brink of elimination entering Game 5 Thursday night.

A few other things to note are that injuries, especially the illegal hit Michael Bunting laid on Erik Cernak in Game 1, and the Lightning’s inability to win on home ice have hurt.

Those who watched the Lightning regularly in the 2022-23’ season could probably see this coming. It got so bad that coach Jon Cooper had to bench his three star players during the third period of an early March game in Buffalo. They came out the next day and got shut out 6-0 by the Carolina Hurricanes.

April was a bad month too, as the team only won two games. Conversely, they lost four games which saw them allow a grand total of 23 goals.

Some of that could be the losses of Ryan McDonagh, Jan Rutta, and Ondrej Palat. In their place, the Lightning asked Mikhail Sergachev to take on more responsibilities and have two rookies, Nick Perbix and Darren Raddysh, logging big minutes in the NHL playoffs for the first time in their careers. Both have performed admirably, but you have to wonder if their inexperience is starting to show.

Can the Lightning come back to make this a series, or is this the end for a team that hasn’t been golfing this early in years? Whatever happens, this team can only blame themselves if this series gets away.

Stanley Cup Aspirations Cue’ the Duck Boats Pod

The boys are back after a long break but have plenty to talk about as the playoffs are in full swing. We go series by series, looking at how teams have fared so far and who will come out on top. Thanks for listening! Please rate and review our show on your favorite listening platform. Check out our partner's website at www.insidetherink.com for all your latest hockey news.
  1. Stanley Cup Aspirations
  2. The Final Countdown
  3. Here Come the Playoffs
  4. Home Stretch
  5. Kevy Cooks

Lauren Burg

Lauren Burg is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer for “Inside the Rink.” A lifelong Tampa Bay Area resident, she graduated from the University of South Florida’s world-renowned journalism program in December 2009. While in college, she discovered hockey and the Tampa Bay Lightning. She quickly became a passionate fan, attending many games over the years. She also experienced an All-Star game in 2018, numerous road games, and, most recently, the Bolts back-to-back Stanley Cup championships. Since graduating college, she’s been working hard to combine her two loves, writing and hockey, hoping to one day make that her full-time career. In her free time, she enjoys attending sporting events (both home & road when possible), taking photos, and traveling.

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