From a playoff threat to a complete debacle, that pretty much sums up this season for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
For a team that started the season 6-1, the only way for the Lightning to fall apart in a shortened season was for things to go bad fast, and they certainly did. Following their hot start, Tampa Bay continued to drop their next six games, taking a turn for the worst and establishing themselves as a team that clearly had some holes in their game.
If you asked me after those first seven games if I thought the Lightning were a serious contender this season, I probably would’ve said yes. It certainly looked like the Lightning had finally figured it out, with what seemed to be a great mix of young talented players and veterans. I originally thought that they would be able to compete with the Penguins or the Bruins in an Eastern Conference Final, but boy was I wrong.
One thing that is consistent about the Lightning, however, is their goal scoring and offensive fire power. The aging Martin St. Louis and potentially the most dynamic offensive player in the league, Steven Stamkos, are set to finish first and second respectively in the league for points. Additionally, Stamkos sits in second in the league in goals with 29 and should have a good chance to reach 30, as the Lightning play the ‘Mr. Irrelevant’ of the Eastern Conference, otherwise known as the last-place Florida Panthers, in their last game of the season Saturday.
The Lightning have given up 145 goals this season, which is good for third most in the Eastern Conference. That is in large part to the inconsistent play of Tampa Bay’s defensive core and goaltender Anders Lindback for the majority of the season. Things haven’t been much better with Ben Bishop in net either. After the trade that sent Cory Conacher to Ottawa in exchange for Bishop, the Lightning still struggled to find the win column. As a result, the Lightning are just 2-6-2 in their last 10 games.
I don’t have an answer for why the Lightning have struggled so much this year, but one thing’s for sure, with the amount of talent they have, they shouldn’t have struggled at all.
Currently covering all things that is the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Hockey Writers. Follow him on Twitter: @Matt_Metcalf