For most teams, back-to-back losses are just a common part of an NHL schedule. Even the best teams have down-times throughout the long regular season, meaning that you will experience a string of bad losses that hurt at the moment, but ultimately have little impact on their playoff potential.
The 2018-19 Lightning, however, was not a regular team. Throughout the entire season, they experienced back-to-back losses exactly two times en route to a record-tying 62 wins. After their losses to the Blues and Jets, the 2019-20 Lightning have already experienced a two-game losing streak more times by November than they did in all of last season.
This leads to a simple question. Can the Bolts learn from their losses and grow as a team, or will they become weighed down by them, still stuck in the shadow of their playoff meltdown?
2018-19 Season Skewed Lightning’s Perception
While winning 62 games was fun in the moment for the Lightning, most people will agree that their domination of the regular season left them ill-prepared for the 2019 playoffs. They entered as the odds-on favorites but immediately crumbled when they met a foe that was unwilling to give them respect on the ice.
The start of the 2019-20 season has felt a bit like the playoffs all over again for the Lightning. Despite being the odds-on favorite to win the Stanley Cup, they have struggled with consistency on a nightly basis.
This season, the Lightning haven’t been getting those lucky bounces, perfect shots or simple flashes of raw talent that carried them in the past. Due to this, the Bolts have been losing in a way that they haven’t in more than a year.
Will Lightning Losses Starting Piling Up?
Right now, this Lightning squad doesn’t fully believe in itself. Every win is mired by the thought of their playoff collapse and every loss is a harbinger of their doom. They are second-guessing choices that were just instinct in the past while struggling to remember exactly what made them so successful last season.
After every loss, you can see and feel a mixture of fear, doubt, and self-questioning that only comes from a team that was fundamentally shaken to its’ core.
If the Lightning can’t learn how to work through the struggles of a normal regular season, it may allow small losses to pile up and push them out of their potential playoff spot.
When Will Lightning Recover From Playoff Trauma?
The good news for the Lightning is that the season is long, and there’s plenty of time for them to get out of this funk that they are in. This team is still highly talented, and they have done enough to keep themselves in the playoff hunt early in the season.
The bad news is that until the Lightning get themselves sorted out, each and every loss will be felt twice as hard. The second-guessing and struggles will only compound as star players deal with injuries, potentially putting Tampa Bay in a hole too deep to dig out of.
However, if the Lightning can put it together and reach the 2020 Playoffs, they will be in a better place than the team that was swept out last season. Sure, they may not own home-ice advantage throughout the postseason, but they will have the needed mental fortitude one can only learn through the trials of a difficult regular season.
Eugene Helfrick is a Tampa Bay Lightning writer who is actually from Tampa Bay. He has written about the Lightning for six years, covering everything from their run to the 2015 Stanley Cup Final, to their crushing first-round exit in 2019, to their redemption in the bubble in 2020. While he is happy to talk about just about anything from cows to cars to video games, hockey will always remain one of his favorite pastimes.