The Tampa Bay Lightning fell short in their quest to three-peat as Stanley Cup Champions losing to the Colorado Avalanche in six games. However, if you think this Lightning group does not want to get back to this position again, then think again. As Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said after their Game 6 loss, “Who Says We’re Done?”
Steven Stamkos Believes Core Not Done Winning Just Yet
Entering the Stanley Cup Final, there was talk of Lightning fatigue. And it was warranted, but you have to appreciate what the Lightning have done over these last three seasons. Tampa Bay accomplished something no team has done since the 1980s New York Islanders. And that was to make three consecutive Stanley Cup Final appearances. To go along with back-to-back Stanley Cup Championships and 11 straight playoff series wins as Stamkos stated postgame it is unbelievable.
It takes a certain championship mindset to accomplish this feat. Not to mention Tampa Bay did not go quietly against the Avalanche putting up one heck of a fight before relinquishing their grip on the Stanley Cup. They showed the heart of a champion right until the end. The loss in the Stanley Cup Final is fueling the Lightning to come back hungrier next season. Because that is what winning does. Once you get a taste of it, you never want to give it up.
Even with all the hockey, this team has played over the past three seasons, this core group is not going anywhere. In fact, they remain intact, unlike the previous seasons. Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman, and Brayden Point, who missed most of the playoffs with a quad tear, will be back.
Not to mention there is a belief within the locker room amongst the players and coaches they can continue the run they are on.
“The core has been to four finals in the last eight years and won two championships,” Steven Stamkos continued post-game.
“We’re not done,” echoed head coach Jon Cooper in his postgame interview with Kevin Weekes of ESPN.
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The Lightning’s Remarkable Run
Think about this for a minute. The Lightning’s run started back in 2015. Tampa Bay lost to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup Final in six games. From there, they went back to the Conference Finals in 2016 and 2018. In those series, they lost to Pittsburgh and Washington respectively after being up 3-2 in the series.
In between 2016 and 2018, the Lightning missed the playoffs by only a handful of points. The following year in 2019, that is when the Lightning found their championship mindset and what it takes to win. During that playoff series, the Lightning learned a hard lesson about what it takes to win. The loss to Columbus set up the next three seasons.
As defenceman Ryan McDonagh pointed out post-game, this team is far from finished.
“I’m sure there were a lot of people that were doubting we’d even get back to this point, and it’ll be the same thing next year,” McDonagh said. “But we’ve got the group, the coaching staff. We’ll leave it all out there again and go as far as we can. We’ve got the confidence and the belief we’ll be there again. We know what we’re capable of. With a little bit more luck, a few more bounces, it can definitely happen again.”
Julien BriseBose Has Work To Do
Even general manager Julien BriseBois got in on the action during the Lightning breakup day on Tuesday proclaiming his team will be back.
“I don’t think we’re done chasing Stanley Cups here, BriseBois told the media at the Lightning breakup day. “We’re set up to be a really competitive team for the foreseeable future.”
The Lightning are set up for the foreseeable future. Though BriseBois has some work to do to get Ondrej Palat, Jan Rutta, and Nick Paul. All three players are unrestricted free agents. However, Brisebois has already begun preliminary talks with these players to remain with the Lightning.
While BriseBois gets the credit for adding the right pieces to bring a championship back to Tampa Bay, one has to remember that his predecessor current Detroit Red Wings general manager Steve Yzerman put the core in place to be successful. These last couple of seasons BriseBois has been great at salary cap gymnastics. He will have to be great at it again for this team to remain successful.
The Eastern Conference, especially the division, is only getting tougher. Then there is the litany of injuries during this run the Lightning need to recover from. You have to wonder how many runs this team has left. But like the Penguins, Capitals, and Bruins, until the Lightning are not in the playoffs or officially out of the playoff race you can never count them out.
As Steven Stamkos and the rest of the Tampa Bay Lightning players, coaches, and management, who says this team is done.
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