April 17, 2019

Pucks On The 'Net: Tampa Bay Lightning

With 62 wins in the regular season, the Tampa Bay Lightning had a historic season and faced high expectations in the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Needless to say, losing four straight games to the eighth seed Columbus Blue Jackets certainly did not meet those expectations.

Of course now the hockey world will label the Lightning as soft and chokers, which is just silly. And there will be calls for change in Tampa Bay, which is fair comment.

The nature of the salary cap will for the Lightning to change regardless if they went 0-4 or 16-0 in this post season. They have three veteran unrestricted free agents on the blue line - Anton Stralman, Dan Girardi and Braydon Coburn - who, unless they take a discount, are unlikely to return. The Lightning have to sign Brayden Point and that won't be cheap, and they have a few too many no-movement clauses restricting their ability to move out some salary.

So there will be change in Tampa, but there is no need to blow things up. This is a very good team that fell behind the eight ball early in the series and could never go on track. The parity in the NHL these days is unreal.

All the talk is of the Lightning's shortcomings, but not enough credit is being given to the Columbus Blue Jackets. They are a loaded team that underwhelmed at times during the regular season. They finished down the stretch red-hot and have carried it into the playoffs. At this point they have as good a chance as anyone to make it to the Stanley Cup Final. They will face the winner of the Boston/Toronto series in the next round.

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