Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper Mandatory Credit: Eric Bolte-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning 2013-14 Season: It All Comes Down To This

Well, here we are.  It all comes down to this.  The possible end to a truly great season.  It all rides on the result of tonight’s playoff game.  Game Four.  In Montreal.  The Bell Center.  A very loud, very bias crowd.  A crowd looking to see the Canadiens sweep the Tampa Bay Lightning right out of the playoffs.  On their ice.  For good and all.  At least for this season.

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY Sports

We’ll be back and we won’t forget this.  No matter tonight’s result.  We won’t forget Game Three.  The No Goal.  The promise it might have suggested.  The change in momentum it could have been.  We won’t forget a single thing about this series.

It is series like these that make division rivals truly rivals.  I think Tampa Bay just made an enemy in the Atlantic.  An enemy we will be seeing and battling often in the coming years.  And I look forward to each of those future contests.  With fervor.

Because it’s about the Cup.  And it always will be.  The Bolts want to – they need to bring the Cup back to Tampa Bay.  It’s about more than just 101 points in the regular season.  Though, that is great.  It’s about more than just Vezina’s, Jack Adams’ or Calder Trophies.  Though, those are great, too.  It’s about more than just the third best season record in franchise history.  Though, that’s impressive as all hell considering the season that proceeded it.

It’s about the Cup.

And if the Bolts can’t make the same success happen in the playoffs then all of that fancy stuff they do in the regular season doesn’t actually mean a whole lot.  Not if it doesn’t come together for a Cup.  The players know this.  The coaches know this. And of course, the fan base knows this.  We can be proud of our Bolts for what they’ve done.  And we are.  But at the end of the day we have to put our money where our mouths are.  And by money I mean players/talent.  And by mouth I mean potential/intentions.

The Lightning needs to show everyone in the league that they got the stuff to compete for a Cup again.  We showed this year that we could be part of the playoff equation, but next year, and the years that follow, we will have to show the answer to another equation.  We will have to show the solution to the Cup Equation, and that we have the stuff to solve it.

I think we do.  I think we will be a Beast in the East over the next couple years.  Once a few details are smoothed out at our blue line and we gain a little more depth in net, I think we’ll have a far better team.  A more well-rounded team ready for an 82 game season and a deep playoff run.

I further think that the bad taste this series leaves in the mouth will not be gone very quickly.  I dare say this series will taste wrong for years to come.  And the Bolts will make other teams in future Playoff Game Four’s take great big bites of it.  The bitter taste of playoff disappointment.

I think the young players who just got to the dance for the first time only to be asked to leave before even getting fully jiggy with it will be hungry to come back.  To dance a full turn around the dance floor.  To get unhinged and dance like no one is watching.

And I think some players who never even got a taste of the dance floor at all, after being one of the main reasons for getting his team there (Ben Bishop) will be just as hungry to see the hallowed ground he helped bring his team to (in a limo of sorts if you’re following my prom metaphor).

This will be a hungry team over the next several years, I think, and with hungry teams, come hefty appetites for division rivals.  Be forewarned Atlantic.  The Lightning will be coming again, and again, and it won’t get any easier from here.  Enjoy your first round victory (if it happens) while it lasts, Montreal.  The Lightning are going to do everything in their power next season and in the following seasons to make sure it’s the last one you enjoy, at their expense, for quite awhile.

You bring the dance floor, and we’ll bring the dancing shoes.

Signed, the 2014-15 Lightning.

Zing.

And hey, they could win tonight and stage an amazing series comeback.  You never know.  It’s the Cup and stranger things have happened.

The dance is never over until it’s over.

You got to love metaphors.

 

Off the Dot is an ongoing column of opinions, feelings and thoughts on all things Tampa Bay Lightning.  This is a knee-jerk reaction column for the many things that a fan maybe feels or thinks throughout a hockey season.

This is NOT a stat by stat analysis of the Bolts, but rather a theater of words concerning the Lightning and the many emotions tangled up in supporting your favorite NHL team; a theater for all fans to come to for a more personal take on Tampa Bay hockey.

That’s why I call it “off the dot”.  Because if we were “on the dot”, as in face-off mode, well, things would be decidedly more on-point and specific.  While off the dot, while we’re still just milling around the face-off circle, as I am now, waiting for the whistle to blow, then we’re just being conversational.  We’re just talking about our thoughts on strategy maybe or whatever random concept happens to come to mind, needing to be expressed.  The fun off-key banter of fans before someone (whoever) decides to hunker down, spread out their skates, and get nose-deep over the dot for the real face-off, and maybe say, statistically speaking, what happened in a win or loss in their more researched opinion.  And we have those articles all over Bolts by the Bay, and I very much encourage you to check out those articles, too.

These are just my opinions, my feelings, and my thoughts – while we’re off the dot.

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