Tampa Bay Lightning: Playoffs Are No Guarantee

For the Tampa Bay Lightning, a recent franchise record-setting nine-game winning streak could end up being the kiss of death.

How? While it certainly looked good on the surface, propelling the Lightning to the top of the Atlantic Division at one point, certain deficiencies were masked for the time being.

One glaring deficiency is the Tampa Bay Lightning’s inability to play a full 60 minutes like a team on a mission. Pass, pass, pass, pass, pass…you get the picture. Defensive miscues that lead to odd man rushes against which, if either Ben Bishop or Andrei Vasilevskiy can’t make a highlight reel save, also leads to an opponent scoring more often than not.

It may be easy to chalk this up to missed reads or the other team simply being better, but that’s not always the case.

This season, especially lately, the Lightning have lacked the heart and hustle championship teams possess. A lack of drive to do everything in ones power to night in and night out sacrifice and compete for two points.

I get it. 82 games are a grind, not only for the body but also the mind. These players eat, sleep and breathe hockey from September until April, possibly even beyond. That’s no doubt taxing.

That being said, playoffs are not a guarantee. Ask the Boston Bruins, who last year missed the cut by a mere couple of points.

Even the Pittsburgh Penguins, once a top 3 team in the Metropolitan Division last season, had to rely on the Bruins losing just to eke their way in thanks to subpar play down the stretch. They then proceeded to get bounced in five games by the Presidents Trophy winning New York Rangers.

Judging by recent games, the defending Eastern Conference champion Tampa Bay Lightning seem to be taking an eerily similar path to the 2014-15′ Penguins.

At one point leading their division, a late season lack of urgency has the Lightning scrambling to keep pace in the tight Atlantic Division standings with 12 games remaining. A few more efforts similar to the one seen Tuesday night against the bottom-feeding Toronto Maple Leafs and this team could be in immense danger of falling out of the playoff race altogether.

While I don’t sense that occurring, the fact it’s even a possibility this late in the regular season proves my point that coasting through games like you’ve already clinched a postseason berth isn’t a recipe for success.