The entire series is on the line as the Tampa Bay Lightning heads into the Nationwide Arena for Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
The Tampa Bay Lightning has done the unexpected in the postseason. The Lightning has taken all the expectations set forth for them, crumpled them up, and threw them in the trash. The Bolts find themselves on the brink of elimination as they face a 3-0 series deficit heading into Game 4 of the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs.
It would be easy to blame injuries for their lack of passion. While this may have an impact on the outcome to a certain degree, it cannot be the sole reason for the Lightning’s breakdown. It would also be incredibly easy to lay a bulk of the “blame” on the officials. While getting exactly zero Power Play opportunities in a game is certainly an eyebrow raiser, this is not the reason the Lightning is in the hole they are currently buried in.
Right now, the only people responsible for the position the Lightning is in right now is themselves; both the players and the coaching staff. If the Tampa Bay Lightning has any hopes of picking up a victory and bringing this series back to the Bolts Nation, every single player on the ice is going to need to step up their game.
This is especially true when it comes to the Lightning’s star players.
Lightning forward Nikita Kucherov absolutely dominated the National Hockey League during the regular season in terms of scoring. Kucherov had 41 goals and 87 assists for a total of 128 points, which earned him the Art Ross Trophy. In the postseason, things have looked vastly different.
Nikita Kucherov is one of the many players on the Lightning roster who have been held completely scoreless in the first three games of the series. In fact, Kucherov is currently a minus-2 while on the ice. Granted, Kucherov missed Game 3 due to suspension, but this doesn’t change his performance in Games 1 and 2.
Next, we have Lightning forward Brayden Point. Point was one of three Lightning players who crossed the 40-goal mark in the regular season. He amassed 41 goals and 51 assists for a total of 92 points in 79 games played during the regular season. Point was second on the team with a plus/minus of plus-27.
Fast forward to the postseason. Brayden Point remains scoreless through three games in the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. In the three games he’s played thus far, he has registered a grand total of three shots on goal. Two of these shots came in Game 1, there were zero shots on goal in Game 2 and a single shot on goal in Game 3. How exactly does one expect to score a goal if they never put the puck on the net?
This brings the discussion to the captain. Lightning captain Steven Stamkos has been one of the biggest underperformers in the lineup thus far. Not only has Stamkos been held off the scoresheet completely, but he has also taken a total of eight shots on goal, none of which came in Game 3 on Sunday night, and he currently stands at a minus-5 rating. Stamkos is currently in the last place on the team in this category right now.
How can one expect the younger players on the team to play to the absolute best of their abilities when those in a position of leadership have done next to nothing to advance the team’s station? This simply must come to an end if the Lightning has any hopes of coming back and truly fighting to advance to the next round.
The Bolts Nation is vastly furious at the moment, and they have every single right in the world to be angry. The Tampa Bay Lightning was a team who simply couldn’t be touched in the regular season. The Bolts were breaking records every time one turned around and captured the Presidents’ Trophy before most teams were even sure they were making the postseason.
How in the world do you go from a place of domination to the brink of elimination in a mere three games? We guess we’d be the hero of the Bolts Nation if we had a viable answer to this question. Alas, we’re stuck in a perpetual state of shock along with the rest of the Lightning fanbase.
It may seem like it now, but the Tampa Bay Lightning is not dead in the water just yet. The Lightning still has an opportunity to bring the series back to Tampa and fight for their playoff lives.
In order for the Lightning to accomplish this lofty goal, they are going to have to put all the negativity of the last three games in the rearview mirror and truly concentrate on the task at hand. They will need to be laser focused and prepared to fight the same way they did during the regular season.
Each and every player is going to have to step up their game and leave everything out on the ice. This starts at the top all the way down to the bottom. The Bolts will have to play like there is no tomorrow because if they fail in Game 4, there really is no tomorrow.
The action is scheduled to kick off at 7:00 p.m. Eastern Time on Tuesday night at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus. The Tampa Bay Lightning has an opportunity to keep their playoff hopes alive, but it is going to take an insane amount of effort to get the job done.
We here at Bolts By The Bay still believe in our team. They have more than enough talented players on the roster to get the job done. It’s going to be on the players to put one skate in front of the other and bring the fight to the Blue Jackets and it’ll be on one Jon Cooper to put the right pieces in play at the right time.
If the Lightning can get back to working like the well-oiled machine they were in the regular season, the Bolts will be able to fight back and prove they’re still the team to beat in the postseason. However, if they continue to play the way they have in the postseason, it could be a First-Round exit. Which team is going to show up on Tuesday night? We’ll have to wait and see.