TAMPA – After losing a playoff berth opportunity Thursday night with a 3-0 shutout against the Minnesota Wild, many Lightning fans were happy to see a playoff berth upon waking up Saturday morning to the news of Montréal’s regulation loss at Anaheim. The Lightning have officially secured a spot in the 2019 Stanley Cup playoffs.
It’s the fifth time in six seasons (dating back to the 2013-14 season) that the Lightning have earned a playoff berth.
With the playoff clinch, Tampa Bay makes history once again as one of the fastest teams to get a playoff berth since 2005-06. It tied the 2008-09 San Jose Sharks, who also clinched a spot in 68 games. The only team that has clinched a playoff berth in fewer than 68 games dating to 2005-06 is the 2009-10 Washington Capitals (67 games).
“It’s hard to describe,” coach Jon Cooper said Saturday morning after the morning skate. “You wake today and see the little “x” by your name, it’s something that you work all year for, but it’s no time to sit back.”
Cooper said there is still so much more the team has to do with the remaining 14 games left in the regular season, but knowing the team is officially in is a comforting feeling.
“We have to make sure we keep pressing forward here,” he said, “so we don’t skip a beat coming into mid-April.”
And his team agrees.
“It’s a good accomplishment,” Steven Stamkos said. “That’s your goal at the beginning of the season, to give yourself a chance to go into the playoffs and that’s where anything can happen.”
Stamkos has seen both sides of the post-season, making it all the way to the Staley Cup finals and missing the playoffs altogether. Neither experience, however, have accomplished the ultimate goal of a Stanley Cup.
“We’re far from accomplishing what we want to do,” he said. “We want to just continue to get better.”
Stamkos isn’t alone in those sentiments either.
“A clinch is great, but there’s still a lot more work to be done,” Tyler Johnson said. With 14 games left in the season, both of them know that their team will be seeing all kinds of emotions from their opponents fighting for a spot of their own in the playoffs. “We have to find a way,” Stamkos said. “I think we’re all experienced enough as a group to know you can’t just flip a switch or press a button come playoffs time. We need to be playing well and that’s what we’re hoping to accomplish.”
Contact Mari Faiello at [email protected]. Follow @faiello_mari.