Make us your home page
Instagram

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Fennelly: Lessons from a Lightning-less NHL playoffs

We're more than a month into the Stanley Cup playoffs. It's heaven for fans. Hockey's version of the forced march has been packed with stories, like the Nashville Predators' run to the Western Conference final, the star power of Oilers star Connor McDavid, the Caps holding off Auston Matthews and Toronto, the annual Caps fold, overtime games galore, comebacks galore, mayhem galore, galore galore.

And the Lightning is missing it.

Yes, we're all wondering if Sidney Crosby's skull can take more pounding. The Penguins superstar missed time against Washington because of concussion protocol then tumbled headfirst into the boards in a game, but never was pulled. Nice. But mostly the playoffs have been a blast.

And the Lightning is missing it.

If you want to see the Bolts, you'll find some of them playing in the world championships in Paris, France and Cologne, Germany. Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman (Sweden) are over there. So are Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy and Vladislav Namestnikov (Russia). So are Brayden Point and Alex Killorn (Canada). Lightning coach Jon Cooper is running the Canadian team. Check your TV listings. I think Kucherov is on replay at 2 a.m.

But the real action is over here, and the Lightning is missing it.

That is, unless you count former Bolts like good guy Nate Thompson, now with Anaheim, which is playing Nashville, or former Lightning coach Guy Boucher, who is coaching Ottawa against Pittsburgh. Remember 2011, when Boucher took the Lightning to within a win of the Stanley Cup final in his first season as coach? Hard not to pull for our man Guy in these playoffs.

And it beats watching Hedman slice through Denmark's defense or surfing the NHL Network for Kucherov goals. Mind you, Vasilevskiy is tending up a storm, with a 4-0 record, 1.05 goals against and .952 save percentage entering play Monday. That kind of experience can't hurt.

But it still isn't here. It still isn't the Stanley Cup playoffs.

Let's not go into what happened and how it happened — again. How a Stanley Cup favorite was decimated by injuries and early complacency.

I'm just thinking about how much fun the playoffs could have been, especially an extended run, the kind the Lightning has had in recent years. Drama every other night. Stories and more stories. You can't take your eyes off a good hockey playoff run.

Here's the real problem:

Will we ever see it again around here?

I mean, from the Lightning?

There are no guarantees. None.

It's hard not to like the Lightning's chances of riding into the playoffs next season.

This is still a young, strong roster. Kucherov is a superstar. Hedman is, too. Might want to keep Jonathan Drouin, by the way. But nothing says the Lightning will ever be the team it was when it made the Stanley Cup final in 2015 or the Eastern Conference final last season.

You can never predict what will happen. Look at Steven Stamkos and his injuries. So many things can get in the way.

That's why it stings a franchise like the Lighting when it swings and misses on a season, no matter how close it comes to the playoffs.

There's no guarantee it will happen again. Or that Stamkos, a year older, will be better than worse. Or that Vasilevskiy is a playoff goalie until he's actually in the playoffs as the No. 1, though he had a nice run down the stretch.

There are no guarantees. Of anything.

Enjoy the hockey world championships, Lightning fans.

That's your postseason while you wait for a real one.

Contact Martin Fennelly at mfennelly@tampabay.com or (813) 731-8029. Follow: @mjfennelly

Fennelly: Lessons from a Lightning-less NHL playoffs 05/15/17 [Last modified: Tuesday, May 16, 2017 12:28am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Rowdies anxious to get back on track

    Soccer

    ST. PETERSBURG — Having already played four matches in less than two weeks' time, the Rowdies have to turn around again on short rest to host Saint Louis FC today.

    And they're actually glad about it.

  2. Rays pitchers rave about Twins pitching coach, ex-mentor Neil Allen

    The Heater

    MINNEAPOLIS — There have been a lot of coaches who have had a hand in helping Chris Archer get to the big leagues and to the front of the Rays rotation, and as he took the mound Friday night at Target Field, he had reason to nod appreciatively toward the home dugout.

    In their third year with pitching coach Neil Allen, the Twins have been one of the surprises of the American League.
  3. State baseball: Bishop McLaughlin bows out in Class 3A semifinals

    Baseballpreps

    FORT MYERS — One inning into Bishop McLaughlin's Class 3A state semifinal against Fort Myers Canterbury, things could not have gone much better for the Hurricanes. They grabbed a quick one-run lead and Canterbury ace Sam Keating was forced out of the game with a nagging neck injury.

     Chris Berglund (18) of Bishop McLaughlin, at bat during second inning of the FHSAA class 3A semi-final on Friday May 26, 2017 at Hammond Stadium in Fort Myers, Fla. Canterbury, Fort Myers, defeated Bishop 7 to 4. Canterbury will play in the 3A championship tomorrow.
  4. Bucs WR DeSean Jackson knows only one direction: full speed ahead

    Sports

    TAMPA — DeSean Jackson is the "1."

    Actually, Jackson, the Bucs' latest weapon for quarterback Jameis Winston, with his blazing speed and game-changing splash plays, wears No. 11 in games.

    DeSean Jackson, a needed game-breaker for Bucs who signed a $33.5 million deal, welcomes big expectations.
  5. Video preview: Rays open tough road trip facing Twins tonight

    Blogs

    After splitting a four-game series against the Angels to wrap up a winning homestand, the Rays tonight open a nine-game, 10-day roadtrip with the first game of the weekend series with the Twins: