1. Sports
  2. /
  3. Lightning

Calgary, other top seed, also falls in first round

Like the Lightning, the Flames clinched a playoff spot early and then made an early exit.
Calgary Flames left wing Johnny Gaudreau (13) hangs his head near the end of the third period of Game 5 of the hockey first-round playoff series against the Colorado Avalanche on Friday, April 19, 2019, in Calgary, Alberta. The Avalanche won 5-1, knocking the Flames out of the playoffs. [Larry MacDougal/The Canadian Press via AP]
Published Apr. 20

The two top seeds are out. Calgary wasn’t swept, but it only won one game and the end result is the same as the Lightning’s: an early exit.

The Flames led the Western Conference from December on, led the conference by seven points, and tied for the second-most goals in the season. Sound familiar?

“It just kind of snowballed a little bit,” defenseman Travis Hamonic said after Friday’s 5-1 loss in Game 4.

That’s someone an Eastern Conference scout warned about when asked how a team could beat the Lightning four times. One loss can give the “underdog” momentum and force the favorite back on its heels.

In both series, a team which had been playing for its life, in effect playing playoff hockey for weeks before the regular season ended, rolled into the postseason. The teams that hadn’t played meaningful games, that had high expectations, had to find a way to catch up.

The Flames did it better than the Lightning. Calgary won Game 1 and lost in overtime twice.

This was not the same series Tampa Bay played, giving up its one lead and never fully recovering. Calgary was always in it. But, the result is the same.

Calgary goalie said the exact same thing as Steven Stamkos, “the regular season means nothing.”

In both cases, a strong regular season, one in which the Lightning nor Flames had to test itself down the stretch, ended up hurting the postseason.

Washington’s Brooks Orpik said the same and the Capitals’ two Presidents’ Trophy-winning seasons. They ended up coasting through the end of the season and couldn’t get the intensity back in the playoffs.

The Capitals won their first-round series in both 2017 and 2016, but lost in the second round.

Danny Briere, best known for his time with the Flyers but also a former Sabre, also said the same about when Buffalo finished with the most points in 2007. The team didn’t have its rhythm in the playoffs, fought through two series and then lost.

The Presidents’ Trophy isn’t the issue. Teams need to find a way to keep pushing and enter the playoffs with momentum despite clinching their spot early.

The Lightning thought they had done so. Tampa Bay was still winning, coming back late in games and playing hard after clinching its top seed on March 18. But then in the last week, it fell off.

That one week of letting up proved costly.


  1. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev (98) waits his turn during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay doesn’t have many roster spots available, but the positions within the lineup are still taking shape.
  2. Tampa Bay Lightning forward Jimmy Huntington (47) takes a bite out of his stick blade while taking with goaltending coach Frantz Jean on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay has had success with undrafted players like Tyler Johnson and Alex Barre-Boulet.
  3. Tampa Bay Lightning's Cory Conacher (89) looks to pass the puck with Carolina Hurricanes' Clark Bishop (64) reaching in during the first period of an NHL preseason hockey game, in Raleigh, N.C, Wednesday, Sept. 18, 2019. KARL B DEBLAKER  |  AP
    Tampa Bay falls into the same penalty trap as first game: way too many. Preseason isn’t off to an ideal start.
  4. Tampa Bay Lightning players on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp at the Ice Sports Forum on September 13, 2019 in Brandon, FL. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    Tampa Bay’s training camp roster is reduced by six.
  5. Cal Foote (left) and his brother Nolan will play for the Lightning in a preseason game tonight. It's a moment they've long anticipated. Tampa Bay Times
    The brothers will play together as Nolan gets his first preseason game on Wednesday.
  6. Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Kevin Shattenkirk (22) looks for an open teammate during the first day of HL hockey training camp Friday, Sept. 13, 2019, in Brandon, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    Kevin Shattenkirk and Luke Schenn will make their Lightning debuts against Carolina on Wednesday night.
  7. Tampa Bay Lightning center Mitchell Stephens (67) defends against Carolina Hurricanes defenseman Brett Pesce (22) who challenges in the Tampa Bay zone during the first period of the preseason game on Tuesday, September 17, 2019, between the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Carolina Hurricanes at Amalie Arena in Tampa. DOUGLAS R. CLIFFORD  |  Tampa Bay Times
    There were flashes of promise, like good play from Mitchell Stephens, but not a great showing for Tampa Bay
  8. Tampa Bay Lightning head coach Jon Cooper gives direction during drills on the first day on the ice at the beginning of training camp. DIRK SHADD  |  Times
    In the first four games of the preseason, Lightning coach Jon Cooper wants to see how prospects have developed.
  9. At 23 years old, Tampa Bay forward Brayden Point already has 91 career NHL goals, including 41 last season. Now that his entry level contract has expired, Point is looking for a big payday but the Lightning has salary cap issues. CHRIS O'MEARA | AP Photo CHRIS O'MEARA  |  AP
    John Romano: History says restricted free agents almost always stay put, and there’s too much at stake for Tampa Bay to allow this impasse to go on.
  10. The Tampa Bay Lightning has tapped Cigar City Brewing to bring its Jai Alai, Guayabera, and Florida Cracker beers to Amalie Arena as the team’s official craft beer partner. (Photo via Tampa Bay Lightning) Tampa Bay Lightning
    Cigar City also will move its popular annual Hunahpu’s Beer Festival to Amalie Arena starting next March.