Let’s face it: the Lightning didn’t end the regular season in spectacular fashion. But being the group of battle-tested veterans they are, they know how to pick up the intensity when it matters most.
Most of the current roster’s names are on the Stanley Cup to prove it.
There’s certainly nothing like playoff hockey. With such higher stakes, and seasons on the line, intensity, physicality and emotions all ramp up. It takes a lot to win a Cup, and this Lightning team knows how to get through the postseason gauntlet after winning in unprecedented circumstances last year in the bubble.
“It takes a whole team effort and things need to go right, you need a little bit of luck,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “But you just need that will to achieve your dream and we had that last year. Now we got a taste of that and you realize how amazing that feeling is. So the experience is certainly there for for this group and we’re hungry to get back into this atmosphere.
“I think this group has the ability to kind of flip that switch from regular season to playoff mode, especially in a year like this where it was difficult in terms of the protocols and things like that. We’re just excited and hungry to get the playoffs started.”
They’ve been defending their championship all regular season, and they always seemed to get their opponents’ best games — well at least from the seven teams they had to play over and over because of this year’s division realignment. Only one team has repeated as Cup champion in the NHL’s salary cap era.
“We know that we can rely on the experience that we’ve had in the past and we know what it takes to get through,” said Stamkos, who will return from a lower-body injury that sidelined him for the final month of the regular season. “There’s going to be lots of ups, there’s going to be lots of downs. It’s the teams that can maintain those (ups) throughout the playoffs. throughout a series, you know, throughout a stretch in a game, and we’re comfortable in those situations and we’re looking forward to that challenge.”
In today’s Times
We preview the Lightning’s first-round playoff series with a special package.
All of our the Lightning-related online content we’ve produced over the past week leading up to the series is on tampabay.com/lightning. A sampling:
Follow along on social media
Also, follow Lightning beat writer Eduardo A. Encina (@EddieInTheYard), sports columnist John Romano (@Romano_TBTimes) and outdoors/trending writer Mari Faiello (@Faiello_Mari) on Twitter with updates from Sunrise.
• • •
Sign up for Lightning Strikes, a weekly newsletter from Bolts beat writer Eduardo A. Encina that brings you closer to the ice.