Bolts’ win was their most impressive series

by Gary Shelton on May 8, 2018 · 1 comment

in general, Tampa Bay Lightning

Three newcomers --Sergachev, Point and Guarde -- have sparked the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Three newcomers --Sergachev, Point and Guorde -- have sparked the Bolts./CARMEN MANDATO

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

Now that the Tampa Bay Lightning has kissed (ahem) the big, bad Boston Bruins goodbye, we should take a minute to reflect on just what the team has done.

These were the Bruins, the beast from the dark. This was the unbeatable foe from the unwinnable arena. This was a burly first line that was as hard to stop as stampeding buffalo.

And the Lightning beat them.

In five games.

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J.T. Miller completes the first Bolts' line./CARMEN MANDATO

J.T. Miller completes the first Bolts' line./CARMEN MANDATO

All in all, it was the most impressive series the Lightning has ever won. Only once had the Lightning ever beaten a playoff opponent that had more than the Bruins 112 points. That was when it won a seven-game series over the New York Rangers (113 points) in the Eastern Conference Finals of 2014-15.

That was impressive. This was better. This was punching the neighborhood bully in the kisser. This was defending your own turf. This was a team reclaiming its birthright.

This was against Brad Marchand, the Kissing Bandit. It was the rebirth of Brayden Point. This was against the front line of Marchand-Patrice Bergeron and David Pastrnak. This was a more physical Bolts team, a more precise Bolts team, a supremely balanced Bolts team. This was a win over a bigger, slower team that couldn't win ... so it whined about the officials instead. (Just asking: Was that low blow by Marchand invisible in Massachusetts?)

This was a series where a lot of Lightning fans thought they would lose -- especially after they fell 6-2 in the opening game. This was the reset button, when a team reinvented itself. This was a team re-establishing hope, inviting belief. This was a team that left the Bruins with nothing to lick but their own wounds.

And now, they have to do it again.

And again.

This is the thing about the Stanley Cup playoffs, a physical, mental grind. It's as many as 28 games, and it takes 16 wins. It takes blood and aches and sweat and will. It's tremendous drama, and more drama, and more and more. This is a Lightning team that has faced Taylor Hall, Marchand and now will play Alex Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby.

Compare it if you will.

In their existence (25 seasons), the Bolts have made the playoffs 10 times.

In their existence (42 seasons), the Bucs have made the playoffs 10 times (although a lot of Bucs' fas are too young to remember any of them).

Now consider this: In those 10 seasons, the Lighting has played 126 games.(70 wins).

In their 10 seasons, the Bucs have played 15 games. (Six wins).

Any questions?

In other words, there is no grind quite like the NHL playoffs. Oh, baseball and basketball play series, too, but neither is the physical challenge that is hockey.

For instance, in 20 seasons, the Rays have reached the playoffs in four. They've won 10 games (and lost 20).

It all adds up to this. Can the Bolts do it again? Can they regather their focus, and continue to play solid hockey, against either the Caps or Penguins? Then can they do it again against the West champions?

Certainly, they have given themselves a chance. Their eight wins have come in just 10 games. There has been no wasted effort.

But every series is a fresh canvas, a new start.

This season, the Bolts are 2-1 against Washington.

They are 2-1 against Pittsburgh.

They are 2-0 against San Jose.

They are 0-2 against Las Vegas.

They are 1-1 against Winnipeg.

They are 1-1 against Nashville.

It won't be easy. If it was, they could call it something else besides the Stanley Cup playoffs.

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