Bolts ousted from NHL playoffs

by Gary Shelton on April 30, 2024

in general

Hedman scored for the Bolts./TIM WIRT

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

It ended. The season. The playoffs. Maybe the era.

The Tampa Bay Lightning, it seems, has some answers to find. Perhaps, they have some roster shuffling to do.

The Bolts bowed out of the NHL playoffs Monday night, losing a 6-1 game to Florida. After playing in three straight Stanley Cup finals, it was the team’s second consecutive first-round ouster.

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The Bolts trailed only 2-1 going into the third period, but gave up two goals. The Florida Panthers then scored two empty netters to make the score one-sided.

Along the way, the Bolts had two goals disallowed for goaltender interference, both of which were disputed by Lighting coach Jon Cooper.

“It was clearly a turning point in the game,” Cooper said. “If anyone is going to talk about this game, they’re going to talk about the goals that were taken away. There are mandates and the words were ‘to pull a goal off the game boards, it has to be unbelievably egregious.' I couldn’t find anything remotely egregious (about the first one).

“Now we have to rebound from that. The next one is a net-front battle. I will give the goalie credit. He quit on the play. He completely quit, didn’t see it and flailed at it. Maybe there was incidental content at most. Now we have to challenge it. They saw the reaction of the goaltender. He duped them. Are net-front battles not allowed anymore? It’s like prison rules. But for the goalies, we might as well put skirts on them.

“It’s a war down there. They have to battle through stuff, too. We’re letting goalies off the hook. They've got way more pads than anyone else out there.”

Cooper pointed out was a five-game series, not a seven-game one. For the most part, the Panthers were more lethal, more dangerous.

So where do the Bolts go from here? They are still capable of great things — three 40-goal scorers, the NHL points lead, a 30-win goalie. But they seem top heavy, and too many times the bottom lines seem along for the ride.

Of course, most of the conversation has been about Steven Stamkos and the fact he doesn’t have a contract.

“I hope there’s not much conversation about it,” Cooper said. “He belongs here. We know it. He knows it. This is two seconds after a game. I don’t know what’s going to happen. But he feels like a Bolt for life.

And so the Lightning skate away in disappointment again. They need to be quicker. They need to be better. They need to last longer.

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