Lightning don’t look ready for the post-season

by Gary Shelton on April 5, 2022

in general

Kucherov scored his 13th goal./JEFFREY S. KING

Tuesday, 4 a.m.

If it wouldn't be too much trouble, could the NHL kindly delay the start of the playoffs for a while.

The Tampa Bay Lightning is going to need more time to get ready.

The Lightning, once again, are slumping. In their last 14 games, they've had two three-game losing streaks and the current two-game slide. The latest of those came in a embarrassing fashion, a 6-2 drubbing by Toronto and Auston Matthews.

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Matthews had a hat trick -- his fourth of the season -- and tied the Toronto season scoring record with his 52nd, 53rd and 54th goal. But even without Matthews, the Leafs would have won. The Maple Leafs passed the Lightning to take over second place in the NHL's Atlantic Division.

Look around. Toronto (eight wins in its last 10) looks ready for the playoffs. So does Florida (also eight wins). And Boston (eight wins). Minnesota (nine wins) and Colorado (eight) look ready.

The Lightning? Not so much.

Once again, the Bolts had trouble keeping the puck out of their net. They've given up 11 goals in their last two games, and they hardly look like a threat to win their third straight championship.

"We're miles away from that right now," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said of the playoffs.

Of course, if they do make it, Matthews might we waiting. Judging from Monday night, he's probably looking forward to it.

‘We didn't manage our game tonight," Cooper said. "We were way, way too easy to play against. It was like a light practice for them. It's too bad. You want to see where you're at. I thought we had kind of turned the corner a little bit, but clearly we haven't.

"You can't give a guy like him time and space the way we did. Leave a 50-plus goal-scorer all alone in front of the net. He walks down Broadway and nobody's even touching him. That's on us. It takes someone to finish, and he's a world-class finisher, but at least mae him work for it."

The Bolts' goals were scored by Nikita Kucherov and Jan Rutta. Steven Stamkos had two assists, bringing his point streak to seven consecutive games. Over that time, he has 12 points.

The Bolts play again on Wednesday night, traveling to Washington to play the Capitals in a 7:30 p.m. game.

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