The defending Stanley Cup Champions will be defending their title next month when the NHL playoffs commence.
The Lightning punched their playoff ticket in Chicago last night with a 7-4 victory over the Blackhawks.
The Lightning has made the playoffs in seven of the last eight years and has more playoff wins than any other team since the 2014 season.
Jon Copper talked about another playoff berth and the difficulty of winning in the NHL.
“There’s high expectation in this organization to make the playoffs every single year, and you want it to become the norm. These guys have done that, and so I couldn’t be more proud of them. To put yourself in a situation to compete for a Stanley Cup, you have to make the playoffs, and the guys have done that. Who knows where it’s going to go from here, but it always feels good when you step over that hurdle. I’m happy for the guys.”
It was not as easy as the score would indicate.
The Lightning started quickly with goals by Erik Cernak and Yanni Gourde in the first five minutes to open a 2-0 lead.
Chicago would rebound quickly and tie the game 2-2 before an Alex Barre-Boulet goal would put the Lightning ahead 3-2, and the Lightning would never trail the rest of the way.
Andrei Vasilevskiy notched his league-leading 29th win of the season and made some great saves down the stretch to preserve the win.
One disturbing trend in this game was the number of penalties the Lightning took. The Blackhawks had seven power plays, and the Lightning penalty kill was able to kill off six of those chances.
Taking unnecessary penalties has haunted the Lightning all season and is just a sign of not being focused and playing carelessly.
After every game, Coach Cooper and many players talk about how they can’t be taking stupid penalties, yet it continues to occur night in and night out.
This is an issue that the Bolts must fix before the playoffs. No team can be successful and win a seven-game series when their penalty killers are on the ice 25 percent of the game.
The Penalties put a damper on what otherwise was a pretty solid game for the Lightning.
They created good scoring chances in the Chicago zone, broke down Chicago’s defense, and had a balanced scoring attack as six players scored.
Braydon Point talked with the media about how important it is for the Bolts to have a balanced scoring attack instead of relying on just two to three players for most of the goals.
“It’s huge. That’s what you need in the playoffs. You can’t just rely on a certain group of guys, whoever is in the playoffs. You need guys contributing in all sorts of ways but definitely goals from all guys. Great to see that. I think this year that’s kind of what it’s been, it’s been contributions from everybody.”
The Lightning is currently in third place in the division, three points behind first-place Carolina and one point behind second-place Florida.
The Lightning has seven games left in the regular season and will host the Dallas Stars on Thursday Night.
If the season ended today, The Lightning would face the Florida Panthers in the first round of the playoffs, with the Panthers having home-ice advantage.