Lightning End Season With Their Heads Held High Despite First Round Playoff Exit

Now that the season has ended for the Tampa Bay Lightning, we can look back with a clear head and reflect on the disappointing end of the season.

It stings when the team has been to three straight Stanley Cup Finals, and you lose in the first round.

This is the first time the Lightning have lost in the first round since winning the President’s Trophy in 2019 and being ousted in four straight by the Columbus Blue Jackets.

This Era Of Lightning Hockey Best In The NHL In The Salary Cap Era

It has been quite the ride since Jon Cooper took over as head of the Lightning ten years ago.

The Lightning have played in four Stanley Cup Finals. They have won two Stanley Cups back to back in 2020 and 2021. They have won 18 playoff series and have been in nine of the ten years they have been in the playoffs under Jon Cooper.

There is no fan base of any NHL team that would not like to have just a little bit of the Bolts’ success over the last ten years.

As Jon Cooper addressed the media after the series loss to Toronto, he said that this is the first time since 2019 they have lost a playoff series in the Eastern Conference.

No other team in the salary cap era has had a streak like the Lightning.

This year the defending Stanley Cup champions were stunned by the Seattle Kraken in their building, losing to the upstart Kraken four games to three.

The Presidents Trophy winners, the Boston Bruins, were taken out by the Florida Panthers four games to three. Boston had a three games to one lead in that series and let it slip away.

The Bruins will go down as having the best season ever in NHL history and then choking in the playoffs.

This shows how difficult it is to make a deep playoff run, and in the case of Colorado, how hard it is to get back to the Stanley Cup Finals.

It shows us Lightning fans how much appreciation we should have for this team. We can look back on this era as the last great dynasty in the salary cap era.

There will be many changes in the months ahead for this Lightning team.

There Will Be Some Changes This Off-Season

Alex Killorn, Ian Cole, Brain Elliott, and Corey Perry are all unrestricted free agents. In addition, Steven Stamkos, Tanner Jeannot, Pat Maroon, and Mikey Eyssimont have contracts expiring at the end of the 2023-24 season.

This was also a season of milestones for a couple of Lightning players. Nikita Kucherov finished with 113 points, good for third in the league, tied with David Pastrnak.

Kucherov had 83 assists this past season and joined Joe Thornton as one of only two players this century with two seasons of 80 assists or more.

Steven Stamkos achieved career milestones as well. He scored his 500th career goal, played in his 1,000th career game, and collected his 1,000th assist.

Stamkos already leads the Bolts in many offensive categories, including 515 goals, 1,056 points, 195 power-play goals, 13 overtime goals, and 79 game-winning goals.

The Window To Win Another Stanley Cup Is Still Open

This Lightning team is still Stanley Cup Contenders. The team’s core remains intact. You are in good shape with Braydon Point, Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Andrei Vasilevskiy, and Victor Hedman as your core.

The window for another Stanly Cup or two is still open but is closing slowly.

There is no doubt that the Lightning will look different next season. However, GM Julien BriseBois said that the window is still open to win another Stanley Cup, and that mindset is how he will construct the roster this offseason.

Jon Cooper said it best at his season-ending press conference. “As long as Jeff Vinik is the owner and Julien BriseBois is the GM, I’d be excited about this organization every single year.”

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