The Tampa Bay Lightning were the most dominate team in the 2018-2019 NHL regular season with a record tying 62 wins they were the talk of the league. They won the Presidents Trophy for the most points and were the odds on favorites to win this year’s Stanley Cup, but it seems that the Columbus Blue Jackets never got that memo.
Tonight in capital city of the state of Ohio the Lightning are down 3-0 and are on the verge of breaking a record they really do not want to own. No Presidents’ Trophy winner has ever been swept in the opening round of the playoffs.
Yet Tampa Bay finds itself three periods away from an unprecedented postseason exit heading into Game 4 with a 7:05 p.m. ET puck drop (Sun Sports, and CNBC).
“It’s a tough position that we’re in right now,” Lightning captain Steven Stamkos said. “But we have to believe that with the group we have — whoever is in the lineup or not — that we can win a game and get back to Tampa.”
The X-Factor might just be the play of Columbus goal tender Sergei Bobrovsky who has the Blue Jackets on the brink of sweeping a playoff series that hardly anyone thought they could win.
Truth be told the Lightning have picked a bad time to be playing their worst hockey of the season. Over the past 10 games Tampa Bay has been 4-6-0, averaging 4.2 goals, 6.3 assists, 4.2 penalties and 11.2 penalty minutes while giving up 3.2 goals per game with a .902 save percentage.
On the flip side Columbus headed into the playoffs red hot and they have stayed that way. The Blue Jackets last 10 games tells the story 9-1-0, averaging 3.7 goals, 5.3 assists, 1.4 penalties and 3.1 penalty minutes while giving up 2.1 goals per game with a .923 save percentage.
But anyone who knows Stanley Cup Playoff hockey knows that the teams that win and advance all have the hot goal tender.
“You don’t get to this time of year without a really good goalie to get in, and you don’t win playoff games without your goalie, so I thought he has really turned his game up,” Columbus coach John Tortorella said. “Bob doesn’t say anything. He just goes about his business. The way he prepares is second to none. We’re going to need him, because there’s going to be another push in Game 4.”
Tampa Bay fans should hold out some hope there have come back from 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series on just four previous occasions. The last time was in 2014, when the Los Angeles Kings dug out of the hole in the opening series against San Jose and eventually won the Stanley Cup.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper took some solace in his team finally showing signs of getting its swagger back. “As far as I know, we’re playing Tuesday, so were still alive,” he said.
So, for Tampa Bay it is one game at a time and they need four straight wins to advance.