What is legacy? Are you establishing your franchise as one of the greatest teams in the salary cap era? Is he constantly promoted as a competitor even in years when your team wasn’t at its best? Is it fending off the inevitable rollercoaster of the NHL’s top teams? Is it when your team is looked at, and the idea is, “It was a stupidly good team; I can’t believe what they did?” or, “That was a great team; I can’t believe they won nothing?”
How do we take a look at some of the great teams of the past – even the recent past? From a strictly championship-winning perspective, the Chicago Blackhawks are the gold standard when it comes to legacy during the salary cap era (as an organization, their inability to do the morally right thing will mar the franchise for too long). Pittsburgh will be the next organization in line, and after that, there will be the Tampa Bay Lightning and the Los Angeles Kings.
Tampa Bay is already part of this grandeur complex; However, wanting to be the climax of that pantheon is baffling, drooling, and close to suffocating. fan base Known Tampa Bay likely won’t win the Stanley Cup for the third time in a row, a feat no team has accomplished since the ’80s New York Islanders, but there’s an expectation that you’ll be in the conversation to make the teams that haven’t won anything and smashed their way into its fit. This is the weight carried by this Tampa Bay postseason; Coupled with a good slate but not great losses are magnified at this time of year.
That’s why Tuesday night’s gratuitous Game 5 loss to the Toronto Maple Leafs choked the minds of Lightning fans. Two goals in the first six minutes – silencing the crowd at the Scotiabank Arena, showing what a champion does to an opponent who has yet to show killer instinct. This should have been the death knell for Toronto. The lightning must have shut them down like they did the last two seasons. Instead, Team Lightning got sloppy, neglected, and forgotten their style in the hockey league.
“It’s a 60-minute game, isn’t it?” Lightning captain Stephen Stamkos said after the match. “In order to win this time of year you have to play a full match. Unfortunately, we didn’t. We played 15 minutes in the first period, and we couldn’t repeat the rest of the match.”
Since this core group of players began Lightning’s rise in 2014, they’ve made five Eastern Conference Finals (they won three), three Stanley Cup Finals (they won two), missed the playoffs once (the 2017 quagmire for one season), and experienced two defeats in the First round (2014 vs. Montreal, 2019 vs. Columbus). Often times, this core finds a way and makes the life of opponents miserable. Killer instinct was missing in the fifth game. A team with experience like this should know how to play for the full 60 minutes given their track record.
“This match was up to us,” Lightning coach John Cooper said. “We just let it slip through our fingers. That’s on us.”
Slipping through their fingers is an oversimplification—it has given Tampa Bay impetus in Toronto with gratuitous execution and decision-making. Jon Tavares, who was a ghost in most of the series, gave the Maple Leafs life in a power game that should never have happened. Man’s merit came from lightning who committed a Secondly Violation of many men. One penalty for too many men is bad enough, but the occurrence of two was inexcusable and set the stage for the Maple Leafs to gain momentum – which they never gave up for the remainder of the game.
Andrei Vasilevskiy did everything he could to clear the foliage, and for a while, he looked like he would lead Tampa Bay to a 3-2 lead. Then the errors of the third period piled up, and the big cat was left on an island. Morgan Rielly, William Nylander and Auston Matthews all scored in the third inning thanks to unnecessary coverage or unnecessary fouls from Lightning.
Tampa Bay tied Ryan McDonagh’s goal ahead of the final game winner for Matthews, but errors kept piling, and they were lost in the worst possible way.
For the well-deserved amount of criticism the Leafs have received for failing to win a playoff round since 2004 (with such a base number of Leafs going 0 for 5), they’re a proud group. clearly Tired of being a postseason joke and wanting to change her narrative. Being “little brother” for so long ultimately leads to punishment, and the Toronto team is too talented to be taken lightly. Giving a hungry group that kind of momentum might be the lift they need to close the chain in Tampa.
This is where Lightning has to step up, once again, even in the series and make it a do-or-die game. This is only the second time since 2020 after the 2020 season that Lightning has faced elimination, and the first time before Game Seven. Tampa Bay deserves every ounce of confidence in their ability to force a final in Toronto this weekend, but they will have to avoid the needless mistakes that gave their opponent a golden opportunity.