Tampa Bay Lightning are looking at a collapse of unprecedented proportions
The Tampa Bay Lightning had a historic season, but are now on the verge of one of the biggest collapses in sports history.
Who could have possibly seen this coming?
The Tampa Bay Lightning, after winning 62 games in the regular season, tying the 1996 Detroit Red Wings for most wins in the regular season, looked like a sure pick to win the Stanley Cup. Now? The Lightning trail the Columbus Blue Jackets 3-0 in their first-round series and are one loss away from perhaps the biggest meltdowns in not just NHL history, but sports history.
The Lightning were the NHL’s top scoring team in the regular season by a large margin and possessed the league’s best power play and penalty kill. That alone made them a 2/1 favorite to win the Stanley Cup. Heading into this first-round series, Tampa had also beaten Columbus three times in the regular season by a combined 17-3 score. Nobody gave Columbus a chance to knock off the mighty Lightning, and even the boldest picks had Tampa winning in six games.
In Game 1, the Lightning took a commanding 3-0 lead in the first period and made it look like they would make short work of an inferior Blue Jackets team. The Lightning would blow that lead, and stunningly lose 4-3 in regulation. The Blue Jackets would later embarrass them in Game 2 with a 5-1 blowout to go home with a 2-0 series lead. Game 3 saw Tampa missing Nikita Kucherov (suspension) and Victor Hedman (lower body injury), and they would lose a 3-1 game in an uninspired fashion.
Since trailing 3-0 in the first period of Game 1, the Blue Jackets have outscored the Lightning 12-2. Tampa’s stars like Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Brayden Point and Tyler Johnson, who combined for 156 goals in the regular season, have zero goals in the series and have combined for just one assist from Tyler Johnson.
If the Blue Jackets complete the sweep in Game 4, it would not be the first time that a top-seeded team would be swept in the first round. The Chicago Blackhawks were the top seed in the West in 2017 and were swept in the first round by the Nashville Predators, who would later go on to the Stanley Cup Final. However, this could be the first time that the Presidents Trophy winners would be swept in the first round of the playoffs.
Since 2000, the team that has won Presidents Trophy has lost in the first round four times. The Detroit Red Wings lost to the Edmonton Oilers in 2006 in six games, the San Jose Sharks lost to the Anaheim Ducks in six games in 2009, followed by the Capitals blowing a 3-1 series lead the next season to the Montreal Canadiens. The last time a presidents trophy winner lost in the first round was the 2012 Vancouver Canucks, when they lost in five games to the Los Angeles Kings.
Also worth nothing, the Columbus Blue Jackets have never won a playoff series in their history. Their three wins in this series is already a franchise record for most playoff wins in franchise history.
No matter how you slice it, this series is shocking. It pretty much proves that the regular season in the NHL is just straight up pointless. Tampa Bay didn’t just win the Presidents Trophy, they were the best team the NHL has seen in the salary cap era, and tied the record for most wins in a single regular season in NHL history. The fact that they might not even win a single playoff game, is just plain stunning.
Collapse on the scale of the Lightning if they get swept has never and likely will never happen again.
A potentially historic Game 4 will take place on Tuesday at Nationwide Arena, Columbus at 7 p.m EST. Can Columbus complete the historic sweep there? Or will the Lightning fight back and prevent the most embarrassing exit in NHL history?
Author: Griffin Youngs