Before we start this wrap-up, let me say that making the Easter Conference Finals in back to back years is something that should always be celebrated. To be one of the four teams left at the end of the season is what everyone hopes for, because it means that there is still a chance at the cup. While the Lightning lost in the conference finals, they still held more than their own against the favored Penguins. That being said, this season was a weirdly frustrating one by the Lightning.
First let’s look back on the 2014-15 Lightning, who were as consistent as a team could possibly be. Their longest losing streak was two games until the Stanley Cup Final. They were number one in goals scored and only need their goaltenders to be good, not perfect, to win on a nightly basis. They were a team that had an occasional off night, but were almost always ready to play the next game.
This season, however, felt like the opposite. The Lightning were either feast or famine in the scoring and winning departments. They rode a franchise record win streak to make the playoffs, but they also had long losing streaks to counteract these victories. They scored less and asked their goaltending to be perfect every night to win. And while Ben Bishop normally responded in full it still created some interesting stat lines. Like how near the start of the season Ben Bishop had a five game losing streak despite only giving up eight goals total in those five games. Bishop played great but the team couldn’t support him.
This inconsistency, largely cause by lazy play for stretches of games, is what cost the Lightning a chance at returning to the Stanley Cup Finals. There were glimpses of greatness from the Lightning throughout the season, including the aforementioned win streaks, but there were far more instances of blown games and giving away points. The Lightning really benefited from a weak Atlantic division this season in order to maintain the number 2 seed despite gaining 10 points less than a year ago.
Wrap-Up The Year and Ready For The Draft
This off season, Steve Yzerman has some real work to do. He needs to do more than figure out the whole Stamkos situation. He needs to make some tough decisions about who to trade and who to keep. This might be the off season to cash-out on a few big names for the Lightning who had another strong playoffs but weak regular season. At the least, there needs to be a major overhaul on the powerplay, as the Lightning’s play on the man advantage was, for lack of a better word, gutting this season. If that improves, even to the realm of mediocrity, expect the Lightning to do more than maintain their record in the 2016- 17 season.