J-Dub doesn’t know what being a sports fan in Tampa means, but SportsChump has filled and entire corner of the interwebz with that angst. Imagine what your sporting fandom must be like with a steady diet of the Rays, the Buccaneers, and a terrible NBA franchise which isn’t even in your own city. That’s why even a stone-hearted cynic like J-Dub can understand the entire city of Tampa’s excitement of the Lighting and their current march through the National Hockey League like that of the Red Army through Prague in 1968.
You have to understand that J-Dub is an alum of the University of North Dakota, who may as well be the “Alabama” of college hockey with it’s eight national championships and the fact the diplomas are actually engraved on pucks. Meanwhile, SportsChump matriculated from the University of Florida, where “hockey” is spelled “football.” In fact, J-Dub takes some credit for the Chump’s conversion to being a “Puckhead.” Even further back in the archives, SportsChump himself admits this.
What this all boils down to is the following was borne of a discussion in which SportsChump was offering giant slices of his optimism for this team, and J-Dub was full into his best Lee Corso “Not so fast, my friend” mode.
SportsChump: The Tampa Bay Lightning Will Win The Stanley Cup
A month or so ago when Dubsy first asked me to collaborate on a “Lightning will win the Stanley Cup” post, I balked. Although the NHL is my fourth of fifth sports language at best, I know enough about its superstitious nature not to make bold claims only to have the jinx come back and bite me in the ass. After all, the Lightning, while insanely talented, have been bridesmaids the last several years only to have been bitten in the ass themselves, first by Chicago, then to the Penguins and most recently to the Caps. All three of those teams went on to win the Stanley Cup. Why add insult to injury?
I even asked some of my more hockey-loving friends about whether I should even participate in such a post. Their reactions were similar to mine.
But then something changed. The Lightning continued their torrid pace into the second season when many thought they would fold. Game after game, they rose to the occasion against the better teams in the league. Even when taken to overtime by lesser teams – and let’s be honest, this season they’re all lesser – the Bolts would almost always pull out wins.
As of this writing, they remain on a pace to flirt with history.
So, much like the team themselves, I threw caution into the wind and said fuck it, let’s do this. This Lightning team knows it is Cup or bust. The core of this team has been together since their Cup run four years ago. They know that while blowing through the regular season looks good on paper, they have largely fallen short. Without a Stanley Cup, these Bolts will go down as one of the most underachieving teams in modern sports history. That is a label they do not want and, that I honestly believe, they are determined not to wear.
Many of the players on this team took less than market value to stay in Tampa, however, with impending cap hits to come, they also know it may be now or never. So why not now? Why not us?
Let’s look at a few facts. As of this writing, the Bolts are an overwhelming 49-11. The season is almost over and the Bolts have as many losses as their pigskin brothers from another mother, who finished the season 5-11. Fortunately, the comparisons between those two Tampa teams end there as the Lightning prove night in and night out that they are an organization the Buccaneers can only aspire to be, the two teams residing on polar opposite spectrums of their respective sports leagues.
Monday night, the Bolts tallied their 100th point which is, again, as of Tuesday’s standings, 15 points better than the second-best team in the league. As Dubs will readily admit, these are numbers that leave even the most seasoned NHL fan in awe. They’ve tallied three different seven-game winning streaks this season. They have a +82-goal differential which is 40 points better than the league’s next best team! While there are some solid hockey teams in the NHL this season, this year looks like a bunch of parity and the Bolts high atop the mountain.
There are no weak links. Every single player on this roster has a positive +/-. They are strong whichever shift they put on the ice. Oh… and then there’s the goaltending. When the 6’4” Andrei Vasilevskiy went down with an injury earlier this season, Louis Domingue stepped in mightily. His record as a back-up is 19-4.
The Bolts are putting up video game-like numbers but once again, they know that’s all fine and dandy until the playoffs come around. That’s when the world, and most definitely Tampa Bay, is waiting to see what this team can do. Can… they… finish?
J-Dub is right. This town is thirsty for a champion. But rest assured when I tell you, this town is 100% behind this team. As you all know, I tend bar for a living. On hockey nights, if I don’t have every screen tuned to the Bolts thirty minutes before puck drop, I get ridiculed for my dedictation. These are knowledgeable hockey fans, transplants and natives both, that are ready for a parade. I’m proud to say I’m one of ‘em.
J-Dub: The Tampa Bay Lightning Won’t Win The Stanley Cup
The Curse of the President’s Trophy
The President’s Cup is given every season to the team which finishes the regular season with the best record based on total points. NHL folklore dictates the team winning the President’s Trophy never wins the Stanley Cup. While one should never say never, there is something to this. The last team to take down both the President’s Trophy and Lord Stanley’s Cup was the 2012-13 Chicago Blackhawks, and that was a season shortened to 48 games due to a labor stoppage.
The fact is that in the 32 years since the National Hockey League started awarding the President’s Trophy, a team has captured it and the Stanley Cup only four times.
- Detroit Red Wings, 2008
- Dallas Stars, 1999
- Calgary Flames, 1989
- Edmonton Oilers 1987
Let’s face it. This Lighting team is pretty fucking good; they look to be on cruise control to bagging the President’s Trophy. Unfortunately, that puts the odds on them winning the Stanley Cup at 9-1 against.
Frankly, those are better odds than a lot of things I’ve seen Chump drop his tip money on.
Their Goalie’s Nickname is “Gumby”
Perhaps I’m biased because I’m a wee bit pissed off that to write this piece, I had to learn how to spell “Andrei Vasilevskiy.” This is March, which means I usually have my hands full having to spell “Krzyzewski” on a regular basis. But since I have to be here, I might as well mention that the team who wins the Stanley Cup is more often than not the one whose goalie gets ‘ghost pepper” hot come April.
To be fair, Vasilevskiy has been the Lightning’s workhorse between the pipes, but are you pushing all your chips to the middle of the table for a guy nicknamed for a green chunk of clay?
Besides, if Vasilevskiy is “Gumby,” does that make Steven Stamkos “Pokey?” Either way, those are nicknames which could prove problematic in a locker room full of strapped-up, overly virile hockey players.
At the all-star break, the NHL Network had a hokey mid-season awards show, one in which the individual categories were introduced by various levels of celebrities. In what should be a surprise to absolutely nobody, the Tampa Bay Lightning won the award for Team of the First Half. The problem is the lead-in for this award was done by none other that Pat “Wheel of Fortune” Sajak.
Say what you will, but there has to be some sort of curse tied to that. I just can’t help but think the Lighting could end up as that guy who knows the puzzle, but keeps spinning because he wants to run up his cash total…until he hits “Bankrupt.” Here’s where I can see this happening.
More often than not, by the time we get to the play-offs, the President’s Cup winner has the top seed locked up and they are on cruise control, whereas the second wild card winner has been playing their collective ass off just trying to get in. Invariably, the wild card team gets a break and/or takes advantage of the “rust” factor and steal one of the first two games on the road. Then, they ride that momentum to a Game 3 win at home, and all of a sudden the best team in the league finds itself in a “must-win” situation in Game 4…unless they want to be forced to win three straight elimination games.
In this case, there are five teams orbiting around those two wild card sports which can give anybody headaches. Columbus, Carolina, Pittsburgh, Montreal, and Buffalo all can’t be taken lightly in a seven-game series, and even beyond the first round, the East isn’t the cake-walk it once was. At some point, the Lightning need to get past likely either Boston or Toronto, then likely either the Islanders or the Capitals.
Either way, if the Lighting lose anytime before the Finals, the skies over Tampa will be filled with cries of “The Sajak Curse” or some other nonsense.
This fan base has been anxious. We know what’s coming. This team knows what’s coming. The entire organization is ready. When critics thought this team was all offense, claiming it would fold in the second half, all this team did was pick up steam. They’ve proved they can play with anyone, in any rink, and beat the tar out of them. They are fast, skilled, tough, well-coached and best of all, determined. They are far and away the best team in hockey no matter how you slice it.
This team, and this town, is ready.
While paying the utmost respect to their forefathers in blue, these Tampa Bay Lightning have to be tired of staring up at Vinny Lecavalier’s and Marty St Louis’ jerseys in the rafters. They have to be tired of hearing Dave Andreychuk talking about 2004. Phil Esposito built this franchise. Steve Yzerman built this team. The 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning want what they all have. Their names engraved.
Their focus has carried them through the regular season. That desire will carry them through the post season.
This team, this town, wants a parade. We will get one. Go… Fucking… Bolts!!!