2023 team report cards: Lightning string of deep runs ends

Tampa Bay Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy #88. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images)
Tampa Bay Lightning, Andrei Vasilevskiy #88. (Photo by Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images) /

All good things come to an end, and for the Tampa Bay Lightning, their string of deep postseason runs ended on Saturday night.

The Bolts were able to push Game 6 of their first-round series to overtime, but John Tavares scored to send the Toronto Maple Leafs to the second round for the first time since 2004. As a result, the Bolts failed to reach the Stanley Cup Final for the first time since 2020.

Everyone knew that the Lightning couldn’t keep up their historic run forever, and their first-round exit sort of fits in with the theme in the Eastern Conference this year of veteran teams succumbing to young teams.

How should this Tampa Bay Lightning season be viewed?

The Bolts quietly went about their business in the regular season. Between the level of success that Tampa Bay has enjoyed in the last three postseasons and the record-setting season by the Boston Bruins atop the division, this regular season was largely irrelevant for the Lightning.

Winning two Stanley Cups and three conference titles in three years has earned this franchise a pass in the regular season as far as I’m concerned, as long as they qualify for the playoffs. Surprisingly, I almost want to give them a pass in the postseason as well.

For most teams, a first-round exit would mean a low grade, but that won’t be the case here for the Lightning. The reality of professional sports is that you can’t win every single year. Therefore, this early elimination isn’t a failure, but rather it’s the NHL circle of life.

What goes up must come down, and Tampa Bay will now be tasked with bouncing back next season, which they should be more than capable of doing. I mean, Nikita Kucherov posted 113 points this year, while Brayden Point, Steven Stamkos, and Andrei Vasilevskiy were solid as well.

Overall, the Bolts were 46-30-6 (98 points) and lost in the first round of the playoffs, four games to two.

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While Tampa Bay is undoubtedly disappointed, it’s impossible to consider this season a failure. The Lightning had another good season and once again gave themselves a chance to contend, but their playoff success couldn’t last forever.

The Grade: B