The Tampa Bay Lightning put forward one of the greatest regular season performances in recent memory. The club steamrolled its competition, finishing 21 points ahead of the next closest team in the NHL. By this point, we already know that what followed in the post-season was anything but impressive.
The Bolts were swept away in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets, hardly resembling anything of a powerhouse. As standout goaltender and 2018-19 Vezina Trophy recipient Andrei Vasilevskiy notes, the club was too complacent prior to the playoffs.
“I think at some point, we got too comfortable,” the netminder said, according to NHL.com. “When everything is right, everything is comfortable, it’s easy to play. I think that when we won the Presidents’ Trophy, there were about 10 games left. I think we thought, ‘Oh, we were good in the regular season, we’ll be alright in the playoffs.’
“But it’s a different game in the playoffs. I think we got comfortable and we just weren’t ready in the playoffs.”
After jumping ahead of the Blue Jackets 3-0 in the first game of the series, it seemed like the Lightning were poised to continue their dominance. Surprisingly, that would be the only time all post-season Tampa Bay seemed to be in control.
With minimal changes to the roster occurring over the off-season, there is ample pressure on most in the team’s locker room to live up to expectations. And while individual recognition is nice, Vasilevskiy notes that the real goal is being the last team standing.
“Lots of guys were good, but yeah, the playoffs wasn’t great and I got those personal trophies,” he said. “I mean, it’s good, it’s great, right? Personal trophy and stuff, but nothing compares to the one big goal.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy said Friday the Tampa Bay Lightning “got too comfortable” last season, leading to their stunning postseason exit in a four-game sweep at the hands of the Columbus Blue Jackets.
“The reality is the game is different in the playoffs and we weren’t ready for it,” Vasilevskiy told TSN Senior Hockey Reporter Frank Seravalli.
The Lightning went 62-16-4 in the regular season, posting the best record in the league since the 1995-95 Detroit Red Wings. After averaging 3.9 goals per game in the regular season, the Lightning were outscored 19-8 in their first-round series and quickly ousted by the wild-card Blue Jackets.
Vasilevskiy, who won the Vezina Trophy in June after recording a .925 save percentage in the regular season, saw that number dive to .856 in the playoffs. He signed an eight-year, $76 million contract extension with the team in July.
The Lightning, who sent an apology to their fans after the historic sweep, have reshaped parts of their roster this off-season with the additions of , , and Stanley Cup winner Patrick Maroon.
“At my age, I wanted to go to a team with a winning atmosphere, a team with a chance to win,” Maroon told The Athletic of joining the team. “They had the best record in the league last year, and they’ve been so close to winning. I think I’d be a good fit.”
The team traded forwards and this summer and is currently slated to start training camp without the services of 41-goal scorer , who remains unsigned as a restricted free agent.
The Lightning will begin their preseason against the Florida Panthers on Sept. 17.