Tampa Bay Lightning Season Finale - Guide to Greater Tampa Bay
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Tampa Bay Lightning Season Finale

Tampa Bay Lightning Season Finale

Round One Loss

For the first time in four years, the Tampa Bay Lightning will not be representing the Eastern Conference in the Stanley Cup Finals. The Bolts were eliminated on home ice, falling to the Toronto Maple Leafs (4–2) in an electrifying, hard-fought series.

Toronto’s star-studded lineup –– thanks to a roster reload at the trade deadline –– was too much for Tampa Bay to handle. The Leafs frequently beat the Bolts to loose pucks and out-performed Tampa Bay late in games –– three of the Leafs’ four wins were in overtime. The Leafs finally ended a 19-year playoff-series losing streak.

Bolts “Not Used to This Feeling”

After the season-ending loss, Lightning head coach, Jon Cooper, said he was happy with what his team left out on the ice, but the puck did not bounce their way when it mattered.

“Statistics say they were the better team than us, but do I sit here and think we could have really done anything different to change the tide? No,” said Cooper after the Game Six overtime loss.

“We played well enough to win this series, I think anyone who watched this series would agree with that. But you can’t lose three overtime games at home. If you’re not going to win a home game, then it’s really tough to win a series.”

Bolts Captain, Steven Stamkos, agreed with his coach that the Lightning played a tight series.

“I thought it was just a series of just missed opportunities for our group. Three overtime losses at home in games where we thought we were the better team. It’s funny how that works,” said Stamkos.

“I thought we played better this year in this series than we did last year. That’s just a really good hockey team over there.”

“This Lightning team hasn’t lost a playoff series in the Eastern Conference since 2019. It’s 2023,” said Cooper.  “We’re not used to this feeling.”

Champa Bay will have to wait another year for another shot at Lord Stanley, but there is a mountain of milestones for the Lightning faithful to reflect on despite the early exit.

Stamkos Paving Milestone Path to Hall of Fame

Steven Stamkos has already earned plenty of accolades in his distinguished career. The captain has been named the NHL All-Star team six times, has won the Maurice “Rocket” Richard Trophy twice and is a three-time finalist for the Hart Memorial Trophy, awarded to the NHL’s most valuable player.

In 2023 alone, Stammer scored his 500th goal, tallied his 500th assist, as well as skating in his 1,000th NHL game.

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“Pretty big honor,” said Stamkos after his 1,000th career game. “It’s been an amazing journey. Ups and downs on the way certainly, but more ups than downs and some perseverance. It’s pretty cool to say that you’ve done that with one NHL team and have won a couple championships and have seen the dog days and the great days.”

Career Marks All Around

Brayden Point was electric for the Bolts this season, eclipsing the 50-goal mark for the first time in his career. He became the third player in Lightning franchise history to do it, joining teammate Steven Stamkos (60 goals in 2011–12, 51 in 2009–10) and Lightning Hall of Famer, Vinny Lecavalier (52 goals in 2006–07).

Alex Killorn also had a banner year, setting career highs in goals (27) and assists (37) and played in his 800th career game in his 11th NHL season.

Victor Hedman added to his Hall-of-Fame resume, as well, recording his 500th career assist. Hedman (974 career games) is set to eclipse the 1,000-game mark in 2024.

Entering the 2023 season, Nikita Kucherov’s career trajectory was already pointed to the Hockey Hall of Fame. Kucherov added his third season of 100+ points and tallied a career-high 50 power play points.

By Jordan Ogren.

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