The Tampa Bay Lightning‘s scorching hot 6-1 start was supposed to be a preview of great things to come. But instead it created some unrealistic expectations, both from fans and the media.
While fun to watch, no one should have thought the Lightning could keep up January’s pace for an entire season. Not because this team lacks offensive talent (their many comebacks in 2013 proved that isn’t a problem), but the fact their defense and goaltending wasn’t up to par.
Anders Lindback regularly allowed three, sometimes even four, goals during the team’s early stretch. That couldn’t have been a good sign, but not many cared since it more often than not came with a win.
Much of that great beginning can be attributed to Tampa Bay’s early season schedule. From Jan. 19 to Feb. 2, they faced six teams who were traveling and, at times, playing on back-to-back nights. Obviously, things evened out, but not before leaving an impression this team could do little wrong.
Another factor was luck combined with an overall great start. Captain Vincent Lecavalier and Steven Stamkos had five goals, many on the power play, during the team’s surging beginning. As if that wasn’t enough, Martin St. Louis, Eric Brewer, Victor Hedman and rookie Cory Conacher produced points on a consistent basis.
They dropped off though. Maybe it was injuries mounting, or even the schedule getting tougher, but bottom line is that the Lightning couldn’t win when it mattered most.
Either way, the Lightning will have to react much better in 2014. Fans should also not expect a Stanley Cup only two weeks in. Hockey’s a crazy game, and when a team feels pressure to perform things can go downhill quickly.
With lots of young talent coming up, the Lightning must be able to handle any high expectations. That, combined with fans tempering theirs, could help Tampa Bay win games and possibly even result in a lengthy postseason run. Hey, anything’s possible.