Photo via CNN
There is always that one team that has the notoriety of being that team.
Whether in radio booths, sports bars, restaurants, everyday jobs or even in the sports stadiums themselves, experts and fans always pivot back to that team in regard to the one true thing that matters in all of sports: postseason success.
Better yet, the dearth of postseason success for that team. The constant let-downs. The abundant “I told you so’s.” The cliché “they choked once more.” The mystical “they are cursed” phrase of old. And, of course, the blunt “they just don’t have it in them.”
Teams who fit the depressing description include the Oklahoma Sooners in college football, the Minnesota Twins in MLB, the Cincinnati Bengals in the NFL or the Philadelphia 76ers in the NBA. Storied programs with a track record of success, but not playoff success.
Streaks, as the common saying goes, are meant to be broken, though. For the Tampa Bay Lightning, well, streak snapped, and success scored.
Although the NHL Draft is the most recent news coming out NHL circles, the Lightning are still basking in their Stanley Cup Final victory over the Dallas Stars on Sept. 28.
For Tampa Bay, it was all about overcoming adversity. After all, they had to navigate through nine playoff games that went to overtime or the shootout. Of those nine, three went to second overtime. Then, there was the infamous five-overtime game in Game 1 of the First Round against the Columbus Blue Jackets. During the playoff campaign, they not only had to keep their minds sane as they navigate through life in “the bubble,” but also had to play in the majority of their games without their captain in forward Steven Stamkos, who led the team in power-play goals during the regular season (10).
Tampa Bay, however, had to overcome more than a playoff tournament in a COVID-19 social distancing bubble.
They had to get rid of their postseason woes.
Prior to their 2019-20 Stanley Cup victory, Tampa Bay was postseason-stricken, as the team failed to hoist the Cup since their 2003-4 Finals win over the Calgary Flames. Within the 14-season span between the two Stanley Cup seasons, the Lightning lost in the Conference Finals three times, the Conference Quarterfinals twice, the First Round twice and the Stanley Cup Final once. The epitome of their playoff woes infamously came during the 2018-19 Stanley Cup Playoffs, as the Lightning (who won the President’s Trophy that season) were promptly swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets.
The Lightning could have become more and more of being the proverbial punching bag of sports. The Sooners, Twins, Bengals and 76ers had room at the table.
Instead, Tampa Bay took a play from the 2018-19 Virginia Cavaliers, 2019 Washington Nationals and 2019-20 Kansas City Chiefs. After the trio of teams had their postseason pains and expected criticism, they finally put the pieces together to win the most recent renditions of March Madness, the World Series and the Super Bowl, respectively.
For a decade-plus, the Lightning was the team many scoffed at for not cashing in. For a decade-plus, the dearth of playoff success was not there.
The dearth, however, is no more. The notion is finally broken. They had it in them all along.
Now, they are that team.