NHL Playoff Game Night: 4-12-19 Blue Jackets at Lightning

It's time to tell some hard truths.

CBJ-5
TB-1

Columbus Leads the Series 2-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 27 shots for the loss. He set the Lightning on the road to ruin tonight with a leaky semi-soft goal in the First Period that set the tone of doubt and loss of composure for the entire team. He, like all his teammates, has a lot to answer for at this hour.

First Period
5:15 CBJ Atkinson (1), (Duchene)
11:44 CBJ Werenski (1), (Duchene)(PP)

Second Period
1:28 CBJ Duchene (1), (Panarin, Werenski)(PP)

Third Period
5:00 TB Sergachev (1), (Miller, Cernak)
9:06 CBJ Nash (1), (Jenner)
12:15 CBJ Panarin (1), (Duchene, Bjorkstrand)

But wait, there's more! Because Nikita Kucherov decided to get himself kicked out of the game late in the Third Period boarding a Blue Jackets player on his knees along the wall, he may be facing a suspension from the league office.

When you tie a league record for number of wins and you clinch the best record almost two months before the finish line and your first round playoff opponent is a team you nuked by some pretty big scores en route to sweeping the regular season series you come into a playoff scenario with some arrogance. No one wants to admit it. Everyone pays lip service about respecting the opponent and respecting that the intensity level rises in the playoffs, etc. etc. They give the requisite talking points about John Tortorella being a good coach and always having his players ready to play hard. But, in truth, there's arrogance. You think talent alone is going to blow the adversary off the rink and, when adversity does hit, it's no matter. One of these other very talented teammates will just step up and do something and the team will win the game, anyway. Happened all regular season, right?

From the Second Period of Game One on, the Lightning have cheated the game, cheated the fans, and cheated themselves. They have oscillated between not putting the requisite level of intensity and effort that's needed at this time of year to not having the requisite level of attention to detail and focus. And when those things have snowballed into a rising calamity, rather than recommitting to playing the game the right way this Lightning team has shrunk from the moment. They've caved under pressure. They've reacted like a mentally soft team that has tasted playoff disappointment before and is simultaneously scared of failure but at the same time not scared enough to put aside their arrogance and start making the sacrifices necessary in order to steer clear of another disappointment.

It's time for this team to tell the damned truth. Not to me. Not to the fans. Not even to the coaches. It's time for the guys in that room to shut off the music, bar the doors to the inner sanctum of the locker room, pick up their heads and look each other dead in the eyes and be honest. Be honest about what's happened not just in the first two games of this series but over the past half decade as this team has annually fallen short of its promise. Be honest about what needs to happen in order to fix what's broken. And then commit to each other that what's happened is never going to happen again.

It won't start with empty conceits about, "Well, Washington was on the ropes last year to Columbus and they won four straight against the Blue Jackets and went on to win the Cup." This is no longer about winning a Stanley Cup at this moment, or winning a series, or even winning Game Three. Before any of those other things happen, there needs to be an understanding from this Lightning team that they have to do something they haven't done in the last 100 minutes of hockey: win a period. Win. A. Period. And that means pouring into a handful of shifts over the course of 20 minutes the needed levels of intensity, focus, attention to detail, grit, heart, and passion. And if you can win one stinking period, well hell, maybe you have a blueprint to win at all of those other milestones, too.

People think the way you climb a mountain is by getting to the summit. In truth, you climb a mountain one step at a time. And if it's a mountain like Mount Everest that comes fraught with danger and peril, each step has to have the same DNA to avoid tragedy. Each step needs to be approached with the same intensity, focus, attention to detail, grit, heart and passion because if you're arrogant and you cheat the process and try to skip steps you might just die. The Lightning are at the base of their own Everest. Now it's time to put aside everything else, including stopping worrying about the summit, and focus on the next step. And then the one after that. And then the one after that. Be humble about the graveness and the awesomeness of the task at hand but strong enough to know you can do it if you take it one step at a time. Because if they don't, then most assuredly their season will die.

Thus ends tonight's philosophy seminar.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.