The Tampa Bay Lightning continue their quest for a three-peat with a sweep of the Florida Panthers. What was expected to be a tight series, ended up being a show of strength for the Lightning. The Panthers seemingly had no answer for Tampa and are now left with a lot of questions this offseason. How did such a talented team fail to win even one game against a rival? Are the Lightning destined for a third straight conference title? Time to evaluate exactly what happened in the Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning series.
Florida Panthers vs Tampa Bay Lightning Series Recap
Florida’s Big Guns Failed To Produce
A big reason for Florida’s elimination was the lacklustre offence. The Panthers scored a total of three goals in this series, averaging 0.75 goals per game. Players like Aaron Ekblad, Claude Giroux, and Carter Verhaeghe couldn’t register a point, putting the Panthers at a major disadvantage.
Florida’s blue line also fell flat, scoring a total of four points in the series. With all the talent that’s been accrued over the past few years, this is a major disappointment. They were never able to settle into their game and play their style. Florida found themselves always chasing the puck rather than applying pressure. This is the main reason the Panthers were swept.
The bad special teams play hurt them further. The Panthers went 0/3 in Game 4, which is fatal in a tight game. A power play going 1/31 in the postseason is unacceptable. A team with offensive talent like Florida should produce more on the power play. That will be a top priority for Florida to fix this offseason. The issue might be behind the bench, which Florida may need to evaluate.
Andrei Vasilevskiy is Cementing His Legacy
The Lightning got everything they could’ve asked for from their netminder. Andrei Vasilevskiy put up another elimination shutout, saving all 36 shots thrown his way. The Panthers heavily outshot Tampa, making Vasilevskiy earn this win. His performance in this series is building a legacy. He is cementing his reputation as the best goalie in the NHL. It was one of those games that he was going to win no matter what. If Vasilevskiy continues this pace, there won’t be many who can stop the Bolts.
It also helps that the team around Vasilevskiy has returned to championship form. After some rocky play in their first-round series, Tampa looks like the best team in the league again. Brandon Hagel is pulling his weight, even though the numbers aren’t spectacular. He’s been aggressive with the puck and making efficient passes on special teams. Ondrej Palat has posted eight points in this postseason, as well as three points in the last three games. The Lightning are leaning on their depth, and it’s paying dividends.
What’s the Future of the Panthers?
After another disappointing season, Florida is asking the same question: What now? The Panthers went all in on this group. They loaded up at the deadline and put together a fantasy-style team. Now the Panthers will have to reassess their identity. The Panthers have a lot of pending free agents this offseason. Unfortunately, they don’t have the space to bring them all back. Florida will need their farm system to provide young depth. Any chance for sustained success will depend on the prospects Florida produces. They have a lot of questions to answer. It’s just a matter of what they want their identity to be.
The Panthers may have finally won a series, but they fell short of the goal. The goal is always to win a Stanley Cup. For a team that won the President’s Trophy and was as fully fleshed out as one could want, that should be their only goal. No President’s Trophy banner or series win will replace that. Now, it’s just waiting for next year, again.
For Tampa, they get some rest as they wait for the other Eastern Conference series to be over. That one looks like it could go a long way too as it is currently tied 2-2.