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The Tampa Bay Lightning have now won the first two games of their playoff series with the New Jersey Devils and are set to hit the ice again tonight in a chance to clinch the series and move on to the quarterfinal of the Stanley Cup playoffs.
The Lightning were stellar throughout the regular season. Nikita Kucherov was top 3 in the league in points, their rookie Yanni Gourde was top 5 in the league in plus/minus, and goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy was the league leader in wins. The Lightning were also able to make a big trade with the New York Rangers to bring in Ryan McDonagh and J.T. Miller to take the team to the next level. Towards the end of the season, however, the Bolts seemed to plateau. Additionally, the Lightning also were desperate to rest their players and their captain, Steven Stamkos, was dealing with a nagging lower body injury. Coming into the last remaining game of the regular season, Tampa Bay was in a tight race for the top seed in their division with the Boston Bruins. Luckily, the Lightning were able to secure the top seed with help from the Florida Panthers being able to hold off the Bruins in a game where Boston could have clinched the division with a win.
Now that the playoffs are here, Tampa Bay is all in on winning it all. There’s still a bad taste in their mouth from their tragic loss to the Chicago Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final and the Lightning are hungry for redemption. With many players from that 2015 campaign still on the team, playoff experience is an advantage for the Bolts. With a combination of veterans and young players on the rise, like Brayden Point and Yanni Gourde, the Lightning have to feel as if it’s Stanley Cup or bust. If the Lightning are able to clinch their series with the New Jersey Devils, they will likely face off against the pesky Boston Bruins once again. The matchup would be a tough one as the Bruins have had the Lightning’s number as of late. Still, with such high expectations coming into the season, Tampa Bay must confidently feel like they have all the pieces in place to persevere past their opponents and take home the Stanley Cup.
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