While many thought the "other Florida team" might be in over their heads, the Lightning continue to prove the doubters wrong on a magical playoff run.
Heading into the 2021-22 season Tampa Bay management made it clear that they did not want to see their 1st round pick, which was traded away by the previous leadership regime, end up with the possibility of being a top pick.
It was also a year in which they hoped to see continued growth from their younger players.
Looking at the Tampa Bay roster you probably would not think playoffs, especially following an offseason where the team had many holes, and some key pieces that they were unable to obtain. This team, on the backs of superstar center Auston Matthews, the leagues top scoring rookie in Kirby Dach, and an outstanding season between the pipes from MacKenzie Blackwood, found a way to strike their name into the playoffs.
Then even more thunderously shocking, Tampa somehow did have a 3-1 series lead, but then as many expected Florida to do in this series, they steamrolled the Lightning in the next 2 games to even the series.
We find the Lightning with a chance to bolt themselves onto the 2nd round as they head into game 7 vs the Florida Panthers at FLA Live Arena in Miami.
We pick things up in the 2nd period with the Panthers up 1-0. A faceoff coming up in the Florida end. Evgeni Kuznetsov flaps his way to the faceoff circles. Cody Eakins wins the draw, a scramble ensues, Tampa's major offseason signing Derick Brassard snaps the puck, Philip Grubauer get's a piece of it.......GOAL!!!! The shot finds it's way to the back of the net.
Grubauer got a piece of it with his glove, but not enough, and Tampa somehow continues to shock the hockey world as they tie the game.
Now we jump to the 3rd where Tampa starts the period on the powerplay. Auston Matthews wins the draw and takes it himself right up the middle, he fires a shot......blocked by Brayden McNabb but the puck bounces right to rookie Kirby Duch who shoots...... and SCORES!!!!!
Holy Mackinaw Kirby Dach has given the Tampa Bay Lightning the lead!
From there both teams really buckled down the hatches as the two teams would combine for just 10 shots in the period.
Late in the 3rd, Tampa still holding onto that 1 goal lead, the Panthers net is empty. After licking a face, Brad Marchand carries the puck into the Lightning zone, he dishes it off to a streaking Jakub Vrana who scored the games 1st goal. He goes backhand........SAVE!!!!
MacKenzie Blackwood stacks the pads like Felix Potvin used to do and robs Vrana and the Lightning will go on to win the game and the series.
Next up, of course, for the Lightning is Detroit.
Do you know what happens to a Red Wing when they get struck by Lightning?