Tampa Bay Lightning

USA Today

Tampa Bay Is On The Verge Of History

The wrong kind that is.

April 15, 2019 - 10:59 am

Three games into the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Tampa Bay Lightning are close to making history. 

The wrong kind of history. The worst kind of history. The kind you never live down.

Columbus 3. Tampa 0. 


The Presidents Trophy Winners are on their freaking backs. A team that won more regular season games than any other in the history of the NHL just took three straight haymakers to the chin from John Tortorella's crew.  

Columbus spotted Tampa a 3-goal lead in their own house in Game 1, and then scored 4 straight to win. Then they jumped all over Tampa and beat them 5-1 in Game 2 on Friday night. 

And then last night, with Tampa absolutely desperate to eat a playoff W, they ate another Columbus Fist, when the Blue Jackets went home and defended their house with an absolutely macho win. 

Columbus 3, Tampa 1. The Wrong side of history... Just one game away. 

I'll say it again. If you aren't watching hockey, you need to start. And if you're missing what Columbus is doing right now, that's on you. Because it's absolutely incredible. 

Imagine that Warriors team that won 73 games going out in the first round and getting WORKED in Games 1, 2 and 3. Imagine Mike and Scotty getting to the playoffs after winning 72 games, and getting the hands in round one. That's what's going on right now with Tampa. 

And these aren't fluke wins. This is Columbus just feeding it to the Lightning and doing it over and over and over again. 

I said it when I previewed the playoffs. The Blue Jackets are no ordinary 8 seed. These dudes have talent everywhere. They've got a goalie who is standing on his head. And they've got a coach with so much swagger and confidence that you can see it every shift his guys take. 

And if you think these dudes are taking their foot off Tampa's throat, then check this Question and Answer to start Torts's postgame presser after last night's 3-1 win. "Well, I'm not too sure I'm interested in talking about how proud I am of the team, right now. I'm happy the way we've gone about our business. We did some really good things tonight. We just gotta get... I'm just not gonna get... We've got a lot of work to do. We have to be really careful here." 

You talk about freaking discretion. It probably took everything in Tort's power not to reach into that dude's chest and put his heart in a doggy bag. What are you most proud of? After three wins? You say that to any coach, you probably are gonna get some blow back. But you ask that question to a guy with THIS highlight reel? That reporter is lucky he left the rink alive. 

Look, when you've got a crystal ball like I do, you see things like this coming. Like I clearly did. I told you about Columbus's skill. I told you that they were a tough draw. And not only are they talented, these dudes have the scar tissue from last year to know that they absolutely can't let up. Remember, last year they were back home after having the Caps down 2-nothing. They had Washington on the ropes, in overtime in Game 3, with a chance to go up 3-games to nothing on them. They didn't get it done. And then they had to watch the Caps march all the way to the Cup. 

There's why Torts said, we have to be really careful here. That's why nobody's popping bottles or shaking hands. It's because the close out game is always the hardest one to win. 

Yes, the 3-0 comeback is one of the rarest in all of sports. But it's happened the most in hockey. Once in 1942, once in 1975 --. But twice recently. The Kings ran down the Sharks a couple years ago, something I obviously saw coming. And a couple years before that the Flyers did it to Boston. Again, if you were listening to this show then, you heard me get that right, too. Like I always do.  And neither of those teams had the firepower this Tampa team has. Jon Cooper said it postgame last night; "We're still playing Tuesday. We're still alive." 

But bad news: Torts is back on the bench Tuesday, too. 

Game 4. Tomorrow night in Columbus. And Tampa is 60 minutes away from being a part of hockey history. The worst kind. These dudes are making me look bad. But they’re making themselves look a helluva lot worse: awfully hard OT play the game with both hands around your throats, fellas. Settle the hell down. One shift at a time. Wake the hell up.