Lightning earned early exit from postseason

4/23/14 in NHL   |   patrickhoffman3530   |   122 respect

Apr 22, 2014; Montreal, Quebec, CAN; Montreal Canadiens left wing Rene Bourque (17) crashes into Tampa Bay Lightning goalie Kristers Gudlevskis (37) during the third period in game four of the first round of the 2014 Stanley Cup Playoffs at Bell Centre. Mandatory Credit: Jean-Yves Ahern-USA TODAY SportsThe Tampa Bay Lightning may have been better than the Montreal Canadiens in the regular season by one point, but in their first round series against the Montreal Canadiens, they played like a club that did not deserve to be in the Stanley Cup Playoffs.

With their 4-3 loss in Game 4 at the Bell Centre last night, the Lightning were swept by the Habs and were the first team eliminated from the postseason. Not only was this team swept, but they were dominated all over the ice in each game by the Canadiens.

There are a few reasons why this team is now headed into the off-season. It all starts with the poor goaltending they got in just about each game of this series.

During the regular season, the Lightning got unbelievable netminding from starter Ben Bishop. Unfortunately for the Lightning, Bishop,
a potential Vezina Trophy candidate as the league's top masked man in the regular season, suffered an upper body injury two weeks ago in a game against the Toronto Maple Leafs and did not play one game in the short series.

The Lightning were forced to rely on both Anders Lindback and Kristers Gudlevskis. Unfortunately, the Lightning did not get the goaltending they needed out Lindback as he really struggled and went 0-3 with a 3.91 goals against average and .881 save percentage while Gudlevskis was halfway decent with a 3.00 goals against average and a .900 save percentage.

Speaking of Bishop, it is clear that his absence was perhaps the main reason why the Lightning lost this series. Had he been between the pipes, this series could either still be going on or better yet, may even be reversed with his team headed to the second round instead of the Habs.

That is how good Bishop, 27, was this season for Tampa Bay. In the regular season, Bishop was 37-14-7 with a 2.23 goals against average (seventh in the league), a .924 save percentage (seventh in the league) and five shutouts (fourth in the league), and provided the kind of goaltending that can win games when it matters the most.  

Another thing that hurt the Lightning is this series was slow starts. Too often in their four game sweep at the hands of the Habs, the team found themselves down early and a hill to climb the rest of the game.

It happened tonight as they were down 2-0 after the first period. In Game 3, it was even worse for the Lightning as they found themselves down 1-0 11 seconds into the game.

Lastly, the team played its worst hockey at the wrong part of the year. During the regular season, the Lightning were the third best team in the Eastern Conference and the eighth best team in the league.

This did not translate into the postseason. The Lightning failed to get the big goals, missed a lot of scoring chances on Canadiens' goaltender Carey Price and always seemed to be one step behind the Canadiens in every game in the series.

In all, poor goaltending, an injured starting netminder, poor starts and really bad timing hurt the Lightning and are the main reasons why they are no longer competing for hockey's Holy Grail.
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