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The Tampa Bay Lightning Are Falling Apart at the Wrong Time

The Tampa Bay Lightning have been dominated early on by the Colorado Avalanche, and 0-2 starts in the final have been tough to overcome. The Bolts will have a chance to shake things up at home, but the clock is ticking, and fast.
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What in the world is up with the Tampa Bay Lightning?

The two-time champs. Three hard-fought playoff series victories. A couple of the best players from this generation, with perhaps the most dominant goalie in over a decade.

And they're sitting down 0-2 to the Colorado Avalanche after a 7-0 loss on Saturday night.

Will the real Tampa Bay Lightning please stand up?

The Avalanche deserve full credit -- they've absolutely lights out in the series so far and they've earned the wins by just controlling the pace of play.

But this isn't the Lightning we've come to know.

Sure, Colorado is a much tougher opponent than Montreal or Dallas in terms of Cup opponents. But the team that typically did the dominating was instead the one getting dominated in a way no team has done in the post-season since Tampa became kings of the hockey world.

With the way they're playing, they're only a few nights away from being dethroned. 

The Avalanche are playing perfect hockey, and the Lightning can't keep up. The one clear advantage they had heading into the series -- goaltending -- has let them down in a big way. Five goals on 18 shots is unacceptable at this level, and Andrei Vasilevskiy needs to be so much better. But you can't win if your team can't score, and the Lightning had just 10 shots through two periods. So, the team that was smothering their opponent with speed and offensive forecheck was also crushing the defensive game, and the results speak for themselves. 

Brayden Point can get a pass because he missed a month after recovering from an injury. But Steven Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov and Ondrej Palat -- the pillars of the team's offensive success in the post-season -- haven't done enough.

And the breakaways and odd-man rushes have been at a level we're not used to seeing from Tampa. Their defense has been seemingly playing shorthanded without actually missing anyone. A group with Victor Hedman -- one of the best defensemen in the world today -- has played poorly. 

By all accounts, this is a terrible effort from just about everyone. And they're on the outside looking in with time ticking down.

The score in Game 2 is indicative of Colorado's truly one-sided supremacy in this series, but this looks like a Tampa team that's out of gas. They dominated the second-round series against Florida, but had rough journeys against Toronto and New York to get to this point. You can't let a team with Colorado's skill take control because they truly will make life miserable. 

Coming back from 0-2 series deficits is so rare. It has happened just five times, with Boston being the last to do so in 2011. The 2009 Pittsburgh Penguins are the only team to do it after the 1970s. But they did just win four straight against the Rangers, so when Tampa hunkers down and plays to their full ability, they're clearly one of the toughest teams in the league to play against.

You can never truly count out the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Once a game gets too far out of hand, there's nothing you can really take out of it. What's the difference between a 4-0 loss and 7-0 loss? A worse goals-against average, but nothing meaningful. It's all about shaking it off and starting things off better the next game.

The Lightning are so close to tasting dynasty status. No team has won three consecutive Stanley Cups in the salary cap era, and no team has done it since the New York Islanders of the early 1980s. 

They'll need four herculean efforts to change that, and you can never count the Tampa Bay Lightning out of a championship series, but they're living on borrowed time right now.

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