A week ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning were the favorites to win the Stanley Cup after a historic regular season. Last night, they were swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets, who had never won more than two games in a playoff series.
Why it matters: This is the first time in NHL history that a team with the best regular-season record failed to win a single playoff game. The Lightning won 62 games this year, tied for the most ever.
What happened: It's hard to fathom such a historical collapse, but here's one explanation: The Lightning, who won 30 of their 62 games by three or more goals, were victims of their own success.
"When you have the amount of points we had, it's a blessing and a curse, in a way. You don't play any meaningful hockey for a long time. Then all of a sudden, you have to ramp it up. It's not an excuse. It's reality."— Lightning coach Jon Cooper
Between the lines: The story of this series is, of course, the Lightning's abrupt exit. But the Blue Jackets deserve a ton of credit for executing a game plan to slow them down.
- Defense: "The Blue Jackets put on a defensive clinic in the series, playing a 1-2-2 forecheck that slowed the pace, owned the neutral zone and never allowed the Lightning to find their way offensively," writes ESPN's Greg Wyshynski.
- Goalie play: Columbus' Sergei Bobrovsky finished with a .932 save percentage and allowed 2.01 goals per game ... Tampa Bay's Andrei Vasilevskiy finished with an .856 save percentage and allowed 3.82 goals per game.
- Power play: The Lightning had the most effective power play in three decades this season, at 28.1%. But the Blue Jackets, the NHL's second-least penalized team, provided them with just six power-play opportunities — and Tampa Bay converted just one.
The big picture: The last four teams in the four major U.S. sports that have set or tied the record for regular-season wins have failed to win a championship.
- NBA: The 2016 Golden State Warriors won 73 games ... then lost to the Cleveland Cavaliers in the NBA Finals.
- NFL: The 2007 New England Patriots won 16 games ... then lost to the New York Giants in the Super Bowl.
- MLB: The 2001 Seattle Mariners won 116 games ... then lost to the New York Yankees in the ALCS.
- Wait, there's more: In 1998, D.C. United and the Los Angeles Galaxy set the MLS record for wins (24) and both lost to an expansion team, the Chicago Fire, in the playoffs.
- Islanders 3, Penguins 1: Congrats on the sweep, Islanders fans! Pittsburgh held the lead for less than five minutes this entire series.
- Jets 2, Blues 1 (Series tied 2-2)
- Golden Knights 5, Sharks 0 (Vegas leads 3-1)
📺 Tonight: Bruins vs. Maple Leafs (7 pm ET, NBCSN), Predators vs. Stars (8, USA), Flames vs. Avalanche (10, NBCSN)