Lightning join 2001 Mariners, 2015-16 Warriors as historic regular season teams to lose in playoffs
The Lightning are now part of an exclusive club
Winning in professional sports is really hard. To go out and win in the regular season and then do it again in a winner-take-all postseason is a huge challenge. The Tampa Bay Lightning found that out the hard way. They were sweep into the offseason by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the first round of the postseason on Tuesday. This comes after Tampa tied an NHL record with 62 wins, thanks to the three 40-goal scorers on their roster.
On the other hand, Columbus barely made the playoffs. The Blue Jackets added the likes of Matt Duchene and Ryan Dzingel at the trade deadline to make a postseason run, but it once they made the playoffs nobody expected them to beat the Lightning. But following Tuesday's 7-3 win, the Blue Jackets proved they deserve to be taken seriously.
The Lightning aren't the first NHL team to flame out after dominating the regular season. The Presidents' Trophy winner has not won the Stanley Cup since the 2013 Blackhawks. Four teams have lost in the second round of the playoffs since then, but the Lightning are the first Presidents' Trophy winner to get bounced in the first round.
This isn't just and NHL trend, though. Here's a look at how other wins record holders in professional sports have fared in the postseason.
NHL: 1995-96 Detroit Red Wings, 2018-19 Tampa Bay Lightning (62 wins)
The 1995-96 Red Wings actually notched more points than the Lightning did this year, finishing with 131 to the Lightning's 128. That team was loaded, with Sergei Federov, Steve Yzerman, Vyacheslav Kozlov and Chris Osgood leading the way. They finished the year 62-13-7, and looked like a lock to win the Stanley Cup. At this point, the Wings and Avalanche rivalry was in full swing. Detroit met Colorado in the Western Conference finals, losing in six games, and it was an ugly road to even get there. They needed six games to beat the Jets and seven to defeat the Blues, before being overcome by the Joe Sakic's Avalanche. It was a disappointing end to a terrific season, but Detroit just never looked ready for the postseason, despite Federov and Yzerman both notching 20 postseason points.
Yzerman was involved in this current Lightning team as well -- he built it. With inevitable Hart Trophy winner Nikita Kucherov totaling 128 points and Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point in the 40-goal club, the Lightning looked unbeatable all year. They entered the postseason as Stanley Cup favorites, but no one showed up. Erik Cernak -- a defenseman who played just 58 games this year -- led the Lightning in points with a depressing three. When no one shows up, teams fall apart. That was clearly the case here, and Tuesday's 7-3 loss was an exclamation point on an incredibly disappointing series.
NBA: 2015-16 Golden State Warriors (73 wins)
What's wild about this team is that it's kind of still intact, but it's just better. Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and Draymond Green led this Warriors team to 73 wins, breaking the old record set by the Bulls. It was a storyline all season, as the Warriors continued to chase history. Curry shot about 45 percent from deep for the entire year, and he made a record 402 three-pointers. Curry was named unanimous MVP for the year, and they went up 3-1 over the Cavaliers in the Finals. After that, it all fell apart. Green got suspended for Game 5, and LeBron James led the Cavaliers to a seven-game series win, punctuated by Kyrie Irving's go-ahead shot late in Game 7. The Cavs shocked the world with the win. Then the Warriors went and signed Kevin Durant and reinforced themselves as a juggernaut.
NFL: 2007-08 New England Patriots (16 wins)
This team was, in a word, unfair. Tom Brady throwing to Randy Moss, Kevin Faulk running, a Bill Belichick defense. The 2007 Patriots were utterly unbeatable. There's not much else that you can say about them... it was a Patriots team. They had a point differential of +315 -- an NFL record -- and didn't get challenged much until Week 9 against the Colts. After the bye week, the Patriots had a few close games, but they always scraped by -- including a 38-35 win over the Giants in Week 17 to complete the perfect season. In the playoffs, the Pats mostly cruised by the Jaguars and Chargers before meeting the Giants again the Super Bowl. Brady infamously chirped that the Patriots wouldn't be held to 17 points when Plaxico Burress talked up the Giants defense, and he was right -- they were held to 14 points while the Giants scored 17. The uncharacteristically brash statement from Brady is still mocked to this day, as the Giants wreaked havoc on the Pats and allowed the 1972 Dolphins to pop the champagne.
MLB -- 1906 Chicago Cubs, 2001 Seattle Mariners (116 wins)
For the first part of this bit, we're going to get into the way-way-back machine for the 1906 Chicago Cubs. The Cubs went 116-36, the best winning percentage in MLB history, and made the World Series in what was then a 16-team league. They had three players bat over .300 for the season, and the pitching staff had a total ERA of 1.76. This Cubs team was, to put it lightly, built differently than today's teams. However, they lost in six games to the Chicago White Sox in the World Series, who had the AL's worst batting average. The Cubs totaled 13 hits to the Sox's 26 over the last two games, both of which were won by the White Sox.
The 2001 Mariners also had 116 wins, but they did it over the course of a longer season. It was Ichiro Suzuki's rookie year, and it was a great glimpse into what fans could expect. This Mariners team had four guys batting over .300, including Ichiro's .350. Jamie Moyer notched 20 wins, while Freddy Garcia, Aaron Sele and Paul Abbott all had 15 or more despite relatively pedestrian ERAs. It caught up to the Mariners in the ALCS, when they lost in five games to the Yankees. Moyer logged the team's only win against New York, a 14-3 laugher for the Mariners that made it look like they might have a chance. But they were outscored in the next two games 15-4, including a 12-3 rout in Game 5. It was a brutal end to the season for the Mariners.
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