I’m sure that thought crossed a lot of Lightning fans’ minds right around the first period of Game 6, when the Boston Bruins started pumping goals past Roberto Luongo like he was one of those fabric shooting targets with holes in the corners. Here were the Vancouver Canucks, playing worse and worse by the game, while the Lightning took the Bruins right down to the wire in the Eastern Conference Final. Surely the Lightning could have done that to the Canucks if they had just squeaked by Boston, right?â†µ
Hang on, though. Let’s keep going down that rabbit hole. What if the Pittsburgh Penguins had had Sidney Crosby or Evgeni Malkin or both? Would the Lightning have even made it out of the first round? Remember, the Bolts didn’t really get their playoff sea legs until the second round, when they blew through the Washington Capitals in four straight.â†µ
And what if the Canucks hadn’t lost an incredible six closeout games in the playoffs? They were up 3-0 on the Chicago Blackhawks and barely won that series. They lost Game 5 against Nashville when they could have ended the series, and they needed two overtimes and an amazingly lucky goal to knock out San Jose. Would a fresher Canucks team have given a stronger effort in the last few games of the Cup Final?â†µ
Then there are other questions. What if the Flyers had any kind of goaltending? What if Montreal scores in overtime of Game 7 against the Bruins? What if San Jose doesn’t need four chances to eliminate Detroit before they run out of gas against Vancouver? You can go on forever with these kinds of debates, and that’s the point. We’ll never really know if this could have been Tampa Bay’s year. We just know that it wasn’t.