Tired of getting close but not close enough, the Tampa Bay Lightning are in it to win it.
The Lightning – who host the Maple Leafs tonight at Amalie Arena -- are also an example of a roster that has been very, very good, for a long time and has yet to win the Stanley Cup.
And while tonight’s game will be easily viewed as a measuring stick by the Leafs in as much as how they compare to the league-leading Lightning, there’s a bigger story to be considered.
The Lightning’s “window” of opportunity opened in 2014 when some very good minor leaguers from their 2012 Calder Cup championship like Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Radko Gudas and Alex Killorn were eventually added around a core of Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman, Anton Stralman and youngsters like Nikita Kucherov.
They made the playoffs after a couple of years in the wilderness, losing to Montreal in the first round.
The squad got to the final in 2015, bowing out to Chicago in six games. They looked at the time like perennial Cup contenders. They haven’t gotten as close since.
They lost the Eastern Conference final to Pittsburgh in 2016. They didn’t qualify for the post-season in 2017. They lost to Washington in the Conference final in 2018.
One supposes they can take some solace in losing to the eventual Cup champion in ‘16 and ‘18. But that’s small solace indeed.