While some of the Tampa Bay Lightning players are wondering what could have been, you have to wonder if maybe there was a little smile on some of their faces as the Boston Bruins blasted Vancouver in Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final to secure Beantown's first hockey championship since the 1970s.
Boston edged Tampa Bay 1-0 in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final, completing a thrilling competitive series that saw ebb and flow go both ways.
While Montreal has an argument, taking the Bruins to overtime three times—the Lightning were arguably Boston's toughest out.
The Lightning scored more goals in their series against Tim Thomas than any of the Bruins' other opponents. Tampa Bay scored five goals in four of the seven contests. Boston gave up four goals or more in just one game against their other opponents (a 5-4 overtime victory over Montreal in Game 4 of the Eastern quarterfinals).
Sure enough, the Stanley Cup was likely decided in the Eastern Conference finals.
The Finals may have gone seven games, but considering the Bruins dominance, you have to wonder how in the world they blew three games. Boston outscored the Canucks 23-8. Heck, Boston scored as many goals in one game as Vancouver had in seven.
The Lightning scored more goals against Tim Thomas in their first two games than Canucks had the entire series.
Of course, only one team can celebrate in their last game, and that team is the Boston Bruins. The Lightning didn't win their division, their conference or the Cup. They don't put banners in the rafters for nearly beating the eventual champs.
There's no ring for moral victories.
Still, considering the depths this franchise had sunk, taking the Stanley Cup Champions to the limit deep in the playoffs is certainly something to take some pride in.
“We were one goal from the Stanley Cup finals,” Lightning coach Guy Boucher said to the Lightning's official website. “We have to be proud and understand that we’ve made giant leaps.
The Lightning aren't a finished product. At the start of the season, General Manager Steve Yzerman, concerned that the fanbase would grow impatient with the Lightning's rebuilding project, advised patience.
The Lightning had rebuilt their roster with no-name free agent acquisitions. They jettisoned bad deals and hired a sought after but untested head coach in Guy Boucher.
No one could have imagined the Lightning on the brink of playing for the Stanley Cup in Boucher's first season. Yet there they were, giving the Bruins fits.
While Steve Yzerman certainly has a lot of work to do this offseason, the 2010-11 season is certainly a great foundation to build upon.