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Lightning have structure to win Cup despite sweep, Stamkos says

First-round loss to Blue Jackets 'still pretty fresh' for captain of Presidents' Trophy winners

by Corey Long / Correspondent

TAMPA -- Steven Stamkos has been frustrated by every Stanley Cup Playoff series loss he's been part of during his 11 seasons with the Tampa Bay Lightning. But being swept in four games by the Columbus Blue Jackets in the Eastern Conference First Round might be the most disappointing.

Tampa Bay, which tied an NHL record with 62 regular-season wins, came into the postseason with high expectations, only to be eliminated six days later. The Lightning became the first team to win the Presidents' Trophy as regular-season champion and be swept in the first round of the playoffs.

Stamkos, a center who scored 45 goals and had an NHL career-high 98 points during the regular season, had one goal and one assist in the four games against Columbus. He said Thursday that being swept would take a while to get over.


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"It's still pretty fresh," the Tampa Bay captain said. "We as a group, I wouldn't say we're in shock, but we're just disappointed that we couldn't execute. We knew it wasn't going to be easy. Just because you have the regular season that you do, it's not like we're just handed a series or a trip to the Final. You have to earn everything. We got beat by a team that was better than us during that six-day stretch. There's really not much we can say."

Lightning general manager Julien BriseBois said he had no plans to make drastic roster moves during the offseason and expressed confidence in coach Jon Cooper, who signed a contract extension days before the start of the playoffs.

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Stamkos said the Lightning as constructed have the ability to win the Stanley Cup. Tampa Bay has the NHL scoring leader from this season (forward Nikita Kucherov) and the 2018 Norris Trophy winner (defenseman Victor Hedman) signed through at least 2024-25, and 2018 Vezina Trophy finalist (goalie Andre Vasilevskiy).

"We still believe in this organization, this group," the 29-year-old said. "We have the structure in place to be successful. We've had some really good playoff runs in the past. We had a really good regular season this year, and it didn't translate into playoff success. So our group is going to be focused on winning.

"We have all the players in place, but at the end of the day you're judged on winning. And you're not even judged on winning, you're judged on winning championships. We've done a lot of winning in the playoffs here and still nobody's satisfied internally and externally, so we know the standard. We can't just expect that it's going to happen."

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