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|Jon Cooper searched for adequate words to describe the feeling of coming within one victory of playing for the Stanley Cup.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have done it twice in the past three years. And it hurts.
”It’s everything from agonizing to angry to disappointed to shock Mike Condon Jersey ,” the coach said Thursday, less than 24 hours after one of the most successful seasons in franchise history came to a screeching halt with a 4-0 loss to Alex Ovechkin and the Washington Capitals in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference final.
”I’m sure that’s going to turn into proud and happy for our group,” he added. ”There are so many good emotions about coaching this team … but the emotions of how it ended is tough.”
After compiling the best record in the Eastern Conference during the regular season, eliminating the New Jersey Devils and Boston Bruins in the first two rounds of the playoffs, and rebounding from losing the first games of the conference final to take a 3-2 series lead, the Lightning truly believed this was their year.
Now, general manager Steve Yzerman and Cooper face decisions about what needs to be tweaked.
The Lightning won Game 7 of the conference final against the Rangers in 2015, advancing to the Stanley Cup Final for the second time in franchise history. They made it back to the East final, only to lose to the Pittsburgh Penguins in seven games two years ago.
”If anybody sits and says it was an unsuccessful season, I have to question that. You look back at this team. All the accomplishments of the regular season, and then to be one game away from getting to the Stanley Cup Final,” Cooper said Vincent Trocheck Jersey , his voice trailing off.
”Now it’s just solving that piece of the puzzle,” the coach added, ”getting over the top.”
With a talented roster that’s both deep and fairly young, there won’t be wholesale changes.
Goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, a Vezina Trophy finalist in his first full season as a starter, is just 23 years old.
Leading scorer Nikita Kucherov is 24, Norris Trophy finalist Victor Hedman is 27, and emerging star Brayden Point is just 22.
Even captain Steven Stamkos, completing his 10th NHL season, is only 28.
”What were we missing? A couple of goals in Game 7,” Cooper said. ”You can sit here and pick apart all you want of what went wrong, it was one game. We didn’t score and we lost the game. They were opportunistic and scored Brock McGinn Jersey Kids , and they advanced. … It’s razor-thin how close this league is.”
Yzerman said there are a number of areas where the Lightning need to get better moving forward, including defensively.
The GM, however, rejected the notion that somehow the season was a failure because a team with such high expectations didn’t get back to the championship round.
”It’s really difficult to win the Stanley Cup, and if you’re going to measure every year strictly on it’s a failure if we win or not, I don’t think I look at it that way,” Yzerman said.
”There’s a process and there’s no definitive timeline for it. Just continue to improve, continue to hang around, I guess, and we’re going to win one of these things,” the GM added. ”It’s not a failure. It’s a disappointment at this stage, but we’re not sitting here saying we’re the best team by a mile. We realize there’s a bunch of good teams out there http://www.officialavalanche.com/authentic-adidas-j.t.-compher-jersey , a group of teams that could win the Stanley Cup.”
Cooper said one thing it’s important to not do this summer is over-react.
”It’s hard to explain just how hard it is to get here,” the coach said. ”There are 30 teams who are going to get Monday morning quarterbacked, and one team that is not. You just have to build on your strengths and keep getting better and come back next year stronger than ever.”
After three games, the Toronto Raptors have yet to find the answer.
They came close against the Cavaliers in Games 1 and 3 of this Eastern Conference semifinal. If they don’t figure things out in Game 4 on Monday night, they will have all summer to ponder the problem.
”All three games have presented different plays that would have to be done at certain points of the game to get over the hump,” swingman C.J. Miles said before the shootaround. ”We see them. It’s not’s like there’s no door to get out of the room.”
But this is no easy escape. No NBA team has rallied from a 3-0 deficit to win a playoff series.
”The cause of lack of sleep at night when you can replay the game and see so many turning points,” Miles said. ”It’s easy in hindsight to say that play changes everything. You never know. But you always think about the fact that you want to give yourself the best shot every single night and there’s some plays that didn’t always give us the best shot.”
Toronto is coming off a 105-103 loss Saturday, a crushing defeat courtesy of LeBron James‘ bank shot at the buzzer. Guard Fred VanVleet says the Raptors have no choice but to ”keep scratching and clawing.”
”We’ve been in all three games, we’ve had chances to win pretty much all three games, being up in some of the games,” he said. ”We’re right there, we’re competing. We’ve just got to do a little bit more Womens Henrik Zetterberg Jersey , make a couple more plays and I think we’ll be in good shape.”
This could be the third straight season the Cavs eliminate the Raptors. Going into Monday’s games, Cleveland had won nine straight playoff games against Toronto.
Cleveland is 9-0 when up 3-0 in a series. Toronto is 0-2 when behind 0-3 (swept in 2015 by Washington and 2017 by Cleveland).
The Cavs can reach the conference final for the fourth straight season and eighth time in franchise history.
”I think we have a group of guys that are warriors,” Raptors coach Dwane Casey said. ”And I know they’re going to bounce back. As far as the fight, I love what we did the other night.”
The shot by James, an off-balance 10-foot, has been replayed endlessly on TV. There is also the endless discussion of how Cleveland owns Toronto in the playoffs.
”I’ve seen the play (on TV) obviously,” VanVleet said. ”But I’m not watching ”SportsCenter” all night for those type of reasons right there.”
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