CHICAGO — And then, there’s the losing side.
In the wake of their loss to Chicago in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup Final on Monday night, the Lightning were forced to do what the losing team does: watch someone else celebrate, listen to the cheers from the dressing room, and wait to field the questions.
Not just any questions, but those questions. The ones nobody likes to ask and even fewer like to answer.
How does it feel? What do you say? How much does it hurt? Can you describe your emotions?
Jon Cooper, credit to him, tried his best to respond.
“We’ve got a group of young men in there, but they’re kids at heart, and they’re crushed,” he said. “It was really hard to look at them and see how crushed they truly are. I’m crushed for two other people. I’m crushed for [assistant coach] Rick Bowness. I envisioned handing him the Stanley Cup. And I’m crushed for [other assistant] Steve Thomas because I envisioned doing the same thing. Guys have been in this league for a long time and you just want to see other people succeed and be a part of the success.
“Maybe we’ll look back weeks from now and somewhat treasure what we accomplished. But we’ve got unfinished business to do. The Montreal series last year stung, but that pales in comparison to what this feels like.”
The Lightning were visibly gutted following tonight’s 2-0 loss — the first time they’d been shut out in 19 playoff games. That lack of offense was a recurring theme over the final three games of this series, all Chicago wins; the Bolts only put two pucks past Corey Crawford through Games 4-6, with captain and former 60-goal man Steve Stamkos failing to find the back of the net all series.
“Ultimately, we didn’t score enough,” Cooper admitted. “If you would have told me at the beginning of the playoffs that we were going to be the team that scored one goal in the last two games, that wasn’t our MO.
“We were only giving up two goals a game. When this team only gives up two, we win a majority of those games. The pucks just didn’t go in for us. It was a tough time for us to go cold, have the well go dry, especially since we carried this on the whole year.”
Ultimately, this will serve as a learning experience for the Bolts. The team is young, talented and thanks to GM Steve Yzerman’s managerial savvy, well-positioned to remain a title contender in a salary cap world.
But that’s of little condolence on a night when their Stanley Cup dreams were dashed away.
“This is going to leave a scar,” Cooper said. “No doubt.”