The Wraparound: Lightning hopes historic season ends with Stanley Cup

The Wraparound is your daily look at the 2019 Stanley Cup Playoffs. We’ll break down each day’s matchups with the all-important television and live streaming information included.

The only acceptable conclusion to the 2018-19 NHL season for the Tampa Bay Lightning is hoisting the Stanley Cup sometime in June. A historic regular season that saw them win 62 games, feature three 40-goal scorers and win the Presidents’ Trophy cannot have any other ending.

After three trips to the Eastern Conference Final and a defeat in the 2015 Cup Final in the last four seasons, the Lightning have the experience to go deep yet again, and now all the pressure to finish the job, which starts tonight in Game 1 against the Columbus Blue Jackets (7 p.m. ET; USA; live stream)

“We’ve pretty much done everything else except that [winning the Cup] and when you go through the previous experiences you need to have the ability to challenge what you’ve learned and apply it going forward,” said Lightning head coach Jon Cooper.

In two of the last three seasons the Lightning fell in Game 7 of the conference final. Both times they lost to the eventual Cup champion. Captain Steven Stamkos said this week that they entered this season with a chip on their shoulders, hoping to be the one’s on the happy end of handshakes after four rounds of hockey.

In Round 2 last year, the Lightning dropped Game 1 before reeling off four straight wins over the Boston Bruins. In the conference final against the Washington Capitals, they fell behind 0-2 and won three straight before being shut out twice by Braden Holtby in Games 6 and 7. The pressure will be on them throughout the playoffs as they have the target on their backs. They can’t afford to take a night off, no matter how good of a team they’ve been.

“We have to be willing to play that way, with that desperation,” Stamkos said. “I think last year and some previous times, that stuff starts building up in your mind. It’s not frustration, it’s just being that close, you have to want it a little more. We have to show that and prove that.”

[NBC 2019 STANLEY CUP PLAYOFF HUB]

TODAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 1: Penguins at Islanders, 7:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream): Nassau Coliseum will be loud as the Metropolitan Division rivals meet for the first time in the postseason since the Penguins advanced in 2013. Barry Trotz, Piero Greco, Mitch Korn, Thomas Greiss, and Robin Lehner helped the Islanders do a complete flip defensively, which helped earn their goaltenders the 2018-19 Jennings Trophy.

Game 1: Blues at Jets, 8 p.m. ET (NHL Network): The Blues compiled the most points in the NHL since Jan. 4 and were nearly Central Division champions after finding themselves in last place in the entire league as the calendar turned to 2019. Now they have to hope that Jordan Binnington’s magic continues into the postseason as they enter a divisional bracket that seems pretty wide open.

Game 1: Stars at Predators, 9:30 p.m. ET (USA; live stream): Mats Zuccarello is recovered from his broken arm and gives Dallas a multi-faceted attack with his presence in the lineup. Powering a second line, the Norwegian forward will provide the Predators plenty of fits as Nashville tries to slow down a Stars team that went 11-5-2 down the stretch and features a potential Vezina Trophy finalist in goal with Ben Bishop.

Game 1: Golden Knights at Sharks, 10:30 p.m. ET (NBCSN; live stream): A rematch from Round 2 last year, the Golden Knights enter the postseason a better team than they were in 2018, bolstered by the additions of Paul Stastny, Max Pacioretty, and Mark Stone. Marc-Andre Fleury is also fully healthy, which gives them a big boost heading into Game 1 and a huge advantage over a Sharks team that could use some good goaltending beginning Wednesday night.

THURSDAY’S SCHEDULE
Game 1: Maple Leafs at Bruins, 7 p.m. ET (NBCSN)
Game 1:  Hurricanes at Capitals, 7:30 p.m. ET (USA)
Game 1:  Avalanche at Flames, 10 p.m. ET (NBCSN)

PHT’s 2019 Stanley Cup playoff previews
Capitals vs Hurricanes
Islanders vs. Penguins

Bruins vs. Maple Leafs
Lightning vs. Blue Jackets

Predators vs. Stars
Blues vs. Jets
Flames vs. Avalanche
Sharks vs. Golden Knights

Power Rankings: Why your team won’t win the Stanley Cup
• 
Roundtable: Goaltending issues, challenging the Lightning
NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs: Round 1 schedule, TV info

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Sean Leahy is a writer for Pro Hockey Talk on NBC Sports. Drop him a line at phtblog@nbcsports.com or follow him on Twitter @Sean_Leahy.

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