TAMPA — There are no secrets when it comes to the Stanley Cup playoffs, just truths.
Every team has seen the Lightning play. Every team knows what the game plan is when they step on the ice. Every team is prepped on exactly what to expect for the next 60 minutes.
And yet it hasn’t mattered. Not for two-plus postseasons.
The Lightning have gone 40-16 in the Stanley Cup playoffs since 2020, giving them a .716 winning percentage. No team has matched that level of domination over a three-year span since Wayne Gretzky and Edmonton were dazzling the world in the late 1980s.
Obviously, great players are the key ingredient. Andrei Vasilevskiy, Victor Hedman and Nikita Kucherov are all among the very best at their positions in the NHL.
But talent is not enough, as the Lightning learned in 2019 when they were swept by Columbus in the first round. There is a mindset, a trust, a focus, a confidence, a commitment. There is a defense-first, risk-aversive style of play that the Lightning refer to as their recipe.
You don’t see it in October and you don’t see it in January. You didn’t even see it early in the first-round series against Toronto.
But when the Lightning needed it in Game 6 against the Maple Leafs, it was there. And since blowing a 2-0 lead in the second period of that game, the Lightning have outscored the opposition 17-4 and…