We all get those Facebook notifications. The ones inviting us to take a look back at what happened on this day in years gone by. Sometimes it’s fun things like silly pictures with friends or reminders of vacations you enjoyed. For the last two months, these memories have been filled with moments from Lightning postseasons past. As the days go by it has brought us to the anniversary of something that still stings more than a little: Game 6 of the 2015 Stanley Cup Final.
In the past two months, it’s been fun to relive the triumphs over the Detroit Red Wings, Montreal Canadiens, and New York Rangers. Remember the huge ECF Game 7 win at Madison Square Garden? Legendary. It felt like the Lightning had been touched by fate once again. The young team with so much talent and promise was taking the hockey world by storm and wouldn’t be denied. Even as they struggled in the SCF there was still optimism. The team had faced so much adversity and overcome it. Nothing seemed impossible.
Unfortunately, that wasn’t entirely true. Losing goalie Ben Bishop early in the series was a huge blow. Andrei Vasilevskiy showed flashes of the brilliance that would earn him the starting goaltender’s job but there’s a heck of a learning curve when so much is at stake. The prolific scoring that carried them all that year suddenly sputtered. The injuries proved to be too much to play through effectively. Not every year is going to be the year but getting that close and falling short was incredibly painful.
The memories aren’t all bad. There were plenty of photos from the Amalie Arena watch party for Game 6 vs. the Chicago Blackhawks. Fans crowded by the entrances as a torrential thunderstorm rolled through downtown. When the doors opened they streamed into the stands, filling them as they would on any other game night. People had noise makers, they were decked out in all their Bolts gear. The pregame light show went on as normal. It was a big game environment. The only thing missing was the team on the ice. The unbelievable showing from the fans in what ended up being a losing effort remains incredible.
Spirits dimmed at the final horn. There were tears. The feed on the Jumbotron cut off before the handshake line could begin. No one complained. It took a while for people to get up from their seats and head for the doors. It hurt a lot and it still does if we’re being completely honest. Does that sting ever go away? Maybe we’ll find out next season.
Two years later and the Bolts are poised to make some serious changes this offseason. It’s been hard seeing members of that 2015 squad moved to other teams but it’s a necessary part of the business. The Stanley Cup remains the ultimate goal. GM Steve Yzerman will do what he has to, to put his club in the best possible position to be a contender once again. For now, we wait, reminisce, and remember until the 2017-18 Lightning come to claim our hearts.