TAMPA (FOX 13) - The Lightning has been thinking about playoffs ever since they came up short of making the postseason a year ago. As they begin their chase for a championship, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper offered a glimpse of his team's mindset.
"I don't know if the word is hunger,” Jon Cooper told FOX 13 Sports. "There's a quiet confidence in the room. You can feel it going around. So I don't throw those words out, but there's a good vibe down there right now."
From start to finish the Bolts have been the team to beat in the East this season and for the new faces on this roster. This is the moment they've been waiting for.
"Very fortunate to obviously be traded here to a team that gets an opportunity,” said Ryan McDonagh.
As much confidence as the Lightning have going into the first round of the playoffs they are aware of the history of the NHL Playoffs. In last four years, six number-one seeds have been knocked out in the first round.
“The margin between the teams is slight,” said Cooper. "That's why we always say that's between 1 and 16 and now you get rid of eight teams and now it's even that much closer."
Steven Stamkos believes the Bolts are built better than they were when they went the Stanley Cup in 2015, but they are not looking past the last team to make it into the playoffs -- they can’t. They were winless in three games this season and, since 2010, the Devils are 18-12 against the Lightning. In the playoffs, the Bolts lost both series, winning only 3 out of 11 games.
Jersey has the Lightning's attention.
"They are really good defensively,” said Yanni Gourde. "They don't make a lot of mistakes. We are going to have to work really hard to get our chances. I think we are ready for that."
The playoff puck drops Thursday night at 7 in Amalie Arena.