Kucherov: Lightning have 'unfinished business' after playoff upset
Mike Carlson / Getty Images Sport / Getty

You haven't heard the last from the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After falling to the eventual Stanley Cup champion Washington Capitals in the Eastern Conference Final, the Lightning are ready to enter the coming season with a renewed focus.

"We feel we have unfinished business," Lightning superstar Nikita Kucherov told The Athletic's Joe Smith. "We're close. One day it's going to come, for sure. It's just going to blow up."

Last season, five wins were the difference between glory and defeat as the Lightning fell in the deciding game of the third round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the second time in three seasons.

Not only did Tampa Bay fall short of expectations - many pundits picked the Lightning to hoist the Stanley Cup - the team hasn't been able to seal the deal in recent seasons. An injury-riddled campaign saw Tampa Bay miss the 2017 postseason, one year after losing to the Penguins in the conference finals. In 2015, the Lightning advanced to the Stanley Cup Final only to fall to the Chicago Blackhawks.

But the difference between devastating defeat and winning it all can be overcome, as Kucherov points to countryman Alex Ovechkin and how his Washington Capitals finally won the Stanley Cup after repeated postseason flops and early exits. Kucherov believes the Lightning can use the Capitals' play last spring as a blueprint.

"Their whole team was unbelievable in the playoff run. Every line was fired up and they were playing the best hockey they ever played," Kucherov said. "I'm not sure some of those guys will ever play the same hockey they played in that series. You have to have every guy ready, from your leaders to other guys. Everyone has to be ready to play your best hockey."

The Russian sniper is confident that the Lightning aren't far off from reaching the winner's circle, and that a bevy of changes aren't needed in order to do so.

"We have to be more consistent in our game, more calmed down if things don't go well," Kucherov added. "Always believe in ourselves. Down three goals? You can finish the game the right way."

There will be plenty of internal and external pressure on the Lightning this season, as many pundits are tabbing Tampa Bay as one of the favorites to claim the 2019 Stanley Cup.

Kucherov: Lightning have 'unfinished business' after playoff upset
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