Sergachev still bothered by loss to Leafs: 'We should've won the Cup'
On the cusp of a new season, Lightning defenseman Mikhail Sergachev said he's still "pissed off" about Tampa Bay's first-round exit at the hands of the Toronto Maple Leafs this past spring.
"In my head, we should've won the Cup," Sergachev said, per Sportsnet's Luke Fox. "Every year, we should win the Cup."
He added: "We don't want to be the team that Toronto finally (beats to get) to the second round."
Toronto squeaked past Tampa Bay in six games to earn its first series win since 2004. The Lightning had reached the Stanley Cup Final in three consecutive seasons before the loss, winning the title in 2020 and 2021.
The Maple Leafs and Bolts have met in the playoffs for two straight years as the second and third seeds in the Atlantic Division. Tampa Bay won the first matchup in 2022 in seven games. The 2023 showdown marked the first time the Lightning failed to win a series since 2019, when they were infamously swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets despite winning the Presidents' Trophy as the league's top regular-season team.
Setbacks have been rare for Sergachev and the Lightning in recent years, but the blue-liner is adamant the club will use the loss to Toronto as fuel in 2023-24.
"We'll see when camp starts how pissed off we are. The guys are very competitive even now," he said.
"Usually before camp, we skate (together). We'll do five drills and play a game. Usually it's like beer-league hockey. Now, it's intense. Some hitting, too. It's great. Competitive. No one is going to let me walk them on the blue line. It's not acceptable anymore."
Sergachev, 25, set personal highs in assists (54), points (64), shots (156), and average ice time (23:49) last season. This coming campaign is the first of an eight-year, $68-million extension he signed last summer.