The Olympic break has come and four months ago the Tampa Bay Lightning were getting ready to head into the regular season with a few questions. 1. How were they going to replace the face of the franchise for so many years? Vincent Lecavalier. The franchise leader in so many categories. The man who was drafted as a sleek young 19yr old led the franchise to a Stanley Cup in 2004. Just how would he be replaced? Question #2 who would be the #1 Goalie? Anders Lindback who was acquired last season struggles a bit and never really asserted himself as the guy so, Steve Yzerman half way through the season traded for a goaltender around her in these parts we didn't have a clue about. Some of us were in an outrage because we felt like we gave up to much to get him. Cory Conacher for Ben Bishop. Now do you think that was a bad trade? As of right now that seem like we robbed Ottawa with their eyes open.
Lightning got off to a great start to the season. Very unexpected when we have a new coach in his first full season and the young additions to the team. But they came out of the gate like a rocket. In a new conference alignment and a division with some of the top teams in the NHL No one expected this. Then in Blink of an eye in Dec. we all saw one of the best players in the league go down. Steven Stamkos breaks his leg on a hustle play getting back on defense getting his leg hug up on the net. We didn't want to think about going through the season for one game without the league’s top scorer let a long something long term or season ending. Now the question was who would step up and take the reigns as we lost a ton of points and most of all the Leadership. We the true answer was not one guy was going to have to take over it was going to have to be a team effort to replace Stamkos. Well one thing no one thought of was maybe we didn't have to score a lot of point. How about stopping other teams from scoring and that’s what the Bolts have done. The defense has clamped down and Ben Bishop has been nothing short of remarkable with his defense in net. Victor Hedman has slowly come into his own this year and proving that he’s indeed one of the best Defenseman in the league 4th on team in goals with 11 and a total of 37pts. May not be much to you but he’s doing things that we haven’t seen in years moving the puck through the zone and showing some offensive skill. The team is flying around pressuring the puck, getting in hits and body checking guys at the point of attack. One guy in particular that I love is RADKO GUDAS. This guy is so fundamentally sound with his defense and hip checking. He's definitely a guy who brings toughness and energy to the team.
A guy who seems not to age at all is Marty. He's has 58pts and 25Gs at 38yrs old. When is he going to slow down? As a Bolts fan I hope never. He’s done nothing but lead this team in Stamkos absence night after night. He's score 3 and 4 goals in a game this yr. He's won games, he fights, he claws, he's not afraid to get into the corners and fight for the puck. For a guy his size he's a very strong guy and his leadership is on display right now. Tyler Johnson the young guy who finally has gotten his chance to come up from the minors and play some major minutes and contribute is having a very good season 37pts with 17g. He's very fast on his skates and almost has a little Marty in him. Their styles are Similar and I can see that watching Marty every day has rubbed off on him some and that's a good thing. VALTTERI FILPPULA The free agent signing we picked up from Detroit. Who would have thought he would be this good. Coming in he never been a guy who would score a lot of goals. He was known as a very solid player who was very good puck handling and moving the puck up the ice. Has the ability to score goals but he has been instrumental in the Lightning’s success this yr. 41pts with 20Gs he putting up a career year and showing that he’s worth every penny we paid him. ONDREJ PALAT, TEDDY PURCELL, ALEX KILLORN, MATTHEW CARLE, Just to name a few all of the guys have contributed into this great season so far. Cooper should be in the running for coach of the yr. Stamkos still hasn't been cleared to come back yet and when he does come back that's going to be a huge addition. Now all these guys who may not have gotten a chance to play has gotten big time minutes which is important to their development!
So as we wait out this Olympic break the guys get a much needed rest to heal up and get refreshed to what should be an amazing 2nd half of the season. They sit in 3rd place in the conference with 71pts as long as they can keep this pace up I see no reason why they can't make the playoffs and be a factor with the goaltending that they are getting and the production from everywhere in the lineup. Ending this I would like to give major props and thanks to Jeffery Vinik and Steve Yzerman for putting this team together and giving us a product to be proud of this season and many to come! GO BOLTS!