Lightning Striking Early
Hey, everyone. It’s Dan Mount and I’m here with my Monday look at the National Hockey League. Today looks at the fast start of the Tampa Bay Lightning. As always, you can leave comments (positive or negative) below or you can tweet me @DanMountSports. I also wanted to let you know that I’m participating in the Movember movement dedicated to men’s health. I’ll be growing a mustache and raising money. Here’s my page if you want to give. I’ve already got celebrity endorsements.
@DanMountSports Good luck! We are doing it again and we will post updates— Jay Onrait (@JayOnrait) November 3, 2013
I know there has been a few negative things that’s happened in the last couple weeks in the NHL. There’s been suspensions, goalies going insane (along with a Flyers fan, caution language NSFW) and other things. However, there’s been some good things about the season. Minnesota goalie Josh Harding’s great play despite having MS and the fast starts of teams like Colorado and Tampa Bay.
The team had questions going into the season. I thought the Lightning were going to be in the middle of a rebuild this season despite what the coaching staff said before the season. (I picked them to finish sixth in the Atlantic Division at the start of the season.) The main questions were defense and goaltending. The defense corps were thin and full of unproven players. A lot of these players were on the Calder Cup winning team in Norfolk and last year’s runner-up Syracuse. (The team changed AHL affiliation cities last year.) However, Lightning GM Steve Yzerman decided to pass on a bunch of free agent defensemen.
Goaltending was also a question as Tampa had two unproven netminders in 6’7” Ben Bishop and Anders Lindback (who is nearly as tall as Bishop at 6’6”) projected to share the load in between the pipes. They also have Cedrick Desjardins waiting in the wings in case of injuries or if the other goalies faltered. The Lightning made the move for Bishop at the deadline last season sending Cory Conacher to Ottawa.
There was one thing that was not a question and that was the play of the forwards like Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos. There was no doubt that the Ning would put up a ton of goals. That offense is one of the slickest, but hardest-working units in the league. (Just ask St. Louis’ quads about how hard he works.) They have a lot of weapons even though the team bought out longtime forward Vincent Lecavalier.
However, the defense has come out and played well in the first month plus of this young season. The blueliners have made a complete turnaround so far this season. Sure there have been a few missteps, but the D-corps has responded with solid games. Victor Hedman has become the leader of the defense and the young guys are responding. The big key is that the forwards have been helping out with the defensive responsibilities.
The goaltending has also showed up this season as Bishop has been feeling it in this first month of the season. (He’s second in wins this season so far with nine.) There still may be some questions about Lindback, but they have Desjardins waiting in Syracuse as a capable backup.
But the offense has really cranked up its production. Steven Stamkos already has 11 goals and 9 assists to stand at second behind St. Louis’ Alexander Steen. Martin St. Louis is still playing very well at his advanced age and the team is seventh in goals scored with 3.21 a contest. It’s easy to score when you have a guy like Stamkos doing this.
The team has also handled itself well early on in the season. If you look at the team’s schedule, the team had games against the Bruins, two against the champion Blackhawks, Penguins and the Kings. Most of the team’s losses come against the B’s and the Pens, but the Lightning did sweep the Hawks and routed Los Angeles. Plus, they got a big win over St. Louis on Saturday. Sure, they’ve beaten teams like the Sabres and the Panthers, but they’ve mostly beaten these teams that they should beat.
Like I’ve said before, I usually wait for the first couple of months is over before I start tabbing teams for possible playoff contention, but it’s refreshing to see a team that has one of the top stars in the game get off to such a good start.
Dan Mount is an NHL and college football writer for TJRSports.com. He is based out of Watertown, NY.