Boucher: Look On The Bright Side Of The Lightning
Things aren’t looking good for the Tampa Bay Lightning right about now. They have lost 10 of their last 13 games. A number of those losses saw the team establish a lead, only to let the victory slide through their fingers. Goalie Ben Bishop has had some lapses that remind us that he is in fact human. The defensive squad is struggling with injuries and poor play. Then there’s losing one of their biggest offensive weapons via trade to the Rangers. You know, “He Who Shall Not Be Named”. The final weeks of the season are looking pretty bleak. Many people are asking if the Bolts have hit rock bottom. Not by a long shot. In fact, there are still some pretty big reasons to be excited about this team going forward. (Photo/Susan Ferlita)
The return of Steven Stamkos: The new team captain is back in the lineup. He may not be making a big splash on the scoreboard as he was, but that’s understandable with the amount of time he missed due to injury. There’s bound to be a period of adjustment. Stamkos hasn’t played since mid-November. Practices can’t replicate game action, so he’s going to need a little time to get back up to speed. Stamkos will get there, it’s just a matter of time.
Rookie sensations: Over the course of the season, Tampa Bay’s roster has been filled with young players. Forwards like Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat are emerging as scoring dynamos. Defensemen like Radko Gudas are making names for themselves with tough play and hard hits. Considering the shambles the minor league system was in just a few short years ago, it’s incredible to see home grown talent succeeding at such a high level.
Bish Please: When the season opened, the Lightning didn’t have a number 1 goaltender. Fast forward a few months and Ben Bishop has run away with the job. He’s become a household name in Tampa and his play is getting noticed around the NHL. He’s in the top four in three major stat categories: save percentage (.929%), wins (29), and shutouts (4). The only category where he’s out of the top four is goals against average where he is in fifth place with a 2.10 GAA. This team has been hungry for a solid goaltender for almost a decade. Bishop seems to have secured the job and is willing to stand on his head to keep it.
Organizational Stability: This is one many fans forget easily. Go back in time five years and this team was in shambles. They were dwelling in the cellar of the standings, had ownership who couldn’t pay their bills and there was a very real possibility that the franchise would have to relocate. All that has changed. The Lightning are here and our owner is in it for the long haul. Our front office and general manager are committed to building for long term success. The Lightning are good and they are poised to stay that way for quite some time.
It’s hard to remember some of these things in the midst of a tough losing streak. Losing 10 of the last 13 games is pretty bleak. At times like this it’s helpful to maintain some perspective. This is not the worst it’s ever been for the Lightning. We’ve lived through that. Teams don’t become perennial contenders overnight. One of the most important things for young players is gaining experience. The experience gained through adversity is often the most valuable of all. This is not rock bottom. The Lightning still have a shot to make the playoffs. Even if they don’t make it, the lessons learned will make this team even deadlier next season.
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