By remaining with the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steven Stamkos could be hoisting Lord Stanley’s Trophy in the very near future.
This spring has shaped up to be totally different than last spring for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last season was just the third time in the franchise history of the Lightning that they tallied more than 100 points. But in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, the Lightning were swept by the Montreal Canadiens in spite of the fact that they had home-ice advantage. The Lightning would once again enjoy a strong regular season this time around as they tallied a franchise best 108 points. The Lightning would once again qualify for the postseason and in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs, they met the always tough Detroit Red Wings who were making their 23rd consecutive playoff appearance.
The Lightning dropped Game 1 at home by the score of 3-2 and it appeared to be deja vu in Tampa. But the Lightning rebounded in Game 2 to even the series at 1-1. After swapping victories in Detroit, the Lightning would return home for Game 5 where they were shutout 4-0 and booed off of the ice by their fans. The Lightning would then pull off the impossible as they went to Joe Louis Arena in Detroit for Game 6 where they won 5-2. The Lightning would return home for Game 7 where they would shutout the Wings 2-0 and advance to the second round where they would meet the same Canadiens who swept them out of the playoffs last season.
The Lightning were able to go to the Bell Centre in Montreal and outscore the Canadiens 8-2 in the first two games to take a 2-0 series lead. The Lightning would hold off the Canadiens to win in six games and they are heading to the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since 2011.
As always there are plenty of eyes on Lightning center Steven Stamkos who is the team’s biggest scoring threat. Only two players have scored more goals than Stamkos while wearing a Lightning uniform as he is always a threat to light the lamp. But so far during the 2015 Stanley Cup Playoffs, it has been the passing of Stamkos that is propelling the Lightning. In 13 playoff games this spring, Stamkos has only scored 3 goals, but he is leading the club with 7 assists. Center Tyler Johnson has been the Lightning’s top goal scorer in the postseason as he scored 7 of his 8 postseason goals in the Lightning’s first round series victory over the Red Wings. And if you’re going to advance in the postseason like the Lightning have, you’ll need to have a strong net minder.
Lightning goalie Ben Bishop has risen to the occasion when the chips have been pushed to the middle of the table. After surrendering 3 goals in the Lightning’s Game 5 loss to the Red Wings, Bishop only gave up a pair of goals over the final two games of the series; including a shutout in Game 7. In the series clinching victory over Montreal, only one goal slipped by Bishop as he is playing his best hockey of the year.
For Lightning head coach Jon Cooper, his club is clicking at the right time as they haven’t slowed down after a very strong regular season. And as the Lightning are preparing to face the New York Rangers in the Eastern Conference Finals, they know that they’ll meet a team with a workman like approach. The Lightning will also have a star goalie to contend with in Rangers goalie Henrik Lundqvist. The Rangers will be third straight team that the Lightning will face this postseason that is an Original Six club with a long and storied history. And as the Lightning have been knocking off traditional National Hockey League powers, they are out to write their own history. The Lightning became a team of destiny when they won the Stanley Cup in 2004, and they want to bring it to West Florida once more as they’re out to make Tampa a hockey town.