Season Preview: Tampa Bay
By Spike Coffman, TheFourthPeriod.com
Lightning hopes to regain the level of play that had them in the Eastern
Conference Finals in 2011. Last 2011-12 season, goaltending issues had the
Lightning allow the most goals in the NHL with an astounding 281 goals. The
positive thing for Coach Guy Boucher is the offensive firepower of the Lightning
could be one of the most potent in the league.
Steven Stamkos only had 60 goals last year, which happens every year right?
Stamkos will be the main offensive force behind the Lightning and with the
shortened season it brings up an interesting question. Can Stamkos get 50 goals
in 48 games? It would be an insane pace that hasn't been seen in the NHL since
the mid 90s.
He'll be aided by Martin St. Louis, who still last season, at the age of 36,
still managed to almost be a point-a-game player. Besides the top two, the
Lightning are have solid core of players around Stamkos and St. Louis.
Lecavalier will be expected to put up points, along with Teddy Purcell and Ryan
General Manager Steve Yzerman took the chance and brought Matt Carle back to the
Lightning roster via free agency. Carle had spent the last four seasons in
Philadelphia. Hopefully, this time is better for Carle than the 12 games he
played for Tampa Bay in 2008. Victor Hedman will continue to improve in his
fourth season and Eric Brewer will be a solid defensive presence on the
blueline. Yzerman also signed Sami Salo from Vancouver to bring added depth to
the defense. The Lightning will lose Mattias Ohlund, though, as he is still out
battling concussions. Overall, the Lightning have solid defensive corps.
Last season, the goaltending duo of Dwayne Roloson and Mathieu Garon did not get
the job done and Yzerman couldn't sit back and wait. In a trade with Nashville,
Yzerman brought in Andres Lindback, who had been hidden behind Pekka Rinne in
the Predators' pecking order. Lindback put up good numbers while in a backup
position; if he can recreate that play in Tampa Bay, it will be in immediate
improvement compared to last season.
Tampa Bay should be expected to fight with Washington and Florida for the top
spot in the Southwest Division. If they can figure out the problems that plagued
Boucher's club last season, they could easily be in a solid spot come playoff
time. Offensively, they could be the best team in the division, but the defense
and goaltending will be counted on to lead them atop the Southeast Division.
3 Players to Watch
Lecavalier is the highest paid player on the team and he needs to play like
one this season. It's that simple. He'll be watched very closely as this
could be a defining year in his career in Tampa Bay.
Connolly was drafted high and while he had impressive moments in his rookie
season, the Lightning will expect him to be the top-six forward he was
projected to be when he was drafted. Connolly is averaging almost a
point-a-game for the Syracuse Crunch during the lockout.
If Lindback can put up better numbers than Roloson did last year, which
shouldn't be too hard to do, it will put the Lightning in the position to
win every night. Watch for how he plays in Boucher's system compared to what
he faced with Ryan Suter and Shea Weber in front of him in Nashville.