When Steven Stamkos and the Tampa Bay Lightning strolled into Edmonton’s Rexall Place to take on the Oilers last night, they had a fresh face in the lineup: 2013 third-overall pick Jonathan Drouin.
Drouin, who coach Jon Cooper had earlier said would not be making his debut until later in the Lightning’s Western road trip, likely would have made the Lightning right out of training camp had his preseason derailed by a slight fracture of the thumb on his right hand which sidelined the much-talked about rookie for nearly four weeks. Late last week, the Lightning and Drouin made a bit of news with his activation and subsequent transfer to the American League’s Syracuse Crunch for a conditioning stint.
It didn’t take long for Drouin to make his mark on the professional ranks, scoring on an absolute laser of a wrist shot in the third period of his AHL debut.
For most NHL teams, losing a burgeoning star on defense like Victor Hedman to injury would be a major, if not catastrophic blow. But if a team (at least, an Eastern Conference team) is equipped to weather the absence of a key cog on the blueline, it’s the Tampa Bay Lightning. Despite the fact they’ll now be without Hedman for at least a handful of games, if not longer thanks to a suspected broken hand he suffered Saturday against Vancouver, the Bolts are still looking as dangerous as many expected they would after their off-season additions.
When Tampa Bay GM Steve Yzerman signed free agent blueliner Anton Stralman away from the New York Rangers and traded for former Vancouver Canucks d-man Jason Garrison, he turned a group that included Hedman (who demolished career bests in goals and assists last year), veterans Matt Carle and Eric Brewer, and rugged 24-year-old Radko Gudas into arguably the Eastern Conference’s deepest defense corps. And that argument got much stronger after the Bruins dealt Johnny Boychuk to the Islanders. They’re so deep on defense, they made Brewer a healthy scratch for the first two games of the season. (Gudas is a little banged-up himself, but hoped to return to the lineup as soon as Monday.) There’s more than enough talent and balance there to hold the fort until Hedman returns. (And nobody quite knows when that will be just yet. If their worst fears come true and Hedman’s hand is broken, he’s likely looking at a 4-to-6-week recovery period.)
But even if that defense corps weren’t so sturdy even in Hedman’s absence, the Lightning would still be favored to win more games than not because of two main reasons: Read more
If you can think back to 2011-12, you may remember the excitement surrounding Steven Stamkos’ chase for the 60-goal plateau. As he inched closer and closer, the feeling turned from not if, but when. Who would be the opponent? In what style would he score his 60th?
In Tampa Bay’s last game of the regular season, it finally happened. The answers to Lightning trivia for years to come took the form of a wrist shot blown past Winnipeg Jets goaltender Ondrej Pavelec. The ovation from the sell-out crowd at Winnipeg’s MTS Centre was sincere and a testament to what the young superstar had accomplished.
Stamkos’ next real shot at 60 came not in 2012-13 – the lockout-shortened season robbed him of going back-to-back – but in 2013-14. Paired up with his partner-in-crime, Martin St-Louis, Stamkos fired out of the gates, racking up 14 goals in 17 games. What happened next was the derailment of what could have been the first 70-goal NHL season since Teemu Selanne potted 76 in 1992-93. Read more
Newsflash: Steven Stamkos has the ability to take a puck and put it past the goal line virtually at will. And the Lightning superstar showed why he’s one of the favorites to win the Hart, Art Ross and Rocket Richard trophies this season when he went off on the Montreal Canadiens Monday in Tampa Bay, scoring three goals in the first two periods and leading the Bolts to a 7-1 romp over the Habs.
Stamkos got on the scoresheet for the first time (and the first time this season) at 9:51 of the opening frame when he grabbed a rebound and flipped it past Canadiens star goalie Carey Price:
Goal No. 2 for Stamkos came at 13:15 of the second period, when teammate Victor Hedman connected with him on a brilliant stretch pass the length of the ice for a short breakaway on Price: Read more
It’s interesting how the same event, particularly in a game of contact that goes a hundred miles an hour, can be perceived so differently. Take the Radek Gudas hit on Scottie Upshall Thursday night as an example.
On its website, Rogers Sportsnet described the hit this way: “Florida’s Scottie Upshall gets caught with his head down as he accelerated into the arm of Lightning defenseman Radko Gudas.” Perhaps whoever wrote that really felt that way about the hit. Or perhaps this was the first test of Rogers’ new cozy relationship with the NHL and it failed miserably. Read more
No need to play the 2014-15 season, National Hockey League. Yes, that may cut into the $4 billion in revenues you’re expected to generate, but think of the cost savings for teams that lose money.
Really, why actually play a season when a simulated NHL season has already been played, the Stanley Cup has been awarded and all the awards winners have already been determined? That’s what EA Sports, creators of the NHL 15 video game, have done. And they’ve determined that the Los Angeles Kings will become the first back-to-back Stanley Cup champions since the Detroit Red Wings in 1997 and ’98. Read more
NBA superstar LeBron James returning home to Cleveland sparked speculation this summer in the Toronto media suggesting Tampa Bay Lightning center Steven Stamkos could do the same and sign with the Maple Leafs as a free agent in 2016.
The Leafs lack a homegrown star, and Stamkos would be a natural fit. Responding to questions about the possibility, the 24-year-old sniper inadvertently added fuel to the fire by replying, “We’ll see what happens.” However, Stamkos recently clarified his comments, saying he definitely wants to win with the Lightning. Read more
2013-14 record: 46-27-9
Acquisitions: Brenden Morrow, Matt Corrente, Evgeni Nabokov, Brian Boyle, Mike Blunden, Anton Stralman, Jason Garrison
Departures: Ryan Malone, Tom Pyatt, Cedrick Desjardins, Anders Lindback, Mike Kostka, Keith Aulie, Pierre-Cedric Labrie, Nate Thompson, Teddy Purcell, B.J. Crombeen
Top five fantasy players: Steven Stamkos, Ondrej Palat, Valtteri Filppula, Victor Hedman, Jonathan Drouin
Boom, Bust and Bottom Line: The best, worst and most likely scenario
Boom: For the first time since 2000, Martin St-Louis won’t be at a Tampa Bay Lightning training camp. But after an off-season that featured serious wheeling and dealing from GM Steve Yzerman, the Bolts aren’t missing their former captain. Read more