Confession: I'm still hung-over from last season. The previous season was characterized by valid potential, but ended up a massive letdown. It was characterized by patterns of singular wins that punctuated really long losing streaks. What can I say? It's difficult to get over disappointment.
But one month in, the Lightning have proven themselves a reformed, winning team. In ten games, they're have a record of 7-2-1, and are at the top of the Eastern Conference. For what it's worth, in the same number of games a year ago, they were 4-3-3 and, well, not at the top.
This season, at least in starting, has already proven to be markedly different.
Check out notes from the first ten games after the jump.
Hello, Scoring! An exciting addition to this year's play is getting to see pucks go into the net. With Boucher's offense-focused system, taking shots and scoring is a major component of what we're seeing so far this season. Following Saturday's game against the Phoenix Coyotes, Steven Stamkos has totaled nine goals in ten games. The exciting thing, however, is watching his continued development, his refusal to plateau, and taking any shot he can get--even the ugly ones (a departure from the usual one-timer from the right face-off circle).
Also, scoring confidence is renewed in team captain Vincent Lecavalier, who has three goals. Martin St. Louis has five goals as well. In the last two games Dana Tyrell and Mattias Ritola have also found their scoring touch, getting their first goals of the season against the Pittsburgh Penguins and the Phoenix Coyotes, respectively.
We obviously aren't complaining.
Loving the 4th Line. Going back to Game 5 against the Dallas Stars, fourth liners Nate Thompson, Adam Hall, and Dana Tyrell started the game against Dallas to play a tough game against the Stars' top line, which included former Lightning fan favorite Brad Richards. Since then, the line has added depth to the system, proving themselves as reliable, relentless players. Thompson alone has a face-off win percentage of 57.7% thus far.
Gagne? Despite his presence on the ice, Lightning forward Simon Gagne has yet to score. Though he is still a significant presence on the ice, fans are starting to wonder what the hold up is. Granted, he is coming back from injury, and coupled with that is the fact that he is on a new team and learning a new system. Those aren't the ideal situations in which to rebuild a player's confidence, but Gagne remains on the list of players to watch.
Boucher. Watching Boucher's strength in leadership has already proven to be an asset to the team's success, and it's been easy to see it both on and off the ice. Boucher doesn't determine success on the basis of wins or losses, but is looking for a team that is working hard and following directions. He's looking for a team with chemistry, speed, and presence. What Boucher is building, as can already be seen, is a team that is crisp and ready for action. This is a team that is ready to win every night.
Bandaging Wounds. As far as injuries go, missing from the roster in the first eight games of the season was Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund (knee), contributing to the noteworthy weakness with the defense. Absent from the last four games with a neck injury is forward Simon Gagne, and gone from the lineup as well for the past two games is forward Dominic Moore, who sustained a groin injury.
These are the good things. There are obviously still some bigger issues to iron out, like goaltending, for one, but I keep coming back to the notion of the "world-class organization"...and it seems like we've got it. Now if we can keep it up. And not just for the next few games or the next couple of months, but for the long haul into playoffs.