Sit there quietly for a moment and listen. Do you hear that? Those are the rumblings of pundits around the hockey world taking notice of the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Lightning coach Jon Cooper was recently considered by NHL.com to be a favorite for the Jack Adams Trophy, awarded by the National Hockey League's Broadcasters Association to the "NHL coach judged to have contributed most to his team's success."
The Lightning, as of this writing, sit in second place in the Atlantic Division. They are two points behind an NHL powerhouse in the Boston Bruins. And, that is mostly thanks to the guidance of Jon Cooper.
In his first full season as head coach, Cooper has instilled in the players a "defense first" mentality. That has translated to the Lightning jumping from 27th in the league in goals against average last season to 9th for the 2013-14 campaign. The Lightning has also been near the top in goals per game, sitting in 8th in the league.
This "defense first" mentality has certainly made things a lot easier on goalie Ben Bishop, who has been spectacular this year. Currently, Bishop is 2nd in the league in goals against, 1st in the league in save percentage, and 2nd in the league in shutouts. It is noteworthy that Bishop only has 81 games under his belt at the NHL level, and already he has forced himself into discussion for the Vezina.
Finally, it is definitely worth noting the onslaught of rookies on our team this season. Some have even begun using the name Tampacuse-ahem, thanks for the moniker, Raw Charge!
While rookies such as Radko Gudas, Andrej Sustr and Ondrej Palat have been solid this season, Tyler Johnson has been nothing short of spectacular. He has even begun drawing consideration for the Calder Trophy, awarded to the best rookie in the National Hockey League. As of January 21, Johnson is second in the league in points behind 2013 first overall draft pick Nathan Mackinnon, currently with the Colorado Avalanche. Johnson also is 4th in the league in goals.
So, the future of the Lightning is definitely a bright one. Since the 2011 playoffs, in which the Bolts made it to the Eastern Conference Final against the Boston Bruins, Lightning fans have not had much to cheer about. Thankfully, the crowds have still regularly been to capacity at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. It looks like, with the leadership of Jon Cooper and the stellar play of goalie Ben Bishop and rookie Tyler Johnson, the Lightning will remain a force to be reckoned with.