So where do we go from here?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have had two consecutive seasons of up-and-down play where they start off okay, trail off for November and December, then go into overdrive for January and February... Only to start playing half-hearted by the end of March and into April.
Lack of heart and desperation helped the Bolts to lower seed placement in the playoffs in '05-06 and cost them the Southeast Division crown in '06-07.
But that's the last two seasons. Point in fact is Vinny Lecavalier and Brad Richards are hitting their prime, the team has added a few tools here and there -- nothing major -- to shore up the 2nd and 3rd lines. This you know from the off-season moves. This you know from pre-season ponderings. Will Ouellet shed his cement hands reputation? Will Chris Gratton enable the 3rd line as a threat on both offense and defense (and I have no doubt it's a possibility. Between Gratton and Ward, there is potential there)? Will the kids -- former collegiate's Mike Lundin and Matt Smaby prove they belong in the NHL?
And of course, will Johan Holmqvist or Marc Denis stand up and prove they are #1 goaltenders?
Yeah, questions are around. Pondering the future, the St. Petersburg Times painted this as a possible last-dance for the Lightning's top 4 players (Lecavalier, Richards, Boyle and St. Louis -- the Lightning's own Entourage)
Questions, questions... but to hell with the questions right now. Tonight is the (NON) Trap versus the Fly. Tonight is Brodeur vs. Holmqvist -- a whole new round of fun. Tonight is not a night of worry - it's a night of hope as once again, hockey is upon us.
Tonight's the first step. That's not questionable. The key word isn't question though, it's quest. A quest to regain stature in the Southeast Division as it's champion and vie for the glorious Cup again. And on that quest, there will be ups and downs, ins and outs, worries and aggravations.
And a lot of fun along the way.