January’s Thunder of the Month award goes to a line that made some difference at the beginning of the Bolts’ last road trip. It is the "French Connection" line, named after two Syracuse Crunch compatriots, Gabriel Dumont and Michael Bournival, with the addition of another French-speaker, Cedric Paquette.
Joe Smith of the Tampa Bay Times described the line’s French connection thus:
The trio shares connections. Paquette, 23, knew Bournival because they have the same agent. Paquette and Dumont grew up not far from each other in Quebec, playing for the same midget team at different times. They didn't meet until training camp. "I always knew of him," Dumont said.
Dumont said they communicate in French during games. Dumont and Bournival often pick Paquette's brain on the bench for tips on Tampa Bay's system. The chemistry on the ice is easy, too.
Perhaps communication was key to their success, or perhaps it was the rapport that developed over Dumont and Bourneval's time with the Canadiens’ minor league teams, but the line managed to be swift enough and tough enough that they helped garner the Lightning some points against the LA Kings and the Anaheim Ducks, early in the road trip, and against the Coyotes later on.
The line was put together on January 12th against Buffalo, and managed to survive until Bournival suffered an upper-body injury in a game against the Florida Panthers on January 26. Bournival cleared waivers on January 28, as did Dumont, though neither has been assigned to Syracuse yet. Bournvial has been practicing with the Lightning in a red no-contact jersey.
The line garnered praise from Jon Cooper during the road trip. He told the Tampa Bay Times: "They can be a little pesty out there. I feel every time they're on the ice, usually something good happens. They give you a reason every time to put them back out there."
Paquette’s goal in the losing game against Arizona perfectly sums up their time together, and exemplifies why this line was named our Thunder of the Month.
In this play, Dumont followed the puck to the boards, springing it free to Bournival. Bournival made the initial shot, but Arizona's Mike Smith sent the puck directly toward Paquette after making the block. Paquette slid to his knees, but managed to complete the play anyway.
That combination of determination to get the puck, hard work against adversity, and a gritty rebound, was a beautiful glimpse of what Tampa can be when it’s at its best, and what the team can be again.