Anton Stralman is a fantastic hockey player. When he signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning a few years ago there was a rare sports moment when the old-school “hockey men” and the modern hockey analysts both celebrated the acquisition. The Swedish blueliner managed to pass both the eye test and the stats test. One thing he doesn’t do, though, is provide a ton of top-ten highlights.
That’s not a bad thing. Stralman was not put on this earth to effortlessly glide from one end of the ice to the other with the puck and score with ease (that’s Victor Hedman’s job). Stralman was created so that the phrases “Stralman breaks up the rush” and “pass knocked away by Stralman” could be repeated over and over for Lightning fans. His glory lies in the small plays that start 200 feet away from the opponent’s goal. Positioning, reading the play and making the correct move, knowing where to put the puck to lead a teammate out of the defensive zone—that’s where he shines.
Stralman still gets his points, his 95 career points ties him with noted playmaker Jonathan Drouin for 31st all-time in Lightning history, and his 72 assists are 7th all-time for Lightning defensemen. They just don’t tend to be super exciting points.
Still, despite his steady, unassuming play, Stralman has managed a few highlights over the 228 games he’s played in a Lightning uniform.
Welcome the NHL Anthony Duclair
For a quiet, unassuming Swede, Stralman has delivered his fair share of open ice hits. While a lot of them came in a Rangers uniform, there are still a few from his current Lightning days. Anthony Duclair , also a former Ranger, is an exciting, fast player. Stralman, the wily vet, knows it’s better to stop a speedster before he gets going. So he steps up at the blueline and stops the young Coyote in his tracks. Stralman does a great job of keeping his shoulder and knee tucked and separates him from the puck in a spectacular fashion.
Taking out all of the Winnipeg Jets
If you’re a Jets fan you’re probably not much of a Stralman fan. The first hit on Mark Scheifele is not a bad hit. Stralman commits to hitting him at the blue line and a move by Scheifele results in knee-to-knee contact. Despite what the announces say, Stralman does not stick his knee or forearm out. It’s a shame he was shaken up on the play, but there wasn’t anything Stralman could really do different on the play.
Stralman would draw the ire of Jets fans with another hit on a Jets player. During the 2015-16 season he hit an off-balance Bryan Little in the middle of the ice that ended the Winnipeg forward’s season. Again, Stralman is in proper position to make the hit and there is nothing malicious in it except for the result (now the hit on Nic Ehlers earlier in the clip...ehhh not so good).
The Comeback Goal
The 2015-16 Lightning were a very good team that suffered just a few important injuries. The most notable was that Steven Stamkos had his blood betray him and clot up. Stralman’s broken leg, suffered near the end of the season, was just as important. He missed the last few games of the regular season and the first two rounds of the playoffs.
Knowing that his team was desperate for help on the blue line, he returned to the ice in Game 2 of the Eastern Conference finals against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Later he would admit that his leg had not fully healed. The Penguins jumped out to a 2-0 lead as they put pressure on rookie goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy (who was starting in place of injured starter Ben Bishop) and looked to be turning the game into a blowout.
With time winding down in the first period, Stralman snuck into a prime scoring position and found some open ice. Jonathan Marchessault found him and slid a pass between a couple of colliding Penguins. Despite a rough first touch, Stralman was able to roof it over Matt Murray’s glove. The Lightning tied a few moments later on a goal by Jonathan Drouin.
The game ended poorly as Stralman got caught in neutral ice in overtime and wasn’t able to recover fast enough to prevent Sidney Crosby from scoring the overtime winner.
Kick save and a beauty
The goalie is usually the last line of defense. Sometimes, a defender is there to bail them out when they lose sight of the puck. Case in point, Stralman stopping Jiri Sekac with a sliding kick save. Not only was it a nice save, it was pretty important...well at least as important as a save can be that happens in October.
At the point that he denied Sekac, the score was 2-1 in favor of the Lightning. If Montreal tied the game, thing might have turned out differently. Instead, Steven Stamkos scored twice following the save and the Lightning routed the Canadiens 7-1
You Spin me Right Round, Baby
Ben Lovejoy is a Stanley Cup winner (and whose expanding face once made Sidney Crosby curse). Marc Andre Fleury has many, many Stanley Cups. Yet on a January day in 2016, Anton Stralman owned them both. Lovejoy makes the right play, dropping to a knee to prevent Stralman from passing it down low to Ryan Callahan. Who, when faced with the same situation, would expect Stralman to spin to his backhand and roof it over Fleury.
Hopefully new teammate Chris Kunitz backchecks a little harder in a Lightning uniform.
How about a video of a young Anton Stralman upending Lightning legend Vincent Lecavalier and then having the fight broken up by former Lightning legend Pavel Kubina? Stralman also had an assist in the game which the Leafs won 4-3 in a shootout. A shootout that didn’t see a goal until the 12 shooter, John Mitchell, finally put one past Karri Ramo.