Recency bias is hard to overcome. As fans, what happened yesterday always seems more important than what happened a month ago. The Lightning’s loss to the Capitals in the Eastern Conference Finals left a bitter taste for a lot of fans. So bitter that some fans just want to burn the whole thing to the ground. Whether this season was a success or a failure is a debate for another time. What the Lightning did provide was a long ride that had a lot of good times along the way.
Recently the Raw Charge staff got together to come up with their favorite moments of the season.
The Nikita Kucherov move(s) have to be in there
Our interim site manager wasn’t the only one to mention Nikita Kucherov’s moves. In particular, the breakaway fake-out on Braden Holtby that he pulled off not once, but twice this season.
First in the All Star Game:
Then in an actual game that mattered a few weeks later:
Was Holtby thinking about the move when Kucherov broke in all alone? According to what he said to the The Washington Post after the game, yes. Yes he was.
“Yeah, I mean the key to getting better is to learn from your mistakes and obviously I didn’t do that,” Holtby said. “I was just trying to play it patient. I wasn’t trying to cheat towards that move. And he came at it a different way. That’s on me for not recognizing it.”
Sadly, Kucherov didn’t get the chance to complete the fake-out hat trick in the playoffs.
Mikhail Sergachev’s first goal
Trading a dynamic scorer for an unproven 19-year-old defenseman is a big risk for a General Manager. So you have to imagine that Steve Yzerman was just as happy as Sergachev when the young Russian blasted a puck into the back of the net eight games into the season.
It was part of a five-game point streak in which the rookie recorded eight points and showed Lightning fans just how dynamic of a scorer he could be.
Anthony Cirelli’s first goal
Cirelli didn’t wait eight games before potting his first NHL goal. He got it out of the way in his debut, taking a pass from Ryan Callahan, roaring through the neutral zone and snapping it past Ben Bishop on the short side.
The rookie was an emergency call up due to a coupe of forwards being banged up, but never gave the organization a reason to send him back to Syracuse (although Crunch fans surely would have liked to see him in the playoffs against Toronto). He provided a much needed offensive spark on the bottom six (11 points in 18 games) while also playing responsible hockey.
One of my favorite moments from the season was the whole Tampa Bay Lightning team giving impending UFA Jonathan Tavares and trade target Erik Karlsson the hard sells on Tampa during the All Star Game . I loved the pirate images, the “team atlantic” hugs, the flirty tweets, all of it.
Thank you to all the amazing fans who made this weekend an unforgettable experience. The @TBLightning and our great community showed the world how much passion we have for the game of hockey. Still can’t stop smiling ! pic.twitter.com/uN3PGEHU31— Steven Stamkos (@RealStamkos91) January 29, 2018
Look, Erik Karlsson is most likely not going to suit up in a Lightning uniform next season, but don’t you remember how fun it was to speculate during the weekend? Every move/comment that Karlsson dropped was interpreted as a sign he was coming to Tampa.
Cory Conacher’s bonkers OT goal against Dallas
Remember the Cirelli highlight from earlier? Well that game also featured this goal.
After Dallas tied the game late in regulation with a disputed goal, the Lightning needed overtime to pick up the extra point. Conacher delivered. He used his speed to track down the rebound, outraced Jamie Benn, and then lifted a rolling puck over Ben Bishop and under the crossbar before Benn deposited him into the end boards. Even after watching the highlight 10-15 times, it’s amazing that the puck made it past Bishop.
It was Conacher’s eighth and final goal of the season, but it was among the top five of the season for the Lightning.
Vinny Lecavalier’s number is retired
Vinny’s number 4 was raised to the rafters on February 10th, 2018 before a game against the team he retired with, the Los Angeles Kings.
Lecavalier banner being lifted to the rafters at Amalie Arena https://t.co/Q2garn2JAp— Raw Emotions (@RawCharge) February 10, 2018
(entire ceremony can be seen here)
Lecavalier personifies the rise of the Lightning as a respected hockey organization. Drafted number one overall when the Lightning were at their lowest (just 17 wins in the 1997-98 season), he helped them to the pinnacle - a Stanley Cup in 2003-04. He still holds the franchise records for goals and games played. He is the only player to appear in a 1,000 games in a Lightning uniform.
His career in Tampa didn’t end the way it should have as he was bought out in 2013 (which Mr. Vinnik called “one of the toughest decisions in franchise history”) but the retirement of his number brought the proper closure to his legacy.
And those warm-up jerseys….so sweet.
Brayden Point’s goal against Boston
This goal sums up everything Brayden Point brings to the ice. A smart play to pick off a lazy pass in the neutral zone, quick strides to get the puck into the zone, and wonderful hands to get the puck past Tuukka Rask.
That wasn’t just any defenseman he skated around. It was Zdeno Chara, one of the smartest blueliners in the game. Point just shook off the not-so-gentle shove that Chara gave him as well. It was just an all around fantastic play.
Andrei Vasilevskiy’s behind-the-back save
If Point’s effort was the goal of the year, then Vasilevskiy’s stop against Anze Kopitar was the save of the year.
We broke it down in a post when it happened, so no need to do that again. It was just an amazing display of his athleticism and instincts.
J.T. Brown’s raised fist
Doesn’t it seem like something that happened years ago, not at the beginning of the season? It was in October that Brown made his peaceful demonstration with the support of his team. It was just one of several actions that Brown took to raise awareness of some of the issues in this country.
JT Brown goes fist up during the national anthem in Florida pic.twitter.com/n96r7DOKf0— Pete Blackburn (@PeteBlackburn) October 7, 2017
It was a very divisive gesture that garnered national attention, not only in the hockey media, but also the national media. He received both support and admonishment for his actions and he handled both with professionalism and grace.
Why was it one of my favorite moments? Because it took a tremendous amount of courage for him to do it. Brown is a bottom-six forward in the NHL. He has to fight for every minute of ice time that he gets and he knows that. He knows that his spot on a roster is tenuous at best. He stood up for something he believed in knowing that he could suffer professional setbacks and backlash from the general public. It would have been easier to do nothing, but it wouldn’t have been as impactful.
Those are our favorite moments. Did we miss anything? Post your favorite moments in the comment section below.