Tampa Bay Lightning fans might not remember, but the Bolts beat the New York Islanders in the third round of the 2020 playoffs in six games. The Lightning went on to win their second Stanley Cup in franchise history. Meanwhile, Islanders head coach Barry Trotz has been brooding over the loss, and apparently will continue to do so until his dying days. His words.
"On my death bed, that will be one of the visions that will go through my head."— Mollie Walker (@MollieeWalkerr) January 3, 2021
While I’m sorry to hear that Trotz suffered through the series like a Shakespearean tragedy, that series with the Islanders was arguably the least memorable part of that epic postseason. The way I remember the Islanders series is that it was before the return of Steven Stamkos and after slaying achilles heel Columbus and division rival Boston.
The series with the Blue Jackets, where the Lightning exacted their revenge from a year ago with a five-overtime win to start the series and a five-minute overtime win to end it in five games. That series proved to the team and their fans that they were back, that their quality was real. The demons from a year prior were laid to rest. The win was an incredible feeling and justification for everything that had happened the preceding year.
Then it was the Boston Bruins, the team’s nemesis from every regular season since realignment. That series also ended in overtime in five games. The Bruins didn’t have much in them and we probably saw the peak Lightning at this point in the playoffs. They were unstoppable and pounded the Bruins to nothing after that patented game one loss.
I will give credit where it’s due and say that the Islanders put up a fight in the conference finals, but after watching that series and looking at the numbers, the Islanders were not a threat. They didn’t have any offense that worried the Lightning, and their defense didn’t do anything to slow down the Lightning who scored at a similar rate (2.96 goals/60) against the Bruins (3.36 goals/60) and actually had a harder time scoring against the Blue Jackets (2.12 goals/60) than anyone else.
I understand the coaching tactic of us vs. everybody, and finding an enemy to rally against, but maybe if that enemy is the Tampa Bay Lightning, get a better team? Try signing Mat Barzal, that one’s for free.
Lightning Training Camp Begins
Sunday was media day for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they get set to repeat their Stanley Cup victory in nine days time. We have pictures and quotes from the players, coach, and GM for you.
You can find the training camp roster along with some of Justin’s thoughts on the group in the article we posted yesterday. [Raw Charge]
“For teams that made a lot of roster changes that could be problematic as they try to get everyone acclimated to their specific style of play. For the Lightning that won’t be too much of a problem. The only new names on the roster (Marian Gaborik and Anders Nilsen) will never see the ice in a Tampa Bay uniform so there is no need for them to learn the playbook. What the Lightning will be working on for the next ten days is figuring who will play on what line and which young players are going to fill the spots left by those who departed.”
Bryan Burns echoed what Justin said in his article opening training camp. The goal of these 10 days will be to find young players to take the places of the vets that had to leave the team due to cap reasons. On defense, there’s a space at 6D for one of the young prospects to take a spot, if they can beat Luke Schenn. [NHL dot com]
“One substantial addition is the return of Steven Stamkos from the core muscle injury that sidelined him for the final seven games of the regular season and the subsequent compensatory injury that derailed his plans to return for the playoffs, the Bolts captain skating just 2:47 of Game 3 of the Stanley Cup Final against Dallas for his only postseason action and scoring the most iconic goal in Lightning history in the process.”
There will never be a replacement for Nikita Kucherov this season, but someone will at least need to fill in some of those minutes and take on a larger role on the offense. Captain Steven Stamkos will want to be a big part of that after stating that he’s healthy and will be a full participant of training camp. [NHL dot com]
“I’ll be ready for camp,” he said. “Expectation is to have a full camp and be ready for the start of the season. I’m excited about that. It’s obviously been a very unusual offseason and got to celebrate there and then went straight to surgery. I’ve been doing a lot of rehab. I’ve been at a place now where I’m definitely comfortable on the ice. Looking forward to starting camp and getting on the ice tomorrow.”
Steven Stamkos said he'll be ready for camp and will be a full participant. "Definitely comfortable on the ice and looking forward to it." #tblightning— Joe Smith (@JoeSmithTB) January 3, 2021
Here are the interviews done over Zoom on GM Julien BriseBois, head coach Jon Cooper, Captain Steven Stamkos, Conn Smythe winner and father Victor Hedman, and Stanley Cup Champion Ryan McDonagh.
Quite the year for Victor Hedman: won the Stanley Cup and welcomed his first child. "It was my best offseason so far in my life. It was different, but I was walking on clouds and still am." #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) January 3, 2021
While I was a little upset, I can understand that Coop would confuse his cat for “one hell of a goalie.”
Jon Cooper was asked on the principles that have allowed him to win championships at every level of coaching. "The secret to the success is 3 things: it's an understanding wife, a loyal dog and one hell of a goalie." #Bolts— Bryan Burns (@BBurnsNHL) January 3, 2021
The Syracuse Crunch
The AHL Crunch will be announcing their intention to play the 2020-21 season or not sometime today. Both owner Howard Dolgon and Lightning GM BriseBois are “optimistic” that the team will play and the prospects will get a chance to develop.
On Zoom call this morning, TB GM Julien BriseBois said a few details remain to be ironed out, but he's optimistic that Crunch will opt in to play some AHL games this season. That echoes sentiment earlier expressed by Crunch owner Howard Dolgon— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) January 3, 2021
It seems the Lightning/Crunch will be looking to bring in other players from teams that choose to opt out. Keep an eye out on this especially if any NY-based NHL teams don’t have an affiliate for the season. The odds don’t seem strong that the AHL affiliates of the three Western Canadian teams will play either, with the possible exception of the Utica Comets.
BriseBois also said Tampa Bay is exploring something of a dual affiliation in Syracuse this season, picking up players from another organization that does not field an AHL team. He did not specify which one.— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) January 3, 2021
The Taxi Squad and Crunch are very clearly going to be composed for different reasons. The Taxi Squad will emphasize older NHL-experienced players, while the Crunch will be a lot younger.
So that signals that the Crunch roster might be a little younger than usual, with the just-starting-out prospects as opposed to those right on the cusp or fringe NHL older players.— Syracuse Hockey (@syrhockey) January 3, 2021
More on the prospects, if leagues like the OHL and WHL don’t have a season, prospects will be allowed to play in the AHL. Those prospects will also be allowed in the AHL or on the Taxi Squad until a confirmed start date is announced for those leagues. (This proves that the February start dates currently stated for the WHL and OHL are not meaningful).
Prospects like Jack Finley, Gage Goncalves, Jack Thompson, and Quinn Schmiemann could see themselves in the pros sooner than they thought, at least for a little while. Gabriel Fortier is not part of this conversation as he’s already playing in the QMJHL.
A team source reached out to mention NHL teams can have their CHL prospects play in the AHL up until their CHL league gets going and that is something the Canadiens might like to do with Kaiden Guhle. Would be rare opportunity to work with a young CHL prospect at the pro level.— Аrpon Basu (@ArponBasu) January 4, 2021
Watch out for this in Tracey’s weekly ECHL update. Things got a tad out of hand.