Second Time Around

Can you remember how it felt? For many of us, the feeling is still there and it compels us to believe.

Can you remember where you were when the unimaginable happened? Oh there were a few incidents of it during the latter days of the 2003-04 season: when the Eastern Conference was secured in the name of Tampa Bay; when the final horn sounded and the Lightning wore the Eastern Conference crown; or that incident one humid June evening in Tampa that many thought was impossible just seven years ago -- when the captain of the Tampa Bay Lightning was told to come get his Stanley Cup?

Maybe you were online at home -- switching between your TV and your computer? Maybe you were congregated with family, sharing what seemed like a holy experience? Or out at a bar, watching the show with fellow fans? Maybe you were in attendance the night Dave Andreychuk raised the Cup above his head in euphoria? You can remember how it felt, right? The warm feeling, the laughter? The excitement and the joy..?

Now it's time to defend that memory, those feelings.

From the club seats at St. Pete Times Forum to the farthest reaches of the Earth, Lightning fans will never be parted with the memory of the 2003-04 Stanley Cup run. But now it's time to let it go for a few weeks. It's time to get spit and bile flowing, time for the gut check. It's time for the defense. It's time for showing pride, showing testicular fortitude and showing staying power.

It's high time we all remember Safe is Death.

I made mention of the impossible and the unimaginable from 2003-04, and if you -- like so many other fans, bloggers and media sources -- have doubts that the Lightning can retain their crown, you should realize that the Lightning's first Stanley Cup victory (on their third ever playoff appearance) will have nothing on the franchise repeating if it happens. There's doubt, there's destitute, there's skepticism and there's the knowledge that the Lightning are capable of so much more than we've seen:

We've seen flat play and fisticuffs to get engines going.

We've seen listlessness and we've seen epic nights that you thought should go on forever.

We've seen surprises come out of the woodwork -- Paul Ranger, Ryan Craig, Evgeny Artyukhin -- and seen resurrections of members of the Stanley Cup roster (Dmitry Afanasenkov, Chris Dingman).

And we've seen the Championship banner raised into the rafters

If you're like me, you're looking at the Ottawa Senators as an impossible feat. Realize that nothing -- nothing -- is impossible.

If you want proof of that, look at what team won the 2003-04 Stanley Cup. They said that'd never happen, and the Lightning proved'em wrong.