Is this Lightning team built to win the Stanley Cup?
The Tampa Bay Lightning are having one of the best seasons in franchise history. With the All-Star break coming up for the Lightning after tonight’s game against San Jose the Lightning are 36-10-2 with 74 points.
The Lightning currently have a 14 point lead on the nearest teams to them in the Eastern Conference Toronto and the NY Islanders.
Tonight the Lightning will look for pay back against the San Jose Sharks as the Sharks snapped the Lightnings 16 game point streak two weeks ago in San Jose winning a 5-2 decision.
Since that loss the Lightning have been mediocre going 4-3. It has been a mixed bag for the Bolts in those 7 games. The Lightning have looked outstanding at times in shutting out Columbus 4-0 and then shutting out Dallas on the road 2-0.
In the win against the Stars, the Lightning played one of there best defensive games of the season. Although being outshot by double digits in both shutout wins the Lightning’s defensive effort was outstanding.
In the latest effort a 4-2 loss to Toronto, the Lightning outshot the Leafs 38-30 but couldn’t get a goal when they needed one despite having good scoring chances and quality shots.
In the other two losses against the Islanders and the Buffalo Sabres, the Lightning were outplayed from the opening whistle and dug themselves a hole early, one in which they could never climb out of.
In watching the Toronto game with the shot attempts on Toronto goalie Freddie Anderson, Steven Stamkos had 10 SOG, Victor Hedman had 8 SOG and Nikita Kucherov had 4 and all but Hedman ended up getting shutout on the score sheet.
This is reminiscent of what happened during last years playoff series against Washington. The Lightning had no one to answer the Capitals Alex Ovechkin, and I had flashbacks to that series watching the game against the Leafs.
I know its only a game or two and every one says that the team will be fine, but this is the time of year when some cracks in the armor start to show up.
The Lightning have one of the most talented teams in the league from a skill level standpoint, but until it happens I will have questions as to wether this team has the physical and mental toughness to win a grueling 7 game series in the Eastern Conference Finals or Stanley Cup Finals.
There is a lot of hockey yet to be played and the Lightning are still the favorite in most polls to win the Stanley Cup,
But as the Lightning found out last season, the playoffs are a brand new season and present a different set of challenges. The ticky tack penalties that are called now, wont be called in the playoffs and the Lightning will have a lot more 5 on 5 play than PP time.
Stamkos and Kucherov and the rest of the big guns on the Lightning will need to step up and if need be put this team on their back to win an important playoff series. If not...well lets not talk about that.