Hi there. You may be here because someone on a podcast mentioned me as someone who wrote about the Lightning. You might be here because you’re a Blackhawks fan who wants to learn more about the Lightning. Or, as someone who likes to root for an underdog you’re jumped aboard the Tampa Bay Lightning bandwagon.
I don’t care why you’re here, I’m just glad you showed up. Below is a breakdown of all the members of the Lightning that you might see on the ice during the next couple of weeks. But let me also be your guide for following the team from Hockey Bay, USA. Some things to know:
- We as a fan base have been around for a while. Believe it or not the Tampa Bay Lightning have been around for over 20 years. We’ve even won a Stanley Cup! Honest, look it up. We know what icing is (and not the kind that’s on a cake).
- We embrace being a non-traditional market. Trust me there is nothing, and I mean nothing better than hanging out at the beach all day and then going to a hockey game in shorts and flip-flops. Do we do things different? Yes, but we still love hockey just as much as Wayne-O from Schaumberg.
- The ticket ban/ jersey policy is stupid. We know it. The only people that are upset are people who aren’t going to fly to Tampa to go or are going on a press pass. Tickets weren’t even an issue since the initial run sold out within hours.
- We know there will be a lot of Hawks fans in the crowd. Lots of those folks retire down and keep their allegiance to Chicago. That’s cool, when I’m old and frail I don’t want to have to put up with Chicago winters either. Thanks for spending your money at Amalie Arena.
- Chicago has an awesome tradition with the National Anthem. We have real-life lightning in the building. I say it’s a tie.
- Bolts is ok. Ning is not. Not ever. Don’t do it. Not even to be ironic.
Why should you root for the Lightning? Well everyone loves an underdog. And the Lightning are an underdog in Vegas and in the media. Everyone seems to think the Hawks are going to roll. My favorite is, “Man I hope the Hawks win in 6 so that they FINALLY get to clinch the Cup at home.”
Yes, on paper the Hawks are a deeper team. Johnny Toews is super awesome. Patrick Kane is a stickhandling genius. Duncan Keith has harnessed the secret of perpetual energy. But they also have Corey Crawford in net. I don’t think he’s horrible, but he is inconsistent. The Lightning have waded through a hot goalie in Petr Mrazek, a Vezina goalie in Carey Price and a king in Henrik Lundqvist. I'm sure they are quite happy to face Stanley Cup winner Corey Crawford.
The Lightning could very well lose, I’m cool with that, but I have a feeling they’re going to give Chicago everything they can ask for. It will be speed vs speed. You can’t wear Duncan Keith down by pounding him physically, but you can tire him out with speed. If the Lightning get their transition game going, it will be a long, long series for the Blackhawk defense.
So time for you kids to get to know the actual players.
Tyler Johnson – I think we’ve hit peak saturation on the Tyler Johnson Love Express. One of my friends (a Blackhawks fan) mentioned that he now wants to punch him in the face. Before NBC got a hold of him, Johnson was a nice success story. Undrafted because of his size, all he does is win wherever he goes. He is the leading point scorer in the playoffs, has more speed than people (especially defensemen) think and has an innate ability to know where Ondrej Palat is at all times.
|He's small, but scrappy! Photo from Associated Press|
- Bandwagon Twitter tip – If he scores, Tweet something along the lines of “Tyler Johnson is good at hockey. Follow it up with #ThatLine to make Eric Erlendsson happy.
Strong shift from #ThatLine with Lundqvist robbing Garrison cutting down the back door at 16:04— Erik Erlendsson (@erlendssonTBO) May 30, 2015
Ondrej Palat – To some (me) a story just as good as Johnson’s. The Lightning drafted him in the 7th round, 207th overall and he made it all the way to the NHL by being very good at a lot of things but great at none. While that might be the most backhandiest of compliments it is true. Nothing he does will stand out to you, but at the end of the night he walks away with a goal and an assist and a couple of nice defensive plays. He is the glue of The Triplets line.
Nikita Kucherov – If Johnson is the dynamic playmaker and Palat the steady, responsible forward, then Kucherov is the free-wheeling, hard shooting, fun guy on the line. On a team that loves making extra passes, he is the one guy with a shoot-first mentality. He is also usually on the end of the home run passes that the Lightning like to use to catch opposing teams off guard.
-Bandwagon Twitter tip – If you like to compete in John Buccigross’ OT Challenge – Kucherov is your man to pick. He has two overtime goals in the playoffs so far
Steven Stamkos – It may seem crazy that Stamkos hasn’t been mentioned until now, but that’s how dominating The Triplets have been in the postseason. Stamkos, in his first year as the captain, has been phenomenal. He scored his normal 40+ goals in the regular season, and after a small hiccup in the first round has rediscovered his scoring touch. He also shifted over to wing when Coach Cooper moved Filppula up to his line without a complaint. Gone are the days where he could only score on one-timers from the circle. He is a threat from any position now (except point on the power play – stop doing that).
Alex Killorn – He’s a Harvard man! He’s also the second member of the Lightning to score a game winning goal in the 7th game of a conference final. The first was Fredrik Modin in 2004. Killorn’s game is a lot like Modin’s, physical with a bit of skill. Like chocolate and red wine he pairs well with Stamkos. Killorn as the grinder who goes into corners winning the puck or slapping home the rebound.
|Perhaps the best photo so far. By Dirk Shadd/ Tampa Bay Times. Follow him on the twitter @DirkShadd. He is awesome.|
Valteri Filppula – The only person on the team that has won a Stanley Cup. Filppula moved up to the second line in place of Callahan AND displaced Stamkos as at center. The result – Stamkos scores! Very creative playmaker who can stickhandle in a phone booth.
JT Brown – Chicago fans might be more familiar with JT’s dad, Ted Brown, who was a running back with the Minnesota Vikings in the early 80s then they are with the high-energy forward. JT isn’t on the ice much, he’s only averaging 11:50 for the playoffs, but he’s all over it when he is. A fast, tenacious skater he gets to called gritty until he starts actually scoring some goals.
Ryan Callahan – Has as many goals as appendectomies this playoff season. After playing most of the season on a line with Stamkos and Killorn he has found a more defensive role in the last two rounds. He has been effective as a forechecker and still finds time on the power play uniit
Brian Boyle – Boyle was brought in to win face-offs and chew bubble gum , and he’s fresh out of Bazooka. He’s one of four forwards that’s over 50%. I don’t have any fancy stats to back up, but his line does a good job of shifting the ice and spending time in the offensive zone, he just hasn’t been able to put the puck in the net. In the regular season he did score 15 goals, but he also had someone named Jo Drouin on his line.
Brenden Morrow – The sentimental “old guy without a cup” on the team. He was signed in the off-season for…..veteran leadership? He has played alright in limited amounts but hasn’t made much of an impact overall. Therefore, he should score an overtime winner at some point during the series.
Cedric Paquette – Most coaches have “their guys”. For Coach Cooper, Paquette is his guy. He’s not flashy (only 1 goal in the post season) but he is effective. Centering the broken up 4th line his role is to create some energy which he tends to do by throwing his body around. His 41 hits is 4th on the team. He is also one of the leaders on the penalty kill. Almost 205 of his ice time has been spent killing penalties. Fittingly enough his one goal – short handed.
Vladislav Namestnikov – The young Russian has been used sparingly in the post season. His only appearance against the Rangers was in the Game 6 debacle where he replaced Paquette in the line up. Possessor of much speed he is a nice asset to have in reserve, but is probably a year away from really contributing to the line up.
Johnathan Marchessault – There is no real reason to include Marchessault in this list. If things go as planned he won’t see the ice. The fact that he has already is a bit of a mystery. When Callahan was scratched in Game 6 against the Canadiens, it wasn’t superstar rookie Jonathan Drouin who replaced him, it was Marchessault.
Jonathan Drouin – Currently MIA. The rookie suited up for 70 games in the regular season and put up a respectable 28 assists while playing mostly with Brian Boyle. He’s only appeared in 3 games in the post-season leading fans to wonder if he stole a pack of Coach Cooper’s gum.
--Bandwagon Tip – if the Lightning get shut out or lose a low scoring game feel free to complain on twitter about Morrow playing and not Drouin. Don’t forget to add #FreeDrouin at the end.
Victor Hedman – The playoffs have been the coming out party for the Big Swede. A large individual (6’6”) who plays a smaller man’s game (i.e. he doesn’t hit people) Hedman is a very fluid skater who has no problem bringing the puck up the ice on his own. Please drink every time you hear the phrase “Victor Hedman is the Lightning’s Duncan Keith”.
Anton Stralman – The rare unicorn of a player that makes the new stats and the old stats people super happy, Stralman is the steady rock of the Lightning blueline. Mr. Yzerman might have overpaid a little bit to sign him in the off-season, but it has turned out to be the best move of his tenure as GM. Not only is Stralman a pretty good player, he’s had a mentoring influence on Victor Hedman, helping him take his game to the next level.
Matt Carle – Oh Matt Carle. We, as a fan base, have complete faith that we have absolutely no idea which Matt Carle will show up on a game-to-game basis. Will it be the one who laid out Chris Kreider on a big hit and started the scoring sequence that sealed the deal in Game 7 against the Rangers or the other one. The one that turns pucks over and makes us mutter…”God damn it, Carle” while photoshopping his head on pictures of Carl from the Walking Dead. He might be Blackhawks fans’ favorite player by the end of the series.
Jason Garrison – Jason Garrison just exists. He is there. At one point in the offseason he was in Vancouver. Then, he was in Tampa. He logs about 19 unremarkable minutes a game and occasionally chips in a point here or there. He is your prototypical second pair defenseman. Oh, and with the trade of Radko Gudas he does have the best beard on the team.
Andrej Sustr – Another redwood-sized defensemen, Sustr has had his ups and downs this post-season. During the season he was a solid replacement when the blueline was decimated by injuries, but he seems to have hit a bit of a wall in the post-season. There was an infamous moment where Rick Nash bullied him off the puck to set up a goal in the Game 6 blowout and he’s also had his share of turnovers in the defensive zone. He is usually paired with Matt Carle which makes for many, many stomach-churning moments for Lightning fans.
Brayden Coburn – Hawks fans might remember Braden Coburn. After all he was on the ice when Patrick Kane scored the Cup winner in 2010. Hopefully we don’t see a repeat of that. It’s 100% legitimate to say that the Lightning wouldn’t be in the Finals without him. The knuckle-puck he fired past Petr Mrazek in Game 7 of the opening round ended up being the game winner.
Nikita Nesterov – The rookie defenseman got his shot when Coach Cooper switched to an 11-forward and 7-defensemen rotation. Since then he’s proven that he should be logging regular minutes instead of say…I don’t know….cough Matt Carle cough. He has six points in 10 post-season games and gives the Lightning another puck carrying defenseman who doesn’t need help getting out of the defensive zone.
Ben Bishop – Oh #BishPlease. Is he elite? No. Is he shaky? No. He’s just a tall sum’ bitch that can stop pucks. Sure sometimes he’ll struggle and not make it out of the first period, but he’s also the goalie that has played in two Game 7s in his career and not allowed a goal. Of the two starting goalies, he is the one most likely to steal a game. He’s also the one most likely to knock a puck into his own net.
Andrei Vasilevskiy – He’s 20 years old. He made it to the NHL after playing in the KHL for only one season. He will see time in net in this series.
I hope that you’re leaving with a little more knowledge. I also sincerely wish best of luck to the Chicago Blackhawks and their fans. If it wasn’t the Lightning they were playing I would be pulling for you. After all you put on fantastic parades.
Lightning in seven.