2014/15 Season Preview – Tampa Bay Lightning
2013/14 Season Record – 3rd in Eastern Conference, 2nd in Atlantic Division
2013/14 Season Recap
This was a breakout year for the Bolts. For years, they have been a team that was ready to break through, but didn’t quite have the talent to get there. They built around stud center Steven Stamkos, who can score goals like it’s nobody’s business. If he has the puck coming down the wing on a two-on-one, there is nothing any goaltender can do to stop a Stamkos wrister from lighting the lamp.
In 2013-14, the Lightning finally surrounded Stamkos with a wealth of talent at all positions. They plugged the holes on defense and found consistent winning goaltending in Ben Bishop. They also filled the need for a skilled defensive forward by trading captain Martin St. Louis to New York for Ryan Callahan. He stepped in immediately and excelled with Tampa Bay.
But, Ben Bishop went down with a season-ending injury late in the regular season, and the team never recovered. The red-hot Montreal Canadiens swept them in the first round of the Stanley Cup Playoffs.
|Alex Killorn||Steven Stamkos||Ryan Callahan|
|Ondrej Palat||Valtteri Filppula||Jonathan Drouin|
|Brenden Morrow||Tyler Johnson||Nikita Kucherov|
|J.T. Brown||Brian Boyle||Richard Panik|
|Matt Carle||Jason Garrison|
|Anton Stralman||Victor Hedman|
|Radko Gudas||Mattias Ohlund|
Top Call-Up Options
- Anton Stralman (free agency)
- Sam Gagner (trade w/ Edmonton)
- Jonathan Drouin (moving up from Junior hockey)
- Brian Boyle (free agency)
- Evgeni Nabokov (free agency)
- Sam Gagner (trade w/ Phoenix one hour after traded to Tampa)
- Teddy Purcell (trade w/ Edmonton)
The Lightning didn’t really lose much of their roster from last season, aside from Teddy Purcell. They also acquired players that filled glaring holes in their roster. Going into this season, the Lightning are an incredibly deep team. Every single line can produce offense. The fourth line can also provide a combination of grit and offense, especially with Brian Boyle.
The Bolts will also benefit from the addition of Jonathan Drouin, who will finally be making the jump to professional hockey after spending last season with the Halifax Mooseheads of the QMJHL. This roster looks to be an offensive machine, but they are also sound defensively. They added Anton Stralman to achieve the defensive depth they were missing so desperately last season. This looks to be a very deep and skilled team all around.
Ben Bishop: When Bishop went down near the end of last season, the Lightning began to sputter. This offseason, they tried to give him some support. They picked up a new backup goaltender in Evgeni Nabokov. They also have Kristers Gudlevskis, the Latvian phenom who shined in the 2014 Olympics and played fairly well in last year’s playoffs.
So, the Lightning wouldn’t be totally done for if Bishop went down with another injury. But, a healthy Bishop means a consistent Lightning squad. If the goaltender position is in flux, the team may start to struggle. If the Lightning want to consistently string wins together, Bishop needs to stay healthy.
This Lightning team is set to do something big in 2014-15. They are ripe with talent, young and old, and will shock a lot of people in a weaker Eastern Conference. They’ll make a deep run in the Playoffs, likely into the Conference Semifinals, or even the Conference Final. If other East teams underperform, they could be looking at a surprise Cup Final berth.
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