Make us your home page

Get the quickest, smartest news, analysis and photos from the Bucs game emailed to you shortly after the final whistle.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Lightning victory starts what looks like a special season

Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle (11) pumps fists with fans as he heads down the tunnel and onto the ice for warmups before taking to the ice against Detroit Red Wings for the season opener at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/13/16).


Tampa Bay Lightning center Brian Boyle (11) pumps fists with fans as he heads down the tunnel and onto the ice for warmups before taking to the ice against Detroit Red Wings for the season opener at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Thursday evening (10/13/16).

TAMPA — That's how you start a season.

All the excitement. Pregame introductions. Sellout crowd chanting for Nikita Kuuuuuu­cherov. Big ovation for Steven Stamkos. Welcome back home, captain.

Then, bang, overcome two two-goal deficits and beat the Red Wings 6-4 Thursday with four goals in the third period. Wow.

"If that was your first hockey game," Lightning coach Jon Cooper said, "that was a pretty good one to go to."

Stanley Cup, here comes the Lightning.

"It's good to get off to a good start," forward Jonathan Drouin said.

Call it a great start. Okay, so it's only one game. But what a game. What a comeback. What a way to start the season.

There's lots of talk about the Lightning winning a Stanley Cup. For good reason. This team is good. It should have a good season.

Then again, what exactly does that mean? What is a good season?

Think of it this way. A team plays for six months and if it gives its fans way more happy nights than bad then it's a good season, don't you think?

Well, maybe. Take the 2006-07 Dallas Mavericks. That team won 67 games and lost only 15. But the top-seeded Mavs were stunned in the first round of the playoffs by the eighth-seeded Warriors. Season over.

So, looking back, would you consider that a good season? There were still way more good nights and good vibes than bad that season. But the season ended well short of hopes and expectations.

RELATED: The Lightning starts the season with a 6-4 win over the Red Wings.

That brings us back to the Lightning. Ultimately, success will be determined by what happens next April and May and, the Lightning hopes, June. Until then ‑— from now until the start of the playoffs — this should be a fun team to watch. And this should be a good season.

Over the next several months, Lightning fans have plenty to look forward to.

Remember last season when Tampa Bay stumbled and bumbled through much of the season? So much so that there were questions deep into the season of whether or not the Lightning would even make the playoffs? I don't see that happening this season. Provided it stays healthy, the Lightning seems to understand the so-called process this season, that it can't fast-forward to the postseason, that it must focus on today before thinking about tomorrow.

There might not be a more exciting team to watch. So much firepower. Stamkos. Kucherov. Ondrej Palat. A healthy Tyler Johnson, who scored Thursday's go-ahead-to-stay goal midway through the third. Alex Killorn, who added the ultimate winner. Drouin, who scored the first goal of the Tampa Bay season. Man, would you have bet last January that Drouin would score on opening night? For the Lightning?

On defense, there's Victor Hedman, who, on any given night, might be the best defenseman in hockey.

And there's Bishop, for now. Rumors are swirling that Bishop will eventually be traded to clear space under the salary cap and clear room for goalie-of-the-future Andrei Vasilevskiy to become the goalie-of-the-now. Until then, Bishop is the man. He shook off early rust and a goofy late goal to be the backbone needed to secure Thursday's victory. When he is making big-time saves to lock down another victory, you're again reminded that, with all due respect to Nikolai Khabibulin, Bishop is the best goalie in franchise history.

Thursday had it all, all that Lightning fans have come to love about this team. And it's a preview of what's to come this season.

Best of all, no soap operas like last season.

Remember? Is Stamkos going to sign or be traded? Is Drouin ever going to play again? What's wrong with Johnson? All of that seems put to rest. Stamkos is signed. Hedman is signed. Kucherov is signed. Killorn is signed. Drouin is happy. Johnson is healthy. Occasionally, you might hear a Bishop rumor pop up, but it's not something that will be a constant conversation in the Lightning locker room.

So, what does this all mean? Enjoy the season. Enjoy the ride. Enjoy following the Lightning this season. It should be good.

Lightning victory starts what looks like a special season 10/13/16 [Last modified: Friday, October 14, 2016 12:43am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. NFL players, owners hold 'constructive' talks on issues


    NEW YORK — NFL players and owners met Tuesday to discuss social issues, a session Miami Dolphins owner Stephen Ross called "constructive."

    A coalition of advocacy groups 'take a knee' outside of a hotel where members the quarterly NFL league meetings are being held on Tuesday in New York City.  Owners, players and commissioner Roger Goodell are all expected to attend. The activists spoke of having solidarity with athletes and coaches around the country who have also kneeled in protest of racial injustice, especially in policing.
 [Getty Images]
  2. Lightning's Steve Yzerman: Nikita Kucherov 'wants to be great'


    If anyone knows what it is like to be as hot as Nikita Kucherov is right now, it's Lightning general manager Steve Yzerman.

    Nikita Kucherov joined Steve Yzerman, Mario Lemieux and Keith Tkachuk as the only players in the last 30 years to score a goal in each of his team's first six games.
  3. Fennelly: Longtime Bucs fans, we want to hear from you


    Calling all Bucs fans! Calling all Bucs fans!

    Jameis Winston is pressured by Chandler Jones during the Bucs' loss to the Cardinals Sunday in Glendale, Ariz.
  4. A punter is the state's only first-team, midseason All-American


    Here's another indictment of how mediocre the state's college football season has become.

  5. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay


    1. Armwood (7-0)

    Up next: vs. Brandon

    Armwood quarterback Devin Black (7) shakes hands with Plant defensive back Keon King (26) after the game between Plant High School Panthers and the Armwood High School Hawks in Suffer, Fla. on Monday, Oct. 16, 2017. The Hawks beat the Panthers 27-7.