Make us your home page
Instagram

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

(View our Privacy Policy)

Replacing Stralman won't be easy for Lightning

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) goes down while battling New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) and appears to be injured during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday evening (03/25/16).

DIRK SHADD | Times

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Anton Stralman (6) goes down while battling New York Islanders center Anders Lee (27) and appears to be injured during first period action at the Amalie Arena in Tampa Friday evening (03/25/16).

TAMPA — Friday marked exactly three years since Jon Cooper was named coach of the Lightning.

Related News/Archive

There wasn't much celebrating, especially after Cooper lost one of his top defenseman, Anton Stralman, to a fractured leg. Stralman is expected to miss the rest of the regular season and likely at least the first round of the playoffs.

Happy Anniversary.

On the short list of players the Lightning can ill afford to lose, Stralman, 29, is in the top three. Maybe top two. If goalie Ben Bishop, the team MVP, goes down, at least there's Andrei Vasilevskiy. If captain Steven Stamkos is out, as he was for four months with a broken leg in 2013-14, there's Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson.

But there's no replacement for Stralman, a top-pairing defenseman and power-play quarterback who plays 22 minutes a game and is one of just two Lightning right-shot defensemen. His partner, Victor Hedman, is considered the team's best defenseman, but Hall of Fame defenseman and Panthers analyst Denis Potvin said Stralman is "like 1B." Stralman, a smooth-skating Swede, is a calming, stabilizing influence.

"Stralman is a one-man breakout in the d-zone," Cooper said. "Right when the eye of the storm is about to convey itself around our goal crease, Stralman blows it away."

But though Stralman's absence could significantly hurt the Lightning's Stanley Cup chances, there was deflation but not defeat in the dressing room Friday night after the defenseman was hurt against the Islanders. The resilient group — which has overcome injuries to Stamkos, Hedman and Johnson, among others — gained resolve from those experiences.

And it showed in a 7-4 win over the Islanders.

"I don't think there was one person in our locker room saying, 'Oh my gosh, now what?' " Cooper said. "(Stralman) went down, he played three minutes in the game, and we came out and beat a playoff-bound team and played well. Literally, we said in the locker room, 'We've got to pick 'Strals' up.' We didn't realize we were going to do it that well."

Overcoming Stralman's loss in one game is one thing. But over a long stretch, especially a playoff series, that's where it gets iffy. The Lightning might have been fine without Stamkos from November to March in 2013-14 and Hedman from October to late November last season. But the timing of the injury is what makes it especially tough. It's not quite the same as losing Bishop right before the Lightning's 2014 first-round playoff sweep by the Canadiens, but it's also not that far off.

"It's the definition of adversity," defenseman Jason Garrison said. "It's how you respond. We all know how big of a loss it is. It just means we can't sit around and dwell on it. We've got to make sure we collectively bring ourselves up."

It starts with Hedman, who said he's willing take on more responsibility and minutes. And he'll get more attention from other team "because the difference between (Tampa Bay's) No. 1 and No. 2 (defensemen) is huge," Potvin said. "My guess is Hedman is going to see the puck in his corner a lot more. He's going to turn and chase, going to get bumped, going to have those cycle battles that can really wear you down."

Matt Carle, a healthy scratch for stretches this season, could get an opportunity on the second power-play unit, as he did Friday, when he played a season-high 24:58. Several others will have to step in on the penalty kill. Slater Koekkoek, a 2012 first-round draft pick, got called up Saturday from AHL Syracuse and should get to play.

Stralman is such a well-loved teammate, there's no doubt the Lightning could use him as a rallying cry to extend its season so he can return.

"I'd rather have Stralman and not the rallying cry," Cooper said.

Replacing Stralman won't be easy for Lightning 03/26/16 [Last modified: Sunday, March 27, 2016 12:30am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Jim McElwain: Florida Gators have received death threats after 3-3 start

    Blogs

    GAINESVILLE - The Florida Gators' 3-3 start is causing some fans to become irrational - even by college football standards.

    UF coach Jim McElwain said there have been death threats made against people related to his program.
  2. HomeTeam 25: Football rankings for Tampa Bay

    Footballpreps

    1. Armwood (8-0)

    Up next: vs. Hillsborough

    Jefferson High School running back Niko Duffey is tackled by Armwood defensive end and outside linebacker Fitzroy Gardner during the first half of the Armwood at Jefferson football game in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, September 22, 2017.
  3. Buccaneers-Bills Turning Point, Week 7: How does a receiver get that wide open?

    Bucs

    A lot can go wrong in the time it takes you to walk from your couch to the refrigerator.

    [NFL Game Pass]
  4. Lightning needs to hold onto Sergachev

    Blogs

    Here’s hoping the Lightning holds onto Mikhail Sergachev.

    Mikhail Sergachev has scored his first three NHL goals in his last two NHL games.
  5. Rick and Tom podcast: Defensively, Bucs have regressed to early 2016 stages

    Bucs

    The Bucs lose another game they should have won because in less than a minute they went from everything is back on track to blowing it. In their latest podcast, Rick Stroud and Tom Jones break down the …

    Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor (5) is pressured by Bucs defensive tackle Gerald McCoy (93) during the second half. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]