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)

Tampa Bay Lightning enters NHL season aiming to keep success in perspective


The Lightning's success last season was no mirage, said Pierre McGuire, an NBC analyst and former Whalers coach who sees Tampa Bay with "a real opportunity to create a lot of havoc in the Eastern Conference." Added former Penguins coach and current TV analyst Eddie Olczyk: "Their confidence has to be sky high. … From the forwards to the defense, I think they're rock solid." And so it goes for the Lightning, which in one year went from an afterthought in its market to a team worthy of national attention. You can understand the high expectations. Taking the eventual Stanley Cup champion Bruins to Game 7 of the East final created an impression the team is ready to take the next step. But coach Guy Boucher is too smart to be caught in a trap of diminishing returns. "Nobody is going to take me there," he said. "That's where you lose yourself. That's when you have the bad pressure we talk about. That's when the guys are focused on the result instead of the process. If we start looking at last year's results and feel we're at a different level in terms of (where we are) on paper, that is where we're going to get lost."

Is the Lightning better than it was last season? Can it be a serious Stanley Cup contender?

The latter is an interesting question, not only because Tampa Bay fell one goal short of the Cup final, losing Game 7 of the East final 1-0 — and considering the way the Canucks played against Boston for the Cup, Tampa Bay had a real shot if it got in — but because of how much this season's team resembles 2010-11's.

Think about it. There are questions at forward, where general manager Steve Yzerman admitted he did not find a replacement for free agent departure Simon Gagne.

There are questions about defensive depth, especially with Mattias Ohlund on injured reserve, and goaltending, specifically if Dwayne Roloson, the league's oldest player who turns 42 Wednesday, can hold up physically.

Tampa Bay isn't going to surprise anyone, either, which means the work-harder attitude that overcame many of last season's shortcomings (going 23-7 in one-goal games in regulation means you are working hard) and the discipline to play within Boucher's 1-3-1 trapping system will need to be in full effect.

"So, when people talk about playoffs, finishing first, the Stanley Cup, whoa, whoa, whoa, whoa," Boucher said. "Let's make sure we focus on the process."

Let's break it down


This is the Lightning's Achilles' heel, most outsiders believe.

"Last year he played really well," NBC analyst and former Bruins coach Mike Milbury said of Dwayne Roloson, who after his January acquisition from the Islanders was 18-12-4 with four shutouts, a 2.56 goals-against average and a .912 save percentage that jumped to .924 in the playoffs.

"But you start to hit 42 and 43 (years old), you have questions. I have questions if Dwayne Roloson can play as well as he did. I always root for the old guys, but Father Time stops for no man."

Roloson, though, is in tremendous shape, and with Mathieu Garon, 33, a veteran backup slated for about 30 games, Roloson should be fresh enough for a playoff run.

"We'll manage Roloson," coach Guy Boucher said.

One thing is sure: Tampa Bay's goaltending headed into this season is in a lot better shape than it was entering 2010-11, when it began with Mike Smith and Dan Ellis.


With Mattias Ohlund (knee) on the shelf for tonight's opener with the Hurricanes at the RBC Center, and perhaps longer, the pressure is on. It's not so much on the top pairing of Victor Hedman and Eric Brewer, but on the pairings of Matt Gilroy and Brett Clark, and Pavel Kubina and Marc-Andre Bergeron, both of which will face opponents' second lines.

GM Steve Yzerman signed Gilroy and Bergeron for their speed. The question: Can they do the job defensively while playing expanded minutes? The Lightning, which basically swapped Mike Lundin and Randy Jones for Gilroy and Bruno Gervais, stressed team defense with a five-man pack mentality to help its blue-liners last season. It will do the same this season.


Steven Stamkos, Marty St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Teddy Purcell and Vinny Lecavalier remain. But with the losses of Simon Gagne and Sean Bergenheim to free agency, the Lightning is not as deep up front because it has no obvious replacement in the top six for Gagne.

"It's part of the game. You're not going to get everybody back," Lecavalier said. "But that just means everybody has to step up and make things work the way they did last year, or better."

Ryan Shannon, who had 12 goals in 2010-11 for the Senators, might match Gagne's 17. But rookie Brett Connolly, 19, impressive in camp, will face a different intensity in the regular season.

On the other hand, who saw Bergenheim (nine playoff goals) coming?

Give Yzerman this

The GM has assembled a team that meshes well off the ice. There does not seem to be cliques, something forward Ryan Shannon said he appreciated as a newcomer. That camaraderie served Tampa Bay well last season, when it took a massive step forward. Is it ready to take another?

"We need to be aware of who we are," coach Guy Boucher said. "The minute we work a little less than the other teams, we're going to lose."

Damian Cristodero can be reached at Follow his coverage at and on Twitter at @LightningTimes.

Tampa Bay Lightning enters NHL season aiming to keep success in perspective 10/07/11 [Last modified: Friday, October 7, 2011 5:26pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Rookie Kendell Beckwith pleased with first Bucs practice


    Bucs rookie linebacker Kendell Beckwith is eight months and a week removed from November surgery to repair a torn ACL, so there was a proud sense of accomplishment in getting himself healthy enough to be on the field for the opening practice of training camp Friday.

    Bucs inside linebacker Kendell Beckwith (51) defends tight end Cameron Brate (84) during the first day of training camp. [LOREN ELLIOTT   |   Times]
  2. Criticism part of the game for Bucs' Gerald McCoy, who is chasing 'ghosts'


    Who crossed the line with their criticism of Gerald McCoy?

    Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive tackle Gerald McCoy jokes with teammates during the first day of training camp at One Buccaneer Place in Tampa, Fla., on Friday, July 28, 2017.
  3. 2-year-old girl shows football team how its done


    ST. PETERSBURG — Football players may dread summer workouts, but not two-year-old Sophie Rosendale. She loves joining her father, St. Petersburg offensive line coach Mike Rosendale, three times a week for the Green Devils summer conditioning. Not only does she shout encouragement like her dad, she also straps on …

    Sophie Rosendale, 2, front, warms up with offensive lineman during practice at St. Petersburg High School, Wednesday. Rosendale is the daughter of offensive line coach Mike Rosendale. "She has been coming to practice for about one year," said Rosendale who has been a coach at the the school for 10 seasons. "She likes to show the players the proper techniques." [Photo/  Mike Rosendale]
  4. Rays add another piece to bullpen, acquiring RHP Steve Cishek for Erasmo Ramirez


    The Rays made another deal to change the look of their bullpen, acquiring RHP Steve Cishek from the Mariners for RHP Erasmo Ramirez.

    Cishek, 31, has a 3,15 ERA and .183 opponents average in 23 games for the Mariners this season after returning in mid-May from October hip surgery, and after allowing three runs …

    Steve Cishek has a 3.15 ERA in 20 games for the Mariners this season after returning in mid-May from off-season hip surgery.