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)

Tampa Bay Lightning erasing recent embarrassments with improved play

TAMPA — In the snapshot of the moment, the Lightning looked dangerous again. Its stars were aligned and, once more, all things seemed possible.

Vinny Lecavalier was on the right wing, the puck dancing on his stick. He half-turned and passed it to Marty St. Louis on the point, who quickly slid it to Steven Stamkos on the left wing, who hit a shot so hard and so fast that it is a wonder it did not rip through the net and shatter the glass behind it.

And it looked … like hockey.

The players talk in the locker room, and you hear the same repeated phrases about power plays and penalty kills and protecting the home ice. You hear fans wonder if the goaltending will hold up, and when Simon Gagne might return, and how good the standings look these days. You hear a coach mention the playoffs, and no one in the room laughs.

And it sounds … like hockey.

Fourteen games in, and the Lightning is back to the business of hockey. Fourteen games in, and the calliope music has stopped, and the silliness has ended, and the fun has returned. It looks like hockey, it smells like hockey, and it feels like hockey.

Finally.

If nothing else, the quick start of the new-and-improved Lightning has earned it a fresh canvas. The cowboys are gone and the circus has left. The focus of a hockey franchise is hockey, as it should have been all along.

For two years, it was not. You hate to talk about it again, because this team is skating as hard away from bad memories as it can. Still, the season is still new enough that it is hard not to compare all the good things you see with the all the bad you have endured. Even as the Lightning jumped all over Toronto in Tuesday night's 4-0 victory, it was impossible not to think of how this team has pulled out of the quicksand.

This had become a team determined to earn one more set of questions and one more round of headlines. The Lightning was chaos in a blender, and as hard as they tried, even the players could not escape it. It was like trying to perform heart surgery in the middle of a road construction crew; it didn't matter how hard anyone tried to focus, eventually, the jackhammers were going to get on someone's nerves.

Someone was going to fire a coach, or an assistant coach. Stars were dismissed for little return. Players came and left before the milk expired. There were constant rumors about who might be next. The owner who didn't have any money was going to try to take the team from the owner who did. And every day, the memory of how special this team once was seemed to fade a little bit more.

Now, it appears, the Lightning has come through the other side.

And, once again, players are smiling.

"It's a different atmosphere," Lecavalier said Tuesday morning. "When you walk into the room, everyone is happy to come in here and learn from our coaches. With winning organizations, stability is probably the most important thing. It's definitely a lot more fun now."

Lecavalier should know. There for a while, it seemed the owners were determined to drive him insane. And while they were at it, they were going to drain most of the enthusiasm from the rest of the locker room.

"It's night and day," St. Louis said. "We don't have all the negative articles written about us anymore. We don't go into every city and have to answer questions about what the organization is doing. That became a little old.

"It feels fresh. A much-needed freshness, I guess."

Said Stamkos: "We definitely don't have as many distractions. And we're winning. When you're losing, there isn't much else to talk about."

In other words, the Lightning might have needed a fast start to this season as much as any team in the NHL. Still, it is impressive just how fast the new guys in charge have washed the cartoon off this team, isn't it?

Think about it. There is a new owner, and a new general manager, and a new coach. There is a new system, and new assistants, and 10 new players. There is, coach Guy Boucher points out, a new chemistry and a new culture.

And still, the Lightning has entered this season as if it had a man advantage. It is now 8-4-2, fourth in the Eastern Conference. Stamkos, who had two more goals, looks like he's one of the top three players in the league.

Will it last? That's always the question to any quick start, isn't it? Can Dan Ellis stay this strong in goal? Will the defense hold up? Is this a good start or a good team? And on and on.

The thing is, those are hockey questions. Around here, such chatter has never sounded so good.

This time, it is refreshing enough to let the season answer them.

Tampa Bay Lightning erasing recent embarrassments with improved play 11/09/10 [Last modified: Wednesday, November 10, 2010 7:42am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Cup-winning Lightning captain Dave Andreychuk makes Hockey Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Hall of Fame coach Scotty Bowman said Dave Andreychuk's name has surfaced often the past eight years with the selection committee.

    30 Oct 2001:  Left wing Dave Andreychuk #25 of the Tampa Bay Lightning skates towards the blue line during the NHL game against the Toronto Maple Leafs at Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Canada.  The Maple Leafs defeated the Lightning 3-2.  Mandatory Credit:  Dave Sanford /Allsport
  2. Rays acquire slick-fielding shortstop Adeiny Hechavarria from Marlins

    The Heater

    ST. PETERSBURG — Chaim Bloom said the Rays weren't necessarily in the market for a shortstop. The team has a number of those. But when the Marlins recently began shopping Adeiny Hechavarria, well, that was too much to pass up.

    Adeiny Hechavarria has emerged as one of baseball’s top defensive shortstops in the past three seasons with the Marlins.
  3. Rays at Pirates, 7:05 p.m. Tuesday, Pittsburgh

    The Heater

    Tonight: at Pirates

    7:05, PNC Park

    TV/radio: Fox Sports Sun; 620-AM, 680-AM (Spanish)

    Probable pitchers

    Rays: Alex Cobb (6-5, 4.05)

    PORT CHARLOTTE, FL - FEBRUARY 18:  Alex Cobb #53 of the Tampa Bay Rays poses for a portrait during the Tampa Bay Rays photo day on February 18, 2017 at Charlotte Sports Park in Port Charlotte, Floida.  (Photo by Elsa/Getty Images)
  4. Lightning journal: Forward Yanni Gourde agrees to two-year deal

    Lightning Strikes

    TAMPA — Just three years ago, Yanni Gourde was fighting to stay in pro hockey.

    Tampa Bay Lightning center Yanni Gourde celebrates after scoring against the Florida Panthers during the second period of an NHL hockey game, Saturday, March 11, 2017, in Tampa, Fla. (AP Photo/Chris O'Meara) TPA108
  5. What they're saying about Dave Andreychuk making Hall of Fame

    Lightning Strikes

    "Dave helped me so much when I was just starting my career, a young kid that was looking to find his way as a hockey player, a person and a member of the Tampa Bay community. In addition to watching him compile such awe-inspiring statistics, I remember him as a big brother to me and many others, making sure all the …