06/29/15 Lightning Strikes
There are 18 men who decide who gets into the Hockey Hall of Fame. They are good men, all of them.
The list includes brilliant hockey minds such as Scotty Bowman and Bill Torrey. It includes former superstars such as Luc Robitaille and Igor Larionov. It includes knowledgeable media members such as broadcaster Mike Emrick and longtime Sports Illustrated writer Michael Farber.
These 18 men know the sport. They know the history of the game. The job they have been assigned is not an easy one, and they take that job very seriously....
06/15/15 Lightning Strikes
One day there will be time for the Lightning to perform the autopsy on the 2015 Stanley Cup final. On that day, the Lightning can dissect what went wrong, how the series was lost, everything it might have done differently.
But now is not that time.
Today is simply about disappointment. It's about the heartbreak of coming so close to a lifelong dream and having it ripped from its hands at the final moment. It's about anger and grief and all the rotten stages of letting a championship that was so close slip away....
06/14/15 Lightning Strikes
CHICAGO — Once again, a season is in the balance and the Lightning needs a hero.
It needs someone to duck into a phone booth and come out with a cape, ready to fire wrist shots faster than a speeding bullet. It must find a player who is willing to lead the way, to lift his teammates on his back and will them to victory. It needs the game's No. 1 star.
It needs Steven Stamkos.
Here we are again: Lightning nation is desperate for a victory and turning its eyes to its best player, its leading scorer, its superstar....
06/13/15 Lightning Strikes
The starting goalie is hobbled by an unknown injury to an unknown part of his body.
The leading goal scorer has a messed up hand. Or wrist. Or shoulder. We're not quite sure.
The second-leading goal scorer was last seen leaving the ice in major distress after slamming jaw-first into the goal post.
Practically everyone else on the team would qualify as being, simply, beat up. They are playing with bumps, bruises and a tank that has been running on fumes for quite some time now....
06/12/15 Lightning Strikes
Well, let's see. It's Game 5 of the Stanley Cup final. The series between the Lightning and the Blackhawks is tied at two games apiece. The Lightning is at home, and a loss would mean heading to Chicago in a 3-2 hole.
Lightning captain Steven Stamkos says there are no must-win games unless a team truly has its back against the wall, meaning it has three losses in a series and is one away from having its season come to an end....
06/11/15 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Stick with the kid.
If you're the Lightning and you're suddenly locked in a best-of-three series for all the marbles against the Blackhawks, you might think you can't win a Stanley Cup without your all-everything goalie, Ben Bishop.
I would suggest that I don't think the Lightning can win the Cup without the kid — Andrei Vasilevskiy.
It would be a bold move, the unconventional line of thinking, a risky decision that could haunt the franchise for years to come. But as of this moment, Vasilevskiy appears to give the Lightning its best chance to knock off the Blackhawks in the Stanley Cup final....
06/10/15 Lightning Strikes
CHICAGO — This is terrific stuff. Just terrific.
If you can, just for a moment, set aside your rooting interest in this Stanley Cup final between the Lightning and Blackhawks, and appreciate what it is you are watching.
That's not easy to do, of course, if you're a fan of the Lightning. You're way too wrapped up every shift, every shot and every save to find something this nerve-racking to be that enjoyable. Only after the fact can you sit back and realize what you just witnessed was actually incredibly fulfilling....
06/10/15 Lightning Strikes
CHICAGO — The man who runs NBC Sports had an interesting, yet almost sacrilegious, thought the other day.
In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, NBC Sports chairman Mark Lazarus dared suggest that NHL players should shave their traditional playoff beards.
Is he crazy?
In case you're new to hockey, there's a tradition that goes back about 40 years or so that players don't shave as long as their team is alive in the playoffs....
06/09/15 Lightning Strikes
It was an absolute bomb of a quote. And it told you everything you need to know at this moment about the Tampa Bay Lightning.
With just over 3 minutes left in Monday night's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final, Lightning forward Cedric Paquette scored the winning goal in Tampa Bay's 3-2 victory over the Blackhawks on hostile turf in Chicago. So after the game, the French-Canadian hero of Game 3 was speaking in his native language and was asked about matching up and shutting down Chicago's big scoring stars....
06/08/15 Lightning Strikes
Three hours before the start of Monday night's Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final and wicked weather sideswiped the greater Chicago area.
Heavy rains, booming thunder and strong winds raced across downtown for an ominous hour.
Turns out, that was the calm before the storm, which ultimately was the pivotal showdown between the Lightning and Blackhawks.
Call it a severe Lightning storm: Tampa Bay beat the Blackhawks 3-2 to take a two games to one lead in the best-of-seven series....
06/07/15 Lightning Strikes
They will be surrounded by an angry sea of red and white.
They will be booed, cursed, mocked and jeered. They will be the unwelcomed guests of one of the best teams in hockey — a host that would rather greet them with an elbow to the chops than a pat on the back.
When the Lightning takes the ice tonight for Game 3 of the Stanley Cup final against the Blackhawks at the United Center, it will enter one of the most inhospitable places in the National Hockey League....
06/06/15 Lightning Strikes
You want the good news or the bad news first?
If you're a Lightning fan, there was plenty of good news Saturday night in Game 2 of the Stanley Cup final. Let's start with the fact that your team is alive and well in its pursuit of a Stanley Cup. It knocked off the Blackhawks in a wild 4-3 victory to even the best-of-seven series at a game apiece. Celebrate that for a moment....
06/05/15 Lightning Strikes
Down 1-0 in the Stanley Cup final and facing a crucial Game 2 tonight at home, the Lightning should think about employing a new strategy to beat the Blackhawks if it wants to survive and win this series.
Admittedly, it's a bit radical. You might call it out of the box. It's certainly a tad different from what most teams do this deep into the season.
Try scoring more goals than the other team....
06/04/15 Lightning Strikes
If you're lucky, you have tickets to the Stanley Cup final.
But if you're really lucky, you don't have tickets to the Stanley Cup final. That way you can listen to NBC's Mike "Doc'' Emrick call these games between the Lightning and Blackhawks.
Emrick is the Wayne Gretzky of hockey broadcasters. Best of all time. It's not even close.
Emrick has been doing this for years — more than 40, in fact. But it seems that only very recently has Emrick started receiving his just due as one of the great play-by-play announcers in all of sports....
06/03/15 Lightning Strikes
Well, that turned out to be a real bummer.
Tampa Bay had been waiting for this night for 11 years. And for most of Wednesday evening, it was darn near perfect. The town was the center of the sporting world and its hockey team, the Lightning, was showing that world how the game was played.
It couldn't have been going any better. It could not have ended much worse.
About to take a big bite of the Chicago Blackhawks in Game 1 of the Stanley Cup final, the Lightning got kicked in the teeth....