05/04/16 Lightning Strikes
Brian Boyle is not going to be suspended. Nor should he be.
The NHL got it right. But don't tell the Islanders that.
Despite the expectation — some might call it more like the begging or wishful thinking — of Islanders coach Jack Capuano that he should be suspended, the Lightning center will play in Friday's Game 4 despite The Hit.
The Hit has been all the buzz from Brooklyn to Long Island after the Lightning's heart-pounding, come-from-behind, 5-4 overtime victory in Tuesday's Game 3 of the second-round playoff series....
05/03/16 Lightning Strikes
NEW YORK — You can't kill 'em. You just can't kill 'em.
The team that never says die refused to die Tuesday in Brooklyn.
You can check them — legally or otherwise. You can hit them — clean or dirty. You can try to intimidate them with your words and physical play.
But you just cannot kill them.
"That was a gritty win for our team," Lightning center Tyler Johnson said....
05/02/16 Lightning Strikes
NEW YORK — Monday afternoon at Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Lightning defenseman Victor Hedman zooms behind his own net, scoops up the puck and makes a mad dash up the ice.
A zig. A zag. He has gone 200 feet without even tapping his brakes and, in what seems like the blink of an eye, is now darting into the one place most defensemen don't go. It's the one place most defensemen aren't supposed to go: right smack-dab in front of the opposing goal....
04/30/16 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — A spoiled brat. That's what he was called. A selfish, arrogant, self-entitled punk. A quitter and a whiner. A rotten, no-good, waste-of-talent know-it all.
That's what Jonathan Drouin was just a couple of months ago.
Know what you should call him now? The Lightning's best player.
No kidding. Jonathan Drouin is Tampa Bay's best player. Bet you never thought you would read that sentence. But it's true. Drouin is the most skilled player the Lightning has, and his dazzling offensive talents were on full display Saturday....
04/29/16 Lightning Strikes
Nothing produces more overreaction than the first game of a best-of-seven Stanley Cup playoff series.
Win Game 1 and everybody thinks you're going on to not only win the series but win the Stanley Cup. Start mapping out the parade route.
Lose Game 1 and everyone is sure you're going to get swept and just might be the worst playoff team ever. Fire the coach and trade all the players....
TAMPA — They're getting there.
Slowly but surely. Steadily but prudently. They are getting there.
Sometimes it doesn't feel like it. Nothing comes easy with the Bucs. Everything, it seems, takes a little longer with this franchise.
But you do get the sense that there is light at the end of the tunnel, hope on the horizon, a reason to be optimistic about tomorrow.
Two years ago they won a measly two games. They were the worst team in football....
04/27/16 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — Sloppy. Unfocused. Flat.
Those are words not normally associated with a Lightning team that has spent the past three seasons showing guts, smarts and skill.
It better find all those latter qualities, and it better find them quickly. Like before Saturday.
Otherwise, it could find itself in a very big hole that it started digging Wednesday night with a sobering 5-3 loss to the Islanders in Game 1 of its second-round playoff series....
04/26/16 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — There he was. On the ice. Skating. At practice.
Steven Stamkos, No. 91, the captain, the Lightning's best player.
Stamkos is back.
Except, he isn't. Not really. Not yet.
He wore a red jersey Tuesday, while his Lightning teammates wore blue or white. He stood alone and antsy at center ice, while teammates worked on the power play. He darted around with a puck by himself, while teammates went through drills....
04/25/16 Lightning Strikes
There was a Steven Stamkos sighting the other night.
The Lightning captain and leading goal scorer was milling around the locker room after the team's series-ending Game 5 victory against the Red Wings.
That could be the closest Stamkos gets to the ice again this season.
Not that anyone has forgotten about Stamkos, who has been out since April 2 with a blood clot. But the Lightning knows that if it's going to win the Stanley Cup this year, it might have to do it without Stamkos. He hasn't been ruled out for the rest of the playoffs, but there's a good chance he won't return....
04/23/16 Lightning Strikes
Lightning center Tyler Johnson, struggling with what sounded like flu symptoms, walked gingerly in the short hallway just outside the locker room.
Inside the locker room, forward Ryan Callahan sat at his stall looking like a guy who had put in a double shift at work. Across the room, Alex Killorn stood with sweat still dripping from his head. Goalie Ben Bishop, too.
Defenseman Anton Stralman, out of the lineup with a fractured leg, limped ever so slightly down another hall. And captain Steve Stamkos, stunningly out since doctors discovered a blood clot near his right shoulder, stood near the trainer's room in workout gear but still unable to play....
04/21/16 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — They can lounge around all day, maybe take a nap, catch a little Judge Judy.
They can sleep in, grab a late lunch, play 18 holes.
Somebody said something about a beach.
Yep, the Lightning players can do whatever they want today. What they don't have to do is get on a plane, fly to Detroit, practice and continue their playoff series with the Red Wings.
They made sure of that Thursday night. The game was ugly. The score was beautiful....
04/20/16 Lightning Strikes
TAMPA — There's a cardinal rule in hockey: Never give up a goal in the first or last minute of a period.
Those are the kind of goals that break backs and crush spirits. Those are the kind of goals that lose games.
The Lightning did more than break that rule in Tuesday night's Game 4 of its playoff series against Detroit.
It broke the rule, crumpled it up into little bitty pieces, stomped on it, lit it on fire and then buried it....
04/19/16 Lightning Strikes
DETROIT — Now end it.
Finish this series. Finish these Red Wings. Knock 'em out and move on to the next round.
It won't be easy, of course. Besides, the Lightning doesn't know how to do easy. Not this season.
Did you see Tuesday night's heart-stopping, hold-your-breath and watch-between-your fingers Game 4 victory in Detroit?
Easy? Not a chance. Tampa Bay had the game won, gave it back and won it again. Heck, it should count for two victories....
04/18/16 Lightning Strikes
Here, inside Detroit's Joe Louis Arena, you can't take even a few steps without running into some sort of reminder of Steve Yzerman.
His face is plastered on the wall just outside the Red Wings locker room. His name is painted on the corridors throughout the building, recognizing his Stanley Cups and various NHL awards.
Look left, look right and you're sure to see a photo of him. Look up and there is his name and retired number hanging from the rafters above the ice where he starred for so many years as, with apologies to Gordie Howe, the most popular — and arguably the greatest — player in Red Wings history. Just outside the arena, there's a street named after him....
04/17/16 Lightning Strikes
DETROIT — Just moments after their disheartening Game 3 playoff loss to the Red Wings on Sunday night, Lightning players sat at their lockers inside Joe Louis Arena.
Kind of like they were on the ice for the previous 21/2 hours.
No noise. No pressure. No threat.
This first-round playoff series has definitely shifted. The Lightning still leads the series, 2-1, so why does it seem that it's in trouble?...