While most of the Lightning roster remains the same from last season, there's been a significant change in the broadcast booth.
Brian Engblom took over as color analyst for Fox Sports Sun, replacing Bobby "The Chief" Taylor, who is now in an intermission/pre-post game role.
Engblom, 60, a former NHL defenseman and three-time Stanley Cup champion, is a veteran broadcaster, having spent most of his time recently in a national role, with NBC, previously with ESPN and ESPN2.
But Engblom has enjoyed focusing on being part of a team again, and has meshed well with play-by-play man Rick Peckham. Englbom, who enjoyed his "Between the Benches" role for NBC, will be down there for about half the home games, and some road games, otherwise joining Peckham in the booth. The Times caught up with Engblom recently to chat about adjusting to the new role, and the Lightning's chances of returning to the final this season.
Q: How are you enjoying the new gig, being part of the team again?
A: That's what I missed the most, that interaction every day, and the feeling of being connecteed to a team. It makes a huge difference.
Q: Finding some chemistry with Peckham?
A: I've done games with Rick before, not worried about that at all, he isn't either. He's very easy to work with. I think I've worked with, last time I counted, 21 different play-by-play guys. You learn to adapt, it's my job. Play by play guys they carry the play, direct the traffic. It's my job to get in and out.
Q: Anything you've observed so far from Lightning that you didn't know from watching them from afar?
A: I don't know of anything that jumps out at me that surprises me. I think it reaffirms what I thought they probably had, how together they are, the tight-knit group. That doesn't surprise me, because you don't get to be that good without it.
Q: Having been on some Cup-winning teams, how do you handle such high expectations?
A: Players are taught next-shift, next game, that's it. But they're not stupid. They nkow the expectations, especially (Steven Stamkos) has to handle it being the captain. It's part of his job. The rest of the players are dealing with it too. The only time they think about that really is when they're asked about it.
"Cedric Paquette said to me, he said there were a lot of expectations in the playoffs as we went along. So they learned a lot last year progressing so quickly. Each round, everybody realizing we're a really good team, have a chance to win the Cup. This is just a longer period of time, eight months worth."
Q: Does Lightning have a shot to make it back to final? History isn't on their side.
A: They have all the elements, nothing has changed. They're all very welll prepared mentally, obviously you can tell. You're not dealing with what happened last year, all the teams they're playing are going to be different.
For me, one of the keys of the season for them, and Chicago, is keeping that even keel, it's the most difficult when you lose a game to a team you're supposed to beat. It's really handling thje day to day games, the outside pressures. I don't think there's anything technically that they're not prepared for, they have all the elements they need. It's a matter of maintaining that balance.
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One of the great stats that they had last year, they never lost three in a row. That is phenomenal, that, for me, is one of the best tell-tale signs of a really good team. That's extremely hard to do."