The Tampa Bay Lightning are having a solid preseason. Can the carry the momentum into a full season?
The Tampa Bay Lightning have just two games left on the preseason slate before the 2013-14 NHL regular season gets going. With some success in the early preseason, there is a basis for growing optimism in Tampa Bay. With that optimism can come some bold predictions for the upcoming campaign.
The Lightning are 4-1 in the preseason thanks to the offense—as usual. The Bolts have scored at least four goals in all four wins and managed just one in the loss.
With two games left against the Florida Panthers, Tampa Bay could end the preseason 6-1. With the possibility of a great preseason as a foundation, here are five bold predictions for the Lightning in the 2013-14 season.
Ben Bishop should be patrolling the net for the Lightning in 2013-14. How well he does his job is yet to be seen.
First reminder here, this is a full-82 game season, which means that Ben Bishop will have plenty of opportunity between the pipes. With Anders Lindback as a capable backup, Bishop will need to make the most of his chances. Still, the 30-win mark isn’t that much of a stretch.
In 2011-12, 17 goaltenders hit the mark. The year before, a solid 15 goalies reached the mini-milestone.
Bishop hasn’t been sharp this preseason. He is 1-0 in two games played with a 88.6 save percentage and five goals against. It won’t be easy, but a 30-win season would be a great starting block for the Lightning.
Steven Stamkos is one of the best players in the league. He has a new deadline with the Olympic break this season.
Steven Stamkos is the most prolific goal scorer in the NHL. He is just one abbreviated season removed from his 60-goal effort. Last year, he had 29 goals in 48 games.
A potential first line of Jonathan Drouin, Stamkos and Martin St. Louis should make any fan of goal scoring get on their feet. Drouin provides another solid puck mover to set Stamkos up. His goal-scoring ability also makes things difficult on defenses.
The Olympic break comes in mid-February. There are 54 games before the Olympic break for the Lightning. That’s just under a goal per game for Stamkos—a lofty but attainable goal.
Victor Hedman should be eyeing the Norris Trophy. If he does it this year, that will spell good things for the Lightning.
Victor Hedman is good. He is arguably the best defenseman on the Lightning, but he doesn’t get a lot of national attention like fellow defensemen Ryan Suter or Erik Karlsson.
Hedman is flying under the radar and rightfully so. He finished tied for 35th in the league in points (20) for defenseman last season. The year before, he had 23 points in 61 games. He has a solid offensive touch and can move the puck well from the defensive zone.
If the Lightning have any sort of success on defense this season, Hedman will be a big part of it. If Tampa Bay does climb through the standings, expect Hedman to get a look for the Norris Trophy.
Jonathan Drouin has been used in a variety of ways this preseason. If he earns a spot, count him in as a favorite for the Calder Trophy.
There is a ton of hype around first-round selection Jonathan Drouin. He has played the preseason on the wing and at center as the Lightning try to find the best spot for him on the roster.
"He's a smart kid. He's quiet. I think he's just taking it all in and learning. It's a big jump going to your first NHL camp from junior, and seeing how big and strong and fast the players are. He's learning a lot and I think he's adjusting well,” said Steve Yzerman, Lightning general manager (via Tampabaylightning.com).
Drouin scored a shootout winner against Florida earlier in the preseason. That clutch play will be something the Lightning will need this season especially if they struggle on defense or in goals.
Led by Martin St. Louis, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to start their tenure in the Atlantic Division off well.
Would you expect anything else as the boldest prediction? The Lightning are a good team. On paper, they are very difficult to match up with due to the high-powered offense and the plethora of young talent.
The move to the Atlantic Division will make things difficult with the likes of Boston, Detroit, Toronto and Montreal patrolling the top of the standings. Lightning fans will look back to the 2011 season and say, “we’re better than that team”, which is probably true.
No one can deny the Lightning’s talent. But, can they put it together for a consistent 82-games? Another hot start won’t mean much if it’s followed by a mediocre season.
The Bolts have the ability to win the division. They just have to go out and get it done—and surprise a ton of people in the process.