Previewing the East: Tampa Bay
Lightning has missed Stanley Cup playoffs last two seasons
DETROIT – The Red Wings are moving to the Eastern Conference next season where they will be reunited with a trio of Original Six rivals (Boston, Montreal and Toronto) in a division that also includes Buffalo, Florida, Ottawa and Tampa Bay.
Throughout the summer, DetroitRedWings.com's Bill Roose will take an analytical look at a different Eastern Conference team . This week it's the Tampa Bay Lightning:
TAMPA BAY LIGHTNING
2013 Record: 18-26-4
Head Coach: Jon Cooper (second season)
Home Rink: Tampa Bay Times Forum
Pending Unrestricted Free Agents: Goalie Mathieu Garon; defenseman Mathieu Roy; and left wing Pierre-Cedric Labrie.
Pending Restricted Free Agents: Defensman Keith Aulie; and left wing Benoit Pouliot.
Red Wings All-Time Record vs. TBL: 25-5-2-0
|It hasn't happened often in their careers, but Red Wings' Pavel Datsyuk and Tampa Bay's Vincent Lecavalier will get to see a whole lot more of each other this season. (Photo by Dave Reginek)|
Goaltending and defense were once again the issues that kept the Lightning out of the playoffs for the second straight season.
Veteran goalie Anders Lindback (10-10-1) wasn’t as good as the Lightning had hoped he would be after they acquired the 6-foot-6 Swede from Nashville last June, and defensively, they didn’t get the impact along the blue line, which they thought Sami Salo, Eric Brewer and Victor Hedman would give them.
Because of Lindback’s struggles, the Lightning traded for Ben Bishop from Ottawa and quickly signed the 6-foot-7 goalie to a two-year contract extension worth $4.6 million. By signing Bishop, the Lightning likely have the biggest goaltending duo in NHL history.
“The idea was to get (Bishop) signed, which was always our intention, so now we look to move into next season with both Ben and Anders Lindback,” general manager Steve Yzerman told the Lightning’s web site. “They are both relatively young, and they each have tremendous upside.”
Most of the Lightning’s key players are already locked up with 18 players currently under contract for next season, including defenseman Matt Carle, and forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis. Carle and St. Louis are scheduled to make more than $5 million next season, while the salaries for Lecavalier and Stamkos are north of $7 million for each.
For the fourth straight season, St. Louis (60 points) and Stamkos (57 points) finished as the Lightning’s 1-2 scoring punch – which hasn’t always been in that order, while third-year player Teddy Purcell has been a solid contributor on the right wing, picking up 11 goals and 25 assists last year.
Like the Red Wings, the Lightning has talent waiting in the wings in AHL Syracuse, where the Crunch and the Grand Rapids Griffins have locked horns in the Calder Cup finals this month. It’s quite possible that forwards like Tyler Johnson, who was the AHL’s regular-season MVP as the league’s leading goal scorer and Ondrej Palat, who leads the AHL in the postseason points could be in Tampa Bay next season.
The Lightning has the No. 3 overall pick in this month’s NHL draft, which will take place on June 30 at the Prudential Center in Newark, N.J. Whatever way Yzerman and his amateur scouts decide to go, the Lightning should end up with a quality forward with the likes of left wing Jonathan Drouin, center Aleksander Barkov, or right wing Valeri Nichushkin.
FEEL GOOD STAT
81 – Total goals scored at home by the Lightning last season, making them the most dangerous home team in the league. Since Yzerman took the reigns three years ago, the Lightning have been one of the league’s highest scoring teams at home, finishing no lower than fifth. In fact, Tampa Bay was tied for first in home scoring in 2010-11, equaling Calgary with 134 goals.
1 – The number of shootout wins by the Lightning in 2013. Tampa Bay finished with a 1-3 record in shootouts with its lone win coming in a 5-4 decision against New Jersey on March 29. Purcell and defenseman Victor Hedman scored the only shootout goals for the Lightning, who was 2-for-10 (20 percent). Only Calgary (18.2 percent) and Toronto (12.5 percent) had a lower shooting percentage.