Everything sure seems to be clicking on all cylinders for the Tampa Bay Lightning as they have started off this season with a bang. A 5-1 record has propelled them to the top of the Southeast Division and has started to get the notice of the rest of the National Hockey League. The Lightning are now 3-0 on their current homestand and 4-0 at home overall which is a key ingredient to a successful season. This Lightning team looks different though, then in years past; they are fast, aggressive, physical, and can score almost at will as evidence by them being the highest scoring team in the league. Many people have always looked at the Bolts as having a potent offense with the likes of Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, and Steven Stamkos, but this team has secondary scoring, and the making of a strong defensive core as well.
The chemistry that this squad has been forming is unbelievable Everyone knew that Stamkos and Marty would be fine together, but how in the world can a team get one week of training camp, new guys on practically every line, and look this in sync to start the year. The lines have pretty much been the same for the past few games with a few in game switches by Coach Guy Boucher as Stamkos has centered Ryan Malone and St. Louis, Vinny has centered Teddy Purcell and rookie sensation Cory Conacher. Tommy Pyatt has been in between Benoit Pouilot and a healthy Dana Tyrell to form an scary fast third line. That just leaves the shutdown line of B.J Crombeen, Adam Hall, and Nate Thompson. These forward groups have been lighting up the scoreboards since the puck was dropped on January 19th which has eased the pressure of a new look defense and goaltending group. If this offense can stay like this the rest of the year then opponents in the Eastern Conference will have to score a lot of goals to beat this Bolts team.
The tough part about scoring goals on the Lightning is how the defense has shored itself up the last few games. Aside from a few misplays by Anders Lindback and a couple odd man rushes, the defense has been much better than any Lightning team in the past few years. Victor Hedman looks like the stud he was drafted to be paired with veteran Sami Salo who has started off the year great. Returning free agent Matt Carle has been paired with Eric Brewer providing a second shutdown defensive pair which is vital to the success of a playoff caliber team. The third pair looks to be shaping up as Keith Aulie and Brian Lee; Aulie has been a rock so far showing why he was worthy of trading away a former first round pick in Carter Ashton. He has shown that he has mobility and the physical attributes that Bolt’s defensemen have been lacking in year’s past. Lee has had a few rough spots but I will look for him to improve with more games played.
Goaltending was another huge question mark coming into the season as Anders Lindback is finally getting his shot to be a number 1 goalie. He has played in all but one game as Mathieu Garon played spectacular in a 4-1 win over the Carolina Hurricanes. Lindback as stated, has let in a few squeakers that make your head shake, but he has rebounded during each game to make some tremendous saves over and over again. He seems to have the ability to make the big save when the team really needs it. It really seems that this Lightning team is on a mission, they don’t like the other team getting anything. Hopefully with this increased chemistry, the added skill, and the bond that this team has, the Tampa Bay Lightning can get back to the top of the Eastern Conference, where Bolt Nation knows they belong.