Tampa Bay Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper has officially ruled out Lightning captain Steven Stamkos as the Bolts prepare to take on the Boston Bruins.
The Tampa Bay Lightning finds themselves with their backs up against the wall tonight. The Lightning will once again open the doors to the Amalie Arena to take on one of their toughest rivals in the Atlantic Division, the Boston Bruins. Unfortunately, they will do so without one of the biggest pieces of their offensive core.
According to Lightning Head Coach Jon Cooper, captain Steven Stamkos has officially been ruled out of the lineup tonight against the Bruins. This is a rather double-edged sword for the Lightning and their fans.
On one hand, a team always wants to have one of their best goal-scorers and on-ice leadership members on the ice. At the same time, as the regular season comes to a close and the postseason looms off in the distance, the Lightning needs to look at things from a bigger perspective.
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Allowing Stamkos to sit against a team like the Bruins will serve a number of purposes. The biggest is to avoid any further injury which could lead to the captain missing any or all of the postseason. The next would be to give his body the time it needs to recuperate so he can be at 100 percent when the postseason starts.
There is no denying; Steven Stamkos has been a large part of the Lightning’s offensive production this season. In the 78 games he has played thus far this season, Stammer has brought home 27 goals and 59 assists for a total of 86 points. This is accompanied by a plus-18 player rating.
The good news is, thanks to the masterful way Lightning Vice President and General Manager Steve Yzerman has built this young team, there is a plethora of talent at the forward position ready to jump in at a moment’s notice and help pick up some of the slack when a player goes down.
Anthony Cirelli is a gleaming example of this. In the 15 games he’s played since being called up to the main roster, Cirelli has scored three goals and six assists for a total of nine points. One could reasonably expect an increase in ice time for the 20-year-old center in absence of the captain.
The Boston Bruins have seemingly had the Lightning’s number all season long. This only adds to the importance of tonight’s contest. Should the Lightning be defeated tonight, the Bruins will have swept the season series over the Bolts and all but cemented their place at the top of the Atlantic Division.
Despite the loss of Stamkos, the Lightning still has a very good opportunity to gain some ground on the Bruins. If the Lightning can remain focused on the task at hand, come out strong in the first period, continue to stand their ground, and play a consistent 60 minutes of hockey, fans could be in store for a playoff-caliber game.