Motivation can be a dangerous thing. That was proven by the Tampa Bay Lightning who managed to again shun every naysayer that thought they’d crumble minus leading scorer Steven Stamkos, out for quite awhile with a broken right tibia, in Thursday night’s dominating 5-1 win over the Western Conference-leading Anaheim Ducks.
Valtteri Filppula and Martin St. Louis combined for three goals and six points, something the Lightning need to see more of in the months ahead. Ben Bishop also stood tall, making 24 saves on 25 shots, plus surviving being mowed over by a Ducks player with less than 10 seconds remaining in regulation. If looks told the whole story, coach Jon Cooper was likely saying something along the lines of “Really??!!? Please Bish, get up. This week’s been tough enough without you ending up on the shelf.” for a few seconds.
For Lightning fans, this win was big because it sent a message to those NHL analysts who thought Stamkos was the only player making this team competitive early on. Will they miss his presence? Sure, but last I checked there are other guys capable of picking up the slack. All they must do is stick to and execute the game plan, which involves everyone shooting pucks on net and getting creative.
Unfortunately, two wins without Stamkos in the lineup won’t be enough to quiet every critic leaving the Lightning for dead. Remember, these are the same people who didn’t give this team a glimpse of a chance until they beat the St. Louis Blues back in early November. And even then they didn’t sound convinced. The injury to their leading scorer ultimately made up everyone’s mind as to what should be expected from this team–not much.
With so much left to prove, the Lightning now must show game in and game out they’re more than a one-man team. Can they do it? Difficult as it will surely be, Tampa Bay’s got the motivation needed to stick around in the playoff race for awhile.