Nearly one week ago, the Tampa Bay Lightning and their fans witnessed a nightmare, as star center Steven Stamkos had to be stretchered off the TD Garden ice after colliding with the goalpost while back-checking Boston Bruins defenseman Dougie Hamilton.
Believe me when I say this tragic accident shook Lightning fans to the core. The past few years they’ve endured heartache, a direct result of iffy goaltending and subpar defense, yet nothing compared to this. Finally receiving solid netminding out of Ben Bishop, along with better defense, it seemed the hockey world was ready to admit this team could hang tough in the highly competitive Atlantic Division.
Then Stamkos got injured, and every single analyst did a complete 180 in terms of how they view this team going forward. Would the Lightning completely unravel, or face this challenge head-on? Even more significant, how was a fanbase that’s been through so much adversity in previous years going to react?
Just three games and (almost) seven days into life minus one of their best players, a span expected to last months, it seems both are responding quite well. The Lightning are 2-1, including an emotional shootout win over the Montreal Canadiens last Tuesday night, while fans have shown their passion and loyalty by creating and routinely using “Win It For Stammer” and “Lightning Force Of Nature” hashtags on Facebook and Twitter, something they don’t intend to stop doing for quite awhile.
Can the Lightning remain competitive, facing their biggest challenge yet? Though unknown, Tampa Bay has plenty of people rooting for them to prove they’re a team worth taking seriously–adversity or no adversity.