With the NHL playoffs about a week away, most of the sports media is busy predicting who they think has the best chance of raising hockey’s most coveted trophy, the Stanley Cup, come June. You hear juggernauts like the Boston Bruins and Chicago Blackhawks, teams with tons of postseason experience such as the San Jose Sharks and New York Rangers and ones littered with perennial All Stars in the Pittsburgh Penguins and Detroit Red Wings to name a few.
Although the above mentioned teams probably have the best chance of winning it all, there’s a part of me wanting to caution those making such bold predictions to not discount a Tampa Bay Lightning team that had very little chance of playing well into April when the regular season began and almost no chance when their best offensive weapon, Steven Stamkos, missed nearly four months from Nov 11 to March 6 nursing a broken leg that required immediate surgery.
The Lightning have faced numerous challenges and battled back from them time and time again this season. If it wasn’t injuries, which the team certainly saw more than their fair share of, there was drama behind the scenes involving former captain Martin St. Louis right smack dab in the middle of playoff races heating up.
For most teams, that much adversity would mess with players heads. Even more so on a team as young and inexperienced as the Lightning. A team that’s currently got two rookies, Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat, playing on their top line and somewhere around seven or eight suiting up on a pretty regular basis.
Knowing that, one might ask why the Lightning didn’t fall apart every time they received a major blow. The answer’s plain and simple, black and white. They’re a band of brothers, strong enough to overcome whatever is thrown their way. Trades? Just another day at the office. Significant injuries to key players? Not a huge deal. These are words this team has probably used a lot since the season began.
And while playoffs are a whole different beast, there’s always at least one underdog out to prove they belong. Given their resiliency all season long, why couldn’t that be Tampa Bay in 2014? One look at what they’ve accomplished through some incredibly tough times and you’ll see the Lightning sure aren’t a team worth counting out just yet.