The third installment of Chasing The Enemy takes a look at our cross state rival the Tampa Bay Lightning and their high powered offence. Last year the two teams matched up six times and the Florida Panthers were 2-4 in those matches. For a number of years prior to the last couple seasons I wasn’t too excited about going to see Tampa. Especially having to watch them six times a year as our rival, however with the addition of Steven Stamkos and with Guy Boucher behind the bench last season, they are more exciting to watch now. Do yourself a favor too and make sure you check out the gang over at our Fansided opponent Bolts By The Bay. The trash talking has begun already. They don’t know who they’re messing with!
A very potent and high scoring offence that features veterans Vinny Lecavalier, Martin St.Louis, and Ryan Malone to go along with the emergence of Teddy Purcell and of course Stamkos, Tampa is significantly more exciting to watch. They are also tough to play against with Steve Downie and Adam Hall providing the grit and sandpaper where needed. Dangerous at even strength with all the weaponry, they also are a team that you want to keep off the power play. Going through some growing pains, and some rebuilding after winning the Stanley Cup in 2004, Tampa emerged last season as a team to be reckoned with. Their uptempo style of play that Boucher has installed made me jealous last year, as they went to the Eastern Conference finals eventually losing out to the Boston Bruins.
Seems as though they can roll out four effective lines, which all have the ability to score, and keep any team on their toes. If there was a weakness with Tampa, it might have been on defence. Victor Hedman, Pavel Kabina and trade deadline acquisition Eric Brewer as the top three make them much stronger for a full season to go along with Brett Clark, Mattias Ohlund and power play specialist Marc Andre- Bergeron. The Lightning allowed 240 goals last season which was the second most of any playoff team in both conferences (Detroit allowed 241), that number looks to be improved on this year. With a full season of Eric Brewer and everyone used to the defensive system of Boucher, I expect Tampa to cut that back by at least 20.
In net the Lightning will be relying heavily on the ageless wonder Dwayne Roloson. Everything seemed to change for the better once “Rollie the goalie” came on board with his experience and the workload that he was and is willing to take on. All at the tender age of 41. He was the third goaltender 41 years or older in the past 33 years to record a shutout joining Ed Belfour and Dominic Hasek. In 17 playoff games last season Roloson went 10-6 and almost guided Tampa to the finals before they fell to the Bruins in a dramatic game seven losing 1-0. Mathieu Garon will be Roloson’s back up as the much traveled veteran comes to Tampa after spending last season in Columbus backing up Steve Mason. A capable netminder for sure, this veteran one-two punch is solid. The nice thing for Tampa is that with all the offence that they have, they don’t need to be spectacular every night.
The Lightning will present a very capable foe for Florida. Overtaking them in the division as well as the conference will be a challenge, but this year’s version of the Florida Panthers is up to the challenge. The two teams will play six times including the home opener on Saturday October 15th. With the improvement of Tampa which includes the dangerous Steven Stamkos, and the new regime of the Florida Panthers, these two teams are about to show everyone that there is a market for hockey in Florida.
Don’t forget starting Sunday we’ll be doing our division previews and on Monday October 3rd we will have our Florida Panther Season Prediction!
As always thanks for reading. We welcome your comments and opinions.
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