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Pressing question: How much adversity is too much for the Bolts?

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One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

If the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” is true, then the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the mightiest team in the playoffs.

But in more practical terms, one can’t help to ask if they’ve already been asked to clear too many hurdles this season.

Let’s look back at a season full of turmoil for a team that managed to make the playoffs after missing out the previous two years…

Stamkos sidelined

In one frightening fall, the Lightning saw their young star (and eventual captain) Steven Stamkos suffer a broken leg that kept him out from Nov. 11 to March 6:

“I’ll be honest, we sat there for 24 hours and had a pity party and thought our season might be over,” Head coach Jon Cooper said in March.

Instead, it might have been a sign of things to come, as Stamkos’ injury was just one of the Lightning’s biggest headaches in 2013-14.

MORE: Cooper has an interesting idea about tweaking home-ice advantage

St. Louis bolts

After 972 regular season games (and a Stanley Cup victory, two scoring titles and one Hart Trophy), Martin St. Louis couldn’t shake the initial sting of being left off Team Canada and demanded a trade from the team he captained. He was eventually granted his wish on trade deadline day, capping off an operatic exchange between a franchise, a former star and its fan base.

St. Louis left the Lightning with a traded captain of their own in Ryan Callahan, some quality New York Rangers draft picks and this apology letter:

Bishop banged up

Speaking of debatable Olympic “snubs,” Ben Bishop provided the Lightning with Vezina-caliber work this season. So, in accordance with a turmoil-filled season, he naturally suffered an injury late in the season that could carry over to the postseason.

Erratic backup Anders Lindback has actually been heating up lately since Bishop was injured and captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, but in the big picture, many would believe that Bishop’s injury could be devastating … especially since the Montreal Canadiens are rolling out gold medal-winning star netminder Carey Price.

Malone’s legal troubles

While Bishop provided late-season adversity that may have more of an impact on the ice, Ryan Malone’s legal troubles — he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession over the weekend — add drama off the ice for the Lightning, too.

Considering the season the Lightning have endured, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Cooper downplayed the situation for the team as a whole, as the Tampa Bay Time reported on Sunday.

“Hockeywise we’ve had way more distractions worse than this one,” Cooper said. “This is more of a life issue, more a friend of ours who we know is physically doing okay and hopefully the worst is over.

“As for hockey, this won’t be a distraction at all for us.”

***

The good news for the Lightning is that just about every champion – in the NHL and otherwise – deals with adversity along the way. Really, the playoffs are months of peaks and valleys, so they may very well look at the regular season as a training ground for the bigger challenges ahead.

And, if nothing else, it makes for a great story.

“Ooh, that might be for the book later — later in life,” Cooper told the Canadian Press.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

Sharks swarm in the third period, take down Predators in Game 1

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For two periods, the San Jose Sharks couldn’t solve Pekka Rinne.

Maybe it was because of that black cat that found its way on to the ice prior to the start of Friday’s game, or the video review that didn’t go in San Jose’s favor in the opening period.

But that all changed in the final period. It started with Tomas Hertl on the power play finding room just under the glove of Rinne to get San Jose on the board. Joel Ward followed that up with a gorgeous deke, tucking the puck in behind Rinne just as he started to go behind the net, as San Jose was able to take advantage of a defensive breakdown.

Logan Couture added the eventual winner. Within the span of 13 minutes, the Sharks had completely taken over, cashing in on two Nashville penalties and a defensive lapse.

When the onslaught was over, the Sharks skated off with a 5-2 win in Game 1 of this second-round series with the Predators, who only wrapped up a seven-game series win over Anaheim on Wednesday.

Ryan Johansen made it interesting, cutting into San Jose’s lead with under two minutes remaining, but any further comeback attempt was quickly halted by a pair of empty net goals from the Sharks.

The game ended with a dust-up along the boards, before cooler heads did prevail.

Another North Dakota junior goes pro as Blackhawks sign Luke Johnson

Quinnipiac forward Tommy Schutt, left, moves the puck as North Dakota forward Luke Johnson, middle, checks Quinnipiac forward Travis St. Denis during the first period of an NCAA college hockey tournament game Friday, March 27, 2015, in Fargo, N.D. North Dakota won 4-1. (AP Photo/Bruce Crummy)
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Another day, another University of North Dakota player deciding to enter the professional hockey ranks.

This time, it was 21-year-old forward Luke Johnson who turned pro following his junior year, as he signed a three-year contract with the Chicago Blackhawks, the team that selected him in the fifth round of the 2013 NHL Draft.

In 43 games with the NCAA champs this season, Johnson scored 11 goals and 21 points, just shy of his college career high of 24 points set the previous year.

Johnson will forgo his senior year at North Dakota, making him the fourth member of that program’s junior class to turn pro since the end of the season. Keaton Thompson signed with the Anaheim Ducks, Troy Stecher inked with the Vancouver Canucks and Paul LaDue signed with the L.A. Kings.

Senior forward Drake Caggiula, now a free agent, has reportedly narrowed down his list of NHL suitors to six teams.

Brock Boeser, Vancouver’s 2015 first-round pick and coming off an impressive freshman year, will return to North Dakota for his sophomore year, as per Canucks general manager Jim Benning earlier this month.

Video: Black cat hits the ice before Sharks-Predators Game 1

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Perhaps it’s an ominous sign of bad luck to come, but for which team?

Prior to puck drop between the host San Jose Sharks and Nashville Predators in Game 1 on Friday, a black cat hit the ice at SAP Center, taking a nervous stroll along the boards.

Not sure exactly where it came from, although it’s possible someone was feeling extra superstitious before the start of this series.

Official update on the really important story of the evening:

Speed, skill help Stars score late victory to take series lead over Blues

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The Dallas Stars scored a late winner, held on in the final minute and eventually struck first in their best-of-seven second-round series with the St. Louis Blues.

Once again, it was the speed and skill of the Stars that proved to be the difference in the end. Radek Faksa scored with less than five minutes remaining in the third period, breaking the deadlock and giving Dallas a 2-1 victory and 1-0 series lead over their Central Division foes on Friday.

As he entered the zone on the rush, Faksa dished off to a flying Ales Hemsky, who was denied by Brian Elliott in alone. But Faksa followed up, jamming in the rebound to give the Stars the lead, as both St. Louis defensemen Jay Bouwmeester and Alex Pietrangelo were caught by the speed of the Dallas forwards on the rush.

The Stars held on from there, as the Blues made a late push to tie the game.

Kari Lehtonen stopped 31 of 32 shots for Dallas, while Elliott was busy throughout the night, stopping 40 of 42 shots.

Elliott was furious after the Stars opened the scoring in the second period, as Antoine Roussel tallied on a rebound after yet another nice Dallas passing play in the offensive zone.

Stars forward Patrick Eaves left the game early in the third period and didn’t play another shift after being hit in the lower part of his leg with the puck from a point shot.