The Lightning have emerged as a chic midsummer pick to challenge for the Stanley Cup (see here, and here… and here.)
But are those predictions warranted?
It’s an interesting debate. Those in the “yes” camp will point to a pretty good team from a year ago that made significant offseason upgrades in Anton Stralman, Brian Boyle, Jason Garrison, Brenden Morrow and Evgeni Nabokov. Steve Stamkos is arguably the league’s purest goalscorer, Ben Bishop and Jon Cooper were Vezina and Jack Adams finalists and the number of young talents (Tyler Johnson, Ondrej Palat, Alex Killorn, Nikita Kucherov) could be joined by an incoming crop of equally gifted prospects (Jonathan Drouin, Brett Connolly, Vladislav Namestnikov and Adam Erne.)
Those in the “no” camp, however, will probably suggest tapping the brakes.
For all the hype surrounding the Bolts, they’ve only made the playoffs once in the last three years and haven’t won a postseason game since 2011, when Guy Boucher was the head coach and Vinny Lecavalier was team captain. There’s been a huge overhaul since and, as a result, the longest-tenured guys on the team are Stamkos and Victor Hedman. There’s also the reliance on Bishop, who had a fantastic ’13-14 campaign but has no track record of sustained success as an NHL starter. He alluded to as much upon signing a two-year extension earlier this month, saying “I think I’ve still got to prove myself,” and “I don’t want to be a one-hit wonder.”
With those two differing opinions in mind, we turn it over to the PHT faithful — are the Bolts legit Stanley Cup contenders?
Kempe’s hat trick, Cammalleri’s four points power Kings over Canadiens (Video)
Adrian Kempe recorded his first career NHL hat trick and Mike Cammalleri added two goals as the Los Angeles Kings beat the Montreal Canadiens 5-1.
After Paul Byron opened the scoring for Montreal midway through the first period, the Kings responded with five unanswered goals to hand the Habs their sixth straight defeat.
Cammalleri, who inked a one-year deal over the summer to return to the Kings, had a hand in four of LA’s five goals. He started the scoring for the Kings in the first period by celebrating the Dodgers’ playoff run with his own special kind of baseball swing.
Kempe, who finished with four points as well, scored his three goals over a span of 10:50 in the third period to help the Kings to their best start in franchise history (5-0-1).
LA remains the only NHL team yet to lose in regulation this season.
Jaden Schwartz‘s third career hat trick helped power the St. Louis Blues over the Chicago Blackhawks 5-2 in a Central Division clash Wednesday night at Scottrade Center.
Schwartz’s eventful evening began with a goal 4:46 into the first period. It was nearly ended minutes later after a scary crash into the end boards following a scoring chance.
After missing some time, Schwartz returned in the second period and doubled the Blues’ lead with his fourth of a season, thanks to a great outlet pass from Allen.
As the Blues built up a 4-0 lead, the Blackhawks spoiled Allen’s shutout bid with a pair of late power play goals 80 seconds apart. The furious rally was stopped, however, and Schwartz capped off his hat trick with an empty netter to put the game out of reach.
St. Louis dominated the first two periods, outshooting the Blackhawks 26-8 as they built up their 2-0 lead. The Blackhawks’ power play failed them early in the game, missing out on five chances to capitalize with the extra man through 40 minutes.
The Montreal Canadiens play their second game of a three-game west coast trip Wednesday night against the Los Angeles Kings.
It hasn’t been the best start for the Habs, who sit tied for last in the Eastern Conference with a 1-4-1 record. They’re winless since an opening night win over the Buffalo Sabres. On the other side of things, the Kings are the only NHL team that has yet to lose in regulation. Their 4-0-1 start puts them a point behind the Vegas Golden Knights, and their game in-hand gives them the opportunity to leap into first place in the Pacific Division with a victory.
You can check out tonight’s game on NBCSN (10:30 p.m. ET) or online via the live stream.
Marleau is the 18th player in NHL history to reach the 1,500 game mark. Should he stay healthy and play the entire 82-game slate or close to that, he’ll enter the 2018-19 season 11th all-time in that category. Gordie Howe holds the record with 1,767 games played.
Health has helped the 38-year-old Marleau reach the mark in his 20th NHL season. He hasn’t missed a regular game since the 2008-09 season and hasn’t played fewer than 74 games in a full season in his entire career.
Marleau has gone from being the youngest player in the league to the sixth-oldest in the span of 20 years and considering his history of good health, better fitness regiments of players and treatment by training staffs, challenging Howe may not be a crazy idea.
Of course, that is unless Jaromir Jagr sticks around. If that happens then Marleau would likely have to settle for No. 2.