Jon Cooper wasn’t pulling any punches when it came to the impact Steve Stamkos’ broken right tibia would have on his team.
“It’s tough to lose a guy like that,” the Lightning head coach said, as per the Tampa Bay Times. “We’ll see what we’re made of.
“You talk about a test, this is a test.”
The Lightning, who came into Monday’s disastrous 3-0 loss to Boston tops in the Eastern Conference, had aced most of their tests this season. Aside from an inability to handle the Bruins — the B’s have now won all three contests against Tampa by a combined 11-1 scoreline — the Bolts had 12 victories prior to the Stamkos injury, six coming against the Western Conference, including two over the defending champion Blackhawks and others over winning clubs in St. Louis, Los Angeles, and Minnesota.
In fact, the Lightning are a perfect 6-0-0 against the West, which is especially noteworthy given that conference’s dominance over the East this season.
So how will this change in light of the Stamkos injury, one that could keep him out of the lineup long-term?
In the immediate future, Tampa Bay’s domination over the West could be in trouble. The Lightning will soon set out on a trip I’ve oh-so-cleverly dubbed THE QUADRANGLE OF DEATH — a four-game swing through California and Arizona to play Anaheim, San Jose, Los Angeles and Phoenix from Nov. 16-22.
All four clubs sit in the NHL’s top 13, with Anaheim currently holding a three-point edge for tops in the league.
(Speaking of the Ducks, Tampa will play them twice in the next 11 days; Anaheim is in Tampa on Thursday, then the Bolts go to Anaheim on Fri, Nov. 22.)
Losing Stamkos for any games — let alone those against the best of the West — is going to be tough. His production (first in the league in goals and assists) is one thing, but the effect he has on the production of team captain Martin St. Louis cannot be understated.
Check out St. Louis’ scoring log from this season — 16 points in 16 games prior to Monday — and look at how often he and Stamkos connect:
St. Louis tried to put a brace face on things following the Bruins game.
“It’s a big loss, but you know, we’ve been winning as a team and we’re going to have to find a way to continue doing that,’’ St. Louis told the Tampa Tribune. “We’re going to have to raise our game collectively.
“You don’t replace Stammer, but the guys are going to have to step up.’’