This post is part of Lightning Day on PHT…
The Tampa Bay Lightning missing the 2017 Stanley Cup Playoffs was one of the more shocking things that happened last season.
Coming into the year, most people expected them to be in the hunt for the Stanley Cup (I actually had them winning it all). It’s easy to see why that didn’t happen. Their depth was tested right from the start of the year and they never seemed to catch a break when it came to injuries.
Steven Stamkos played in just 17 games because of a knee injury, Tyler Johnson missed 16 games throughout the season, Ryan Callahan was limited to 18 games, and last year’s starter Ben Bishop missed a big nine-game segment of games from late December to early January.
That list doesn’t include the nine games Anton Stralman missed, the eight games Nikita Kucherov missed, the seven games Ondrej Palat was forced to sit out, or the 14 games Brayden Point was sidelined for.
Heading into 2017-18, you have to think that the Bolts will at least be a little healthier than they were last season. Just getting Stamkos back for a reasonable amount of games will make them that much better.
Don’t forget, despite dealing with all those injuries, they still only missed the playoffs by a single point.
There are at least two main reasons why they came close to making the postseason. First, Kucherov, and second, Victor Hedman.
Those two players were incredible throughout the season. No matter who was in and out of the lineup, both Kucherov and Hedman never stopped performing at a high level.
On the flip side, there’s no guarantee that a player like Stamkos will be fully healthy next season. He’s suffered a long list over injuries over the last few years and assuming he’ll be able to play all 82 games is a little premature. Over the last four seasons, he’s played 17, 77, 82 and 37 games. That doesn’t include all the games he missed because of a blood clot during the 2016 playoffs.
Also, the goaltending situation is a bit of a question mark as well. Andrei Vasilevskiy has shown that he’s capable of playing well at the NHL level, but how will he handle the pressure of being the number one guy for an entire season. Don’t forget, he’s still just 23 years old. Sure, Peter Budaj is there to help him along the way, but Budaj was an AHL goalie until Jonathan Quick went down early last season with the Kings.
It’s your turn to have your say. Feel free to leave your opinion in the comments section below.