The Tampa Bay Lightning finished last season one goal and one win shy of playing for the Stanley Cup. So what are Steve Yzerman and Guy Boucher going to do this year for an encore? The team has expectations to build on that success and knows that this season road is going to be harder to navigate as teams will have a bulls eye on their schedule for when the Bolts come to town.
So what it is going to take for the team to take that next step, it just may rest on an old face, a younger face that is ready to grow up, another face that is ready to mature into a great player and finally a new face fitting in to new surroundings learning from an idol.
The old face is simple, can Dwayne Roloson at 42 continue to amaze by playing outstanding hockey in net. The team brought in goaltender Mathieu Garon from Columbus Blue Jackets to lighten the load from the grizzled vet early in the season to make sure that he is fresh heading into April. There were times in the Washington sweep in the playoffs that Roloson just dazzled with his abilities to stop the puck at his age so these are not crazy expectations as it was not that long ago that he did he thing.
Victor Hedman at times in the playoff run last year amazed with his skills defending his zone. It was hard to imagine that this kid was still under 20. Well this year his ability to take the next step to a number one defenseman is going to be vital for this team to improve. To make that next step he is going to have to improve offensively this year and be more consistent on those end to end rushes that he teased the coaches, teammates and fan at times last year. So can this young face take the next step in his maturation process?
Last season Teddy Purcell learned how hard you have to work on both ends of the ice to be successful in this league. It was a challenge that the coaching staff made to Purcell. His hands are as good as anyone on this roster and his shot that reminds some of the wrist shot that Milan Hejduk used to use in Colorado for years as he put up 40 + goals a year. He is that talented and last year in the playoffs he showed flashes of that grit and talent at big times for this club scoring clutch goals. So what does Teddy Purcell have for this year, can he be that guy who scores 30 goals on a line with Vinnie Lecavalier and Ryan Malone. For this team to take that next step that has to be the case as the team no longer has Simon Gagne to lean on in those clutch moments
Finally the Tampa Bay area is going to get introduced to Marty St Louis little brother, his name is Ryan Shannon. The Lightning signed Shannon from Ottawa in the offseason, he is a speedy hardworking winger has training for a few years with St Louis in the offseason as he has almost looked up St Louis as a role model for his own game. So it’s going to be fun to watch those two guys play on the same ice He is going to start the year on the third line but if he is able to score do not be surprised if he replace Steve Downie on the first line.
The team knows what it’s going to get from the stars on this team but the old face, young face, a face read to grow and the new face have to take this team to the next step which is playing for the Cup this year.