Since the All-Star break, the Tampa Bay Lightning hasn’t been playing well. They traded their captain, got back their leading scorer and were still losing games, most of which they had the lead and blew it.
Not the start they were looking for as Ben Bishop seemed to have lost his winning way and the team lost their firm grip on one of the top division spots for the playoffs.
Last night’s win against the New Jersey Devils utilized a formula the Bolts have used all year—the new hero every night. It’s come to define their season as players such as Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson along with others have stepped up and shone in the big moments as Steven Stamkos was out and the offense had to score somehow.
This time it came from the most unlikely place in Mike Kostka. Since being picked up on waivers he has 5 points in seven games with the Lightning including an assist on the first goal and a goal in the 3-0 win. It also proved how shrewd GM Steve Yzerman is in his waiver wire pickups as Nate Thompson, who also had a goal, was a waiver wire pickup that has been great as well.
Many thought Yzerman would trade for another veteran defenseman for depth at the deadline and Kostka seems to be proving that point mute has he is logging roughly 15 minutes in only 19 games. One would think as the season closes that number will rise, as he has been solid so far with the Bolts.
If the Lightning are going to make the playoffs and go deep in the playoffs, goals and heroes will have to appear from the most unlikely corners, as the Bolts’ top lines will be evenly matched.
The playoffs aren’t only about the best players highlights. It’s about the depth able to step up when those best players are shut down by opposing best players.
The Lightning has had practice at it. Now they need to keep doing it, especially in the playoffs.