Everyone looks at the Tampa Bay Lightning and the first word that comes to mind is adversity, but it’s the wrong word.
The real word that has defined what the Lightning have gone through is uncertainty.
They were uncertain if Steven Stamkos would be able to play again this season.
They were uncertain if Stamkos was going to be able to play before the playoffs.
They were uncertain of their goaltending and defense due to age and inexperience.
They were uncertain if Martin St. Louis wanted to be on the team and if they did trade him, how the team would respond.
They were uncertain that a team playing at least ten rookies night in and night out would be up to the challenge of an 82 game season that didn’t end with the Bolts hoping for a lottery draft.
They have faced a lot of adversity due to these uncertain situations but each and every game, night in and night out, the team has not only spit in the face of adversity but have conquered it.
The defense has gotten a lot better, anchored by a Victor Hedman who is a force on the ice and the Bolts sit tenth in terms of puck possession numbers at 51 percent.
New stars have risen and become household names as the old guard gave way to the new.
The mentality of this team isn’t the normal “don’t quit” mentality. It’s that of a group of players and staff who know what they have because they have gone through the fire together.
So when the Lightning dropped the first game against the Montreal Canadiens in the opening round of the playoffs, out came a panicky fan base and media who,quite frankly haven’t learned yet.
The Lightning have dealt with this issue many times over the course of the season and have always endured. It’s time for fans to remember it. So when fans start panicking because Bishop is out and Lindback is in, well look at it from the viewpoint of the players and staff Bishop being out is normal and it’s going to be fine because “Lindy is in net.” They trust him, just like they trust everyone in that dressing room.
“Adversity, yeah that word went out the door quite some time ago. We don’t even use it any more. We just think it’s the norm,” coach Jon Cooper said. “ We don’t look at it that way, we are just trying to get better as a team.”
Hearing that quote and reading it should clue fans in on something. This team can’t panic because they don’t know how to panic anymore. They are essentially through the looking glass and they may not know what the next punch of the NHL season will be but they do know this—they can handle it.
So what if they dropped game one in overtime with a backup goalie, who incidentally, made saves he shouldn’t have been able to make.
They were able to make a gold medal winning goalie, Carey Price, look mortal and if they hadn’t shot themselves in the foot at every turn, they could have won the game.
Do they want that game back? Most definitely, but they did learn from that game.
Now, they know what not to do and how to move forward which will only make them better.For a team faced with so much adversity and uncertainty, they are certain of two things:
Wednesday night wasn’t their best hockey, not by a long shot.
Two, this series is far from over just because they had a hiccup in the first game.
Now it’s time for everyone to see how this team views itself—a playoff team poised to make a deep run, if not win the Stanley Cup.
It will make the rest of the games a lot easier for everyone else not in that locker room if they did.
They’ve thrown uncertainty out the door along with adversity and now it’s time to once again kick it in the teeth and rise to the occasion.