After recent Tampa Bay Lightning games, there has been a sense of doom and gloom in and around the Tampa Bay Lightning. Whether it was the goaltending that was letting the team down, or the scoring not coming through in the clutch, the frustration in the fan base was starting to grow, even to the point that some were starting to point the finger at Lightning head coach Guy Boucher, as unfair as that may be.
Then something happened. And it proved that the plan of Steve Yzerman is working.
What was this event that has changed the course of the Tampa Bay Lightning? What has been the catalyst of two straight wins? The rookies have been called up from the Syracuse Crunch, and have brought and energy level to this team that has re-energized the veterans, and suddenly, the relentless ways of the Tampa Bay Lightning have returned.
The “TampaCuse” group, as they have been so appropriately named by our good friends over at Boltprospects.com, have been the main contributors over the past handful of games that has seen the Lightning move back to within five points of both the top spot in the Southeast Division, and the final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, have brought back the relentlessness that Guy Boucher talks about each and every day.
It started at the beginning of the season, when Cory Conacher made the team out of training camp. It continued when the Lightning brought up Richard Panik. And now, the rookies are all making names for themselves. Cory Conacher still leads the league in rookie scoring. Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat have been tremendous. Johnson has shown off tremendous speed and playmaking ability, as well as a terrific shot that earned him his first NHL goal. Alex Killorn has just gotten better and better as time has gone on, playing both ends of the ice and in just about all situations.
Radko Gudas has shown he belongs in the NHL in just the handful of games he has been with the big team. He continues to earn more minutes, and has never looked out of place in any of the games he has played. He has the calmness of a five year veteran on the blue line and brings a physical game that not many Lightning defensemen processed in the 20 year history of this team.
Dana Tyrell, while not a rookie, also has to be mentioned. In watching him play since his re-call from Syracuse, Tyrell has been terrific, and the Lightning really do like a different team with him in the lineup, as defenders really have no answer for his speed.
The moral of this story is that while this team may not be where many want them to be in the standings right now, they are building something much bigger than for this season. This group, along with a few more prospects in the system, has the chance to be something special in time.
Now is not the time to make changes. Now is the time to show just a bit more patience. They say patience is a virtue, and in this case, patience really has the potential to turn into something special.