Jan 12, 2011, 2:35 PM EST
It’s dangerous to put too much stock in a single contest during an 82-game regular season, but we should at least get some idea regarding whether or not the Tampa Bay Lightning are legit against the Washington Capitals tonight. Whichever team wins this evening’s game will hold the lead in the Southeast Division, so yes, it’s a pretty big one.
Many will marvel at how far Tampa Bay has come and will attribute the change to shrewd moves by general manager Steve Yzerman, great management by Guy Boucher and the ascension of Steven Stamkos.
Yet as players and coaches came and went while Vincent Lecavalier drifted in and out of hockey relevance, one player consistently produced no matter what: Martin St. Louis. Lecavalier might wear the “C” for the Bolts, but it might be most accurate to call St. Louis the team’s other (or perhaps “true”) captain.
These are good times for St. Louis, 35 years old going on 25.
The franchise has turned around, and the games matter again, and life at home is terrific. After three years when the Lightning went nowhere, St. Louis is an essential player on a team with possibilities.
He can still go, you know. There is a smattering of gray in his hair, but St. Louis’ skates still have gears that most players’ do not. He has 53 points (18 goals, 35 assists) in 43 games, which is another way of saying his stick still has stories to tell.
“You don’t want to just play in this league,” St. Louis said quietly. “You want to play and be a factor. I’m trying to do that every day. Every day you have to prove yourself. Next year it will be the same. When you’re young, you have to prove you can play. When you’re old, you have to prove you can still play.”
So we’ll see how good this Lightning team is, but even if he doesn’t normally generate the headlines (good or bad), chances are that St. Louis will come to play.
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