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Pressing question: How much adversity is too much for the Bolts?

Apr 15, 2014, 10:12 AM EST

StamkosGetty Getty Images

One of PHT’s 10 pressing questions in advance of the 2014 Stanley Cup playoffs…

If the saying “What doesn’t kill you, makes you stronger” is true, then the Tampa Bay Lightning could be the mightiest team in the playoffs.

But in more practical terms, one can’t help to ask if they’ve already been asked to clear too many hurdles this season.

Let’s look back at a season full of turmoil for a team that managed to make the playoffs after missing out the previous two years…

Stamkos sidelined

In one frightening fall, the Lightning saw their young star (and eventual captain) Steven Stamkos suffer a broken leg that kept him out from Nov. 11 to March 6:

“I’ll be honest, we sat there for 24 hours and had a pity party and thought our season might be over,” Head coach Jon Cooper said in March.

Instead, it might have been a sign of things to come, as Stamkos’ injury was just one of the Lightning’s biggest headaches in 2013-14.

MORE: Cooper has an interesting idea about tweaking home-ice advantage

St. Louis bolts

After 972 regular season games (and a Stanley Cup victory, two scoring titles and one Hart Trophy), Martin St. Louis couldn’t shake the initial sting of being left off Team Canada and demanded a trade from the team he captained. He was eventually granted his wish on trade deadline day, capping off an operatic exchange between a franchise, a former star and its fan base.

St. Louis left the Lightning with a traded captain of their own in Ryan Callahan, some quality New York Rangers draft picks and this apology letter:

Bishop banged up

Speaking of debatable Olympic “snubs,” Ben Bishop provided the Lightning with Vezina-caliber work this season. So, in accordance with a turmoil-filled season, he naturally suffered an injury late in the season that could carry over to the postseason.

Erratic backup Anders Lindback has actually been heating up lately since Bishop was injured and captured the NHL’s first star of the week on Monday, but in the big picture, many would believe that Bishop’s injury could be devastating … especially since the Montreal Canadiens are rolling out gold medal-winning star netminder Carey Price.

Malone’s legal troubles

While Bishop provided late-season adversity that may have more of an impact on the ice, Ryan Malone‘s legal troubles — he was arrested for DUI and cocaine possession over the weekend — add drama off the ice for the Lightning, too.

Considering the season the Lightning have endured, it probably shouldn’t be surprising that Cooper downplayed the situation for the team as a whole, as the Tampa Bay Time reported on Sunday.

“Hockeywise we’ve had way more distractions worse than this one,” Cooper said. “This is more of a life issue, more a friend of ours who we know is physically doing okay and hopefully the worst is over.

“As for hockey, this won’t be a distraction at all for us.”

***

The good news for the Lightning is that just about every champion – in the NHL and otherwise – deals with adversity along the way. Really, the playoffs are months of peaks and valleys, so they may very well look at the regular season as a training ground for the bigger challenges ahead.

And, if nothing else, it makes for a great story.

“Ooh, that might be for the book later — later in life,” Cooper told the Canadian Press.

For more Pressing Playoff Questions, click here.

  1. letsgolightning - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:28 AM

    I’d say the team has had enough time to get over Mary leaving- Cally’s decent play and tremendous effort in games has done much to soothe this pain. Bishop’s injury is obviously wait-and-see, but as for Malone…

    This guy was getting healthy-scratched so much lately, that I think the only effect of his absence is the chance for some fresh blood to be able to come up and play (or at least watch) to get the team more pumped up. I get the feeling no one on the team is actually surprised by Malone’s arrest, which means they’re not caught off-guard, which means they’re not distracted.

    Overall, the only concern I see is Bish’s injury, so it’s all about pressure on Lindback to step up (and maybe a little bit of Gudvelskis).

    • ctcork - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:45 AM

      Yeah I don’t think Bugsy will be much of a distraction, if any. Bish won’t be a distraction but we’d certainly like him back from injury. That said, Lindy is picking his game up just in time and if he has to play games 1 &2 I think we’ve still got a shot.

      Adversity? Bring it. Go Bolts.

  2. joey4id - Apr 15, 2014 at 10:46 AM

    With or without Bishop the Habs have the better goalie. And that will be the differentiator in this match-up. Habs in 6.

    • boltsfan777 - Apr 15, 2014 at 2:38 PM

      Oh yeah? How do you know that? Who cares about your predictions?

      • joey4id - Apr 15, 2014 at 2:43 PM

        LOL! Easy there, grasshopper! I think Bishop and Price are both very good, however, the edge goes to Price because of his Olympic experience and gold medals. Lindback… he’s not in the same league as Price.

    • bethyybarryy - Apr 15, 2014 at 3:47 PM

      We have Gudlevskis though who has already matched up against Price in the Olympics this year and was considered the best player in that game overall. Latvia came up short a goal against Price. Don’t doubt our goalies

  3. falstaffsmind - Apr 15, 2014 at 11:09 AM

    The thing that have kept the Lightning afloat and is allowing them to prosper is that with each passing day they turn a little bit more into the the Norfolk Admirals/Syracuse Crunch team that won 28 straight in 2011/12 and competed for the Calder Cup in 2012 and 2013. When you look at the roster, it’s amazing how few of the old guys are still there.

  4. themagicfanguy - Apr 15, 2014 at 12:23 PM

    @joey Again you spew your biased lies, healthy Bishop is better and you know it.

    • joey4id - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:11 PM

      I don’t spew lies nor do I preach the ultimate truth. However, Joey knows hockey. :-) I have no favorites. I am an objective observer who believes Price will out play TB goalies, and that will carry Les Canadiens to the second round. It’s an opinion. Why get so riled up?

  5. acieu - Apr 15, 2014 at 1:06 PM

    Every time I hear or see Jon Cooper I think about what the Capitals missed by passing over him for Adam Oates.

    • joey4id - Apr 15, 2014 at 4:13 PM

      Yes. Do you remember what you wrote when the caps hired Oates? You were bang on.

  6. tankerkevo2013 - Apr 16, 2014 at 2:16 PM

    This article should have started with the buyout of Vinny Lecavalier in the off season to the lead up of this year.

    That was a HUGE event in the Lightning’s 2013-2014 season and the fact it was overlooked speaks volume of the attention spans of people.

    Heck, it seemed by the prognosticators that the Lecavalier loss was already the end of the Lightning play off hopes before the first puck ever dropped. And yet here they are, in the playoffs, and the guy who stepped in to help fill the void Vinny left on our second line played nearly the entire season on our 1st line, often with two rookies, and was a great success story.

    St. Louis stepped up. Filpula stepped up. Each one of the rookies stepped up. Bishop stepped up. Lindback stepped up.

    It’s rare, but every so often there are teams who are in fact positively motivated by adversity.

    The only other contemporary team that I can relate this Lightning team to is the Pittsburgh Penguins. Even when the injury bug entered their locker room to affect their biggest stars they still played winning hockey.

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