It’s getting closer. The practice time is almost over as the Lightning puts its finishing touches on practice here in Tampa before going to Toronto on what they hope will end with a Stanley Cup championship.
The Lightning will have their final scrimmage today at Amalie Arena.
Pat Maroon was the standout in the blue and white scrimmage on Monday. It was the second and third line players that made more of an impact in that scrimmage than the first and second line skaters.
Steven Stamkos, although practicing on his own and in a limited capacity has not yet been involved in a full practice session.
Cooper has said there is no rush to get Stamkos back into practice. The goal is to have him ready to go on August third.
Which brings me to the first question about this Lightning team heading to Toronto.
What if Steven Stamkos is not 100 percent and has to miss some time?
Stamkos seems to be getting a lot more fragile the longer he plays in the league.
Stamkos was injured on March 2nd and would have missed the first couple rounds of the playoffs had the season not stopped.
The Lightning will need a healthy Stamkos to bring the cup back to Tampa.
It would be difficult to win a Stanley Cup without one of your top players. It seems there is always a question surrounding the health of Stamkos right when the playoffs are about to start.
The Lightning needs all of its best players healthy to have a deep playoff run.
What kind of intensity can we expect from the Lightning?
Everyone is talking and saying all the right things. But in the past, what the players were saying, and what we saw on the ice didn’t match up.
The Lightning was less than mediocre to start the season stumbling out of the gate with a 6-5-2 record before getting hot in mid-December and going 21 games without a loss.
The Lightning then had another mini-streak from mid-February to mid-March going 3-6-1 just before the season was shut down.
We saw this Lightning team have little to no fire in last year’s Stanley Cup playoff run getting swept by the Columbus Blue Jackets in four straight games.
I hope that lessons have been learned along the way and this team has figured that you can’t hit the ice in Toronto on August third and have a feeling-out process.
The Lightning will need to have that fire and sense of urgency from the first game as they battle for position for the first round of the playoffs.
Will Andrei Vasilevskiy be able to put this team on his back and carry this team to some wins?
You have to have a goalie get hot at some point during the playoffs. We have seen Vasilevskiy do that at points during the season.
In 2018 coming off a lower-body injury, Vasilevskiy stopped 48 shots in a win against the Toronto Maple Leafs.
The Lightning was outplayed and outshot in that game, but Vasilevskiy had a hot hand and got the win.
This past season in December, Vasilevskiy got hot and as instrumental in leading the Lightning to 21 games without a defeat going 19-0-2.
This is the kind of performance that the Lightning will need from Vasilevskiy to make a deep playoff run.
Your goalie won’t be great in all games but must come up big at the most critical moments to steal a game or two.
That’s what will help the Lightning bring home the Stanley Cup.
I still think this Lightning team is built to make a deep playoff run. This may be the last season that this group of guys is together.
Stamkos must stay healthy.
The Lightning must overcome the nonchalant style of play that caused them to get swept in last year’s playoffs.
Andrei Vasilevskiy must get hot at some point and steal some wins for the Lightning to reach their ultimate goal.
Everyone should be healthy by August third.
There are no more excuses. The Lightning know what they need to do. It’s just a matter of executing.