One of the big storylines heading into tonight’s game one of the Stanley Cup Finals is that Steven Stamkos will finally get that long, elusive ring. However, he hasn’t played once for the Bolts in the playoffs. Nikita Kucherov, former league MVP, has led the Lightning as NHLs leading scorer this postseason. Right behind him? Brayden Point and Victor Hedman.
Stamkos has been with the Lightning since the 2008 season and is the leading goal scorer in franchise history. The 6x All-Star is recovering from another of a long line of injuries amassed over his career, but this time it’s his core muscle. He had surgery on March 2nd.
Potentially adding Stamkos later in the series could be huge for the Lightning. While one wouldn’t want to mess with the Kucherov front line with Brayden Point and Ondrej Palat, an addition of Stamkos in right on the second line over Tyler Johnson could make the Killorn line deadly. It’s the second line, specifically Anthony Cirelli, who clinched the Lightning’s ticket with the Stars. Of course, the third line is also extremely strong, too, consisting of the newest Bolt Blake Coleman, as well as Yanni Gourde and 2019 Stanley Cup Champion Patrick Maroon.
If not, the Bolts still have a tremendous chance, as their offense is loaded with talent as Barclay Goodrow, Mitchell Stevens, Luke Schenn and Cedric Paquette. The team is playing better now than any playoff team with Stamkos within the last five years, so while Stamkos may provide some relief for this team, they’ve played better without him and don’t necessarily need their captain. They got farther without him than they normally do with him. The front line is moving the puck around better than they did in the regular season with Stamkos in the lineup. Still, Lightning head coach Jon Cooper is hopeful.
“He’s been skating on and off. “He’s on a rehab [routine], and so a lot of days he’s either skating by himself or, if we’ve got options or a few guys skating, like [Monday], he’s out there with the guys. But there’s certain things he can and can’t do. It’s great to have him around, but nothing’s changed in the playing department anytime soon.”Jon Cooper about Stamkos playing.
But it was the Lightning General Manager, Julian BriseBois, who said “we haven’t ruled him out.” “You need a lot of good players to get to this point, and resiliency. Once you get into the playoffs, the difference in talent between the teams is minimal and…it really does come down to resiliency and taking advantage of the breaks you get along the way and overcoming the breaks that go against you along the way.”
The Lightning are loaded with talent and tonight on NBC look to bring home their first championship since 2004. Everybody outside of Stamkos is dinged up, but appears to be ready to go, that includes young phenom Brayden Point.
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