Raise your hand if you thought they would still be here.
How about if you thought they would advance after going down 3-1 against the Pittsburgh Penguins? How about those who thought they would face off against the powerful Washington Capitals and sweep their way through the series? The Tampa Bay Lightning have already defied the odds this season, so is it really that shocking that they once again fought off elimination last night?
Still, it’s a little surprising that the Lightning are where they are, isn’t it?
On the surface, it shouldn’t be.
They have veteran players who have won before (Martin St. Louis & Vincent Lecavalier.) They have physical forwards like Ryan Malone and Steve Downie. They have one of the best snipers in the league (Steven Stamkos) and a strong supporting cast (Simon Gagne, Dominic Moore, Sean Bergenheim, Teddy Purcell and others.) On defense they have experience (Pavel Kubina, Mattias Ohlund and others) and youth (Victor Hedman.) They have a goaltender who knows what it takes to play in big games (Dwayne Roloson.)
Their special teams are effective, their coach is talented and their front office seemingly makes all the right moves.
But it just doesn’t feel like they should be here, right?
Maybe it’s because they play in Tampa Bay. Maybe it’s because the East had so many other contenders heading into the postseason. Maybe it’s because their third jerseys have the word “BOLTS” plastered across the front.
Whatever the reason, very few of us expected to see the Lightning go this far. And yet, here we are. The Tampa Bay Lightning refuse to die.
Dwayne Roloson remains undefeated in elimination games. He stared down elimination three times against the Penguins in these playoffs and now once against Boston. He’s 7-0 in his career when facing elimination.
Now he’ll need to extend that streak to at least one more game if he hopes to win the Stanley Cup. Roloson has played in the Cup Final once before, as a member of the Edmonton Oilers in 2006. He was injured in game one of that series and the Oilers ended up losing in seven games without Roloson.
Now the Lightning will need to defeat the Boston Bruins in Boston in order to advance. The Lightning won game one in the Garden, but fell in games two and five. They’ll once again have the odds against them.
Captain Vincent Lecavalier feels that the Lightning are battle-tested and that they have what it takes to win game seven:
We have that confidence. All year, we just coming back, coming back. Against Pittsburgh coming back and now again we came back from 3-2 in a series. Obviously it comes down to one game. We’re going to have to step up our game even more — special teams will have to play well, 5-on-5, everybody.
We played well in our last Game 7. We played a really tight game against (Pittsburgh). We’re just going to try to play our game — Lightning hockey — and do our best.
The Lightning have defied the critics in these playoffs. They’re one of only three teams remaining in the postseason and they have to fight off elimination once again in order to move on.
While the Bruins will likely be considered the favourites in the final game of this series, the Lightning have showed us that they’re not going to go away with a fight. They’re determined to stick around as long as they can and they’ve been tough to stop so far.