Do Bolts have enough to win it once again?

by Gary Shelton on February 10, 2022

in general

Kucherov has played in only 11 game.s/JEFFREY S. KING

Thursday, 4 a.m.

A half-season later (more or less), and the Tampa Bay Lightning have established this.

They're pretty darned good.

When they focus, when they do not give up odd-man rushes, when they set the tempo and play their game, the Lightning remains one of the NHL's most dangerous teams.

But are they good enough to three-peat?

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Every day of the season, that's the question that tags along after the Lightning like a lost puppy. They have the third-most points in the NHL. They are second to the Atlantic Division. They've won 30 games and forced six others to overtime.

Again, you ask. Are they good enough to lift the trophy once again?

The Bolts are at it again tonight, playing Colorado on the road at 9 p.m. Between now and the post-season, the Lightning will again try to capture the right chemistry to do it again.

Oh, you know the odds against them. There are other good teams in the league, including a pesky Florida team. Another injury has limited Nikita Kucherov to 11 games. Brayden Point has played just 32.

Then there is this. Contracts and the expansion draft has drained much of the depth from this team. Remember Yanni Gourde? He has 10 goals and 13 asssts for Seattle. Blake Coleman had 10 goals and eight assists for Calgary. Barclay Goodrow has 10 goals and 10 assists for the Rangers. Tyler Johnson has one goal and two assists for Chicago.

That's a lot of points to make up for.

Together, the departed helped to add a measure of grit to the Lightning team. And that was one of the most special things about a Bolts team that won back-to-back Cups. They were tough enough, and fast enough, and skilled enough to play any type of game. They were resilient, and stubborn, and competitive.

But are they still?

Much of the Bolts hopes rest, again, on goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy, who leads the NHL with 25 wins. If he's sturdy enough, the Bolts have a shot.

Then there is the health. In recent seasons, Steven Stamkos has had trouble staying healthy. The last two years, Kucherov has been a ghost.

But when they are healthy, when they are focused, they're still a tough night on the ice.

Look, odds are against any team winning a three-peat.

But they've got a shot.

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