Isles Talk continues its season preview special with a team that really improved this past off-season, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Last year was a phenomenal season for the Bolts, especially when you had Steven Stamkos out of the lineup for a good chunk of the season and Martin St. Louis asked for a trade. Through it all though, the Lightning made the playoffs thanks to the stellar goaltending of Ben Bishop. Unfortunately he got injured and put him out of commission entering the playoffs and the Lightning were eliminated in four games to the Montreal Canadiens. With Steve Yzerman wasting no time in the offseason, he got rid of the dead weight and brought in players who not only help the team immediately, but could put the Lightning in a position to challenge the Bruins for first place in the Atlantic Division.
2013-14 record: 51-24-7 2nd in the Atlantic Division; 3rd in the Conference
Additions: D Jason Garrison; D Anton Stralman; C Brian Boyle; G Evgeny Nabokov; C Brendan Morrow
Subtractions: G Anders Lindback; C Nate Thompson; F B.J Crombeen; D Mike Kostka; D Keith Aulie; F Ryan Malone; F Teddy Purcell
My Take: From what I’ve seen so far, the Rangers and Lightning have just been swapping players, with the Lightning winning these deals. If you look at the players mentioned, this team already improved and the season has not started yet. Throw in Ryan Callahan for a full season and Calder Trophy candidate Jonathan Drouin and the Lightning will certainly give the Bruins a run for their money. However, the season’s success will still depend on Bishop. The offense is there and the defense is better, but I’m leery about the goaltending. If Bishop returns to form, the Lightning will not miss a beat, but they may want to upgrade the backup goalie spot come playoff time. Just ask any New York Islanders fan how Nabby did in the 2013 playoffs against the Penguins. I know the Lightning have Gudlevskis & Vasilevskiy developing in the minors this year and maybe one of them could get hot during a playoff run, but for now if Bishop goes down, so do the Lightning.