Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning pose with the Stanley Cup after defeating the Montreal Canadiens 1-0 in Game 5 to win the NHL hockey Stanley Cup Finals, Wednesday, July 7, 2021, in Tampa, Fla. (Bruce Bennett/Pool Photo via AP)

The Tampa Bay Lightning Have A Shot At Some Serious History

Unsurprisingly, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still the best team in hockey. They have the most balanced forward group, the best defensive corps, and the best goalie in the game. Other than Tyler Johnson and the rental David Savard, there have been no significant departures. They enter this season as one of the heavy favorites for the Stanley Cup once again. Should the Lightning pull it off and win ANOTHER championship, they will become the first team to win three Stanley Cups consecutively since the New York Islanders’ dynasty from 1980-1983. However, they do have some stiff competition, so let’s see how their 2021-2022 season could shake out.

Forwards

Even with injury concerns, the Lightning boast of the NHL’s top forward groups. Brayden Point has blossomed into a premier playoff performer after his incredible run this summer. Nikita Kucherov is still easily one of the 5 best wingers in the league. With less defensive responsibility on the wing, Steven Stamkos should still be dangerous when healthy. He also happens to have a very good center alongside him in Anthony Cirelli. Replacing Tyler Johnson with Corey Perry is certainly not a like-for-like swap, but the former Hart Winner will definitely add some experience and goalscoring touch in the bottom six.

With all this skill, Jon Cooper’s squad also has some nastiness. Enter Alex Killorn, Patrick Maroon, Ross Colton, and Pierre-Edouard Bellmare. Yanni Gourde, Barclay Goodrow, and Blake Coleman were useful pieces all over the lineup, but it appears that GM Julien BriseBois has found some adequate replacements. The forward group should resemble the following:

Palat – Point – Kucherov

Killorn – Cirelli – Stamkos

Joseph – Colton – Perry

Maroon – Bellmare – Raddysh

The only question mark here is youngster Taylor Raddysh. Other than that, this forward group is pretty much stacked. An incredible Top 6 with a fourth line that will make guys hurt.

Defense

It remains quite similar on the defensive end for Tampa. They have some premier players of the position, especially on the left side. Victor Hedman, Ryan McDonagh, and Mikhail Sergachev are the league’s best lefty defense group by a country mile. It is the right side where Cooper will more than likely pay attention to. David Savard was a great trade deadline acquisition en route to their second cup. However, he found a new contract in Montreal. Jan Rutta and Erik Cernak are regulars, but playing more quality minutes could be an adjustment. As well, Cal Foote will more than likely make a full-time move to the lineup. The son of longtime NHLer Adam Foote is set to have his first full season ahead of him. Here’s how the D-pairs should line up:

Hedman – Rutta

McDonagh – Cernak

Sergachev – Foote

Goaltending

There really isn’t much to say here. Andrei Vasilevsky is the best goalie in hockey, hands down. The Russian greatly deserved the Conn Smythe trophy after a historic performance. His acrobatic saves and elite presence in net helped Tampa win games they weren’t supposed to while also keeping opponents at bay. It should not be a shock how their high-power offense is run considering the amount of confidence they have with a guy like him stopping pucks. He was also robbed of this year’s Vezina Trophy by Marc-Andre Fleury.

Preview: They Can Certainly Do It Again

A handful of minor losses is the only concern I have with this team. Anyone can see that they still have the talent required for a Cup run. Depth issues aside, the Tampa Bay Lightning are still scary good. There are some serious contenders for the throne, including the Vegas Golden Knights, Colorado Avalanche, Boston Bruins, Carolina Hurricane, and their recurring nemesis named the New York Islanders. All in all, it is their throne to lose.

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