Will depth keep Lightning afloat in playoffs?

Posted at 9:52 AM, Apr 03, 2016
and last updated 2016-04-03 09:52:57-04

Can one be an optimist and a realist?

Let's put it this way.  It wouldn't hurt being a realistic optimist if your a Tampa Bay Lightning fan.

Believe it or not, being a realistic optimist can help you cope through adversity.

As Lightning GM Steve Yzerman put it, "just incredibly bad luck for us."

Can't argue there. 

The realist in me says there is no way the Lightning can replace both C Steven Stamkos (out 1-3 months with blood clot) or D Anton Stralman (out with fractured leg, possible return).

The optimist in me says at least one of those positions will be made up by someone who will either play over their head or emerge into the player the organization hoped for, only a little earlier than expected.

So, lets say we meet in the middle of realism and optimism.  This team has a fighting chance.

This is not like the 2013-2014 season when the team lost Stammer for 45 games with a broken leg.  They went 19-26 if my math is correct during SS's absence. 

The triplets weren't the triplets, but they grew up pretty darn quick that season because they had to.

Goalie Ben Bishop was coming into his own.  I'd say he's arrived.

Hasn't the playoffs ALWAYS been about the hot goaltender?  Maybe not 100% of the time, but darn close to 98%.

So, let's check off the goalie situation as a positive. Agree?

Let's go to the defense.  Who's still standing?  Hedman, Coburn, Garrison, Carle,  Sustr and Nesterov.  Plus Brian Boyle who can play D when needed.  Without Stralman, the first three lines are weakened due to the domino effect. 

That's the realist talking.  The optimist would hope that Andre Sustr and Matt Carle would elevate their games.

Carle has had some brilliant games and some clunkers.  As for Sustr, he just is not as effective as he was before the Stralman injury. 

Let's check the D off as incomplete (TBD).  Agree?

Offensively, the Lightning has everyone but Stammer.  Big loss in line shifts and power play.  Let's face it, the PP has been PP anyway.  Agree? 

The realist says Steven's absence will further hinder the Lightning power play.

The optimist says heck maybe a new combo might help, can't hurt.

Let's check the O off as Neutral, neither a plus, a negative or incomplete.  Like a C grade.

So, what do we have here:  1. A hot goalie  2. An incomplete D  3. A neutral O

The realist and optimist tell me the same thing about Ben Bishop.  He's the Clydesdale, ride him for as long as you can.  He gives you a chance to win, every night.  He can take over a series as others before him have done with much less on offense.

Defensively, the boys need to minimize mistakes and giveaways in their end to give Bish some support.  That's the optimist talking.  The realist says to me that there will be mistakes and Ben needs to come through on those nights.

Offensively, the realist says to me that each playoff team the Lightning face will play very physical, especially against the Triplets.  Try to throw them off their game, negate their speed from the neutral zone on back.

The optimist in me says someone will step up and take the lead.  I'm just not sure who it will be. Nikita  Kucherov is the one who comes to mind.  I love his attitude. 

Finally, I have to add what I've been saying for over a month.  The realist tells me this team is banged up and tired.  My comment was, " I don't know if they have enough gas left in the tank."

As an optimist, all I can say is, "I hope they do."

Prediction: If Stralman can come back and at least skate/get his legs back practicing during round two and the Lightning survive that round, providing they get that far, the Bolts have a very good chance of making the Cup Final.

And a P.S. Maybe Lightning will call up Johnny D from Syracuse.  I would test him these final four games to see if he is really ready.  Can't hurt, can it?