The Lightning were in a pretty familiar situation last night in Pittsburgh. It was Game Seven, on the road in hostile territory, and it was for a chance to play for the Stanley Cup once again.
Flashback to last season when Tampa Bay played two back to back seven games series. In the Eastern Conference Finals the Lightning had a shot to close out the series in Game Six at home in Amalie Arena. They failed to do so and sent the series back to Madison Square Garden for a Game Seven.
Jump back to 2016 it was Game Seven in Pittsburgh all eyes were on the young rookie goaltenders playing in their first career Game Seven. Tampa Bay had been plagued with injuries all postseason and still managed to find a way to pull out the big wins.
There was something about this Thursday night that was different then all the other games played this postseason. That’s right. You guessed it, Steven Stamkos arrived to the stadium with the regular roster and was scheduled to play.
Stamkos presence was felt on the ice with his speed and ability to make something happen. The Lightning were happy to have him back but it was too little too late. The Penguins defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning 2-1, behind Bryan Rusts two goal night.
When the season finally approached the All-Star break the Tampa bay Lightning sat in the final playoff spot in the East. Clinging to a chance to get back to the playoff, the team ripped off an impressive nine game winning streak which allowed them to get to the top of the standings and secure a playoff spot.
Not only were they fighting for a playoff spot, but there were some distractions in the form of Jonathan Drouin. Drouin and his agent publicly announced that they wanted a trade to get out of Tampa after he was sent down to the Syracuse Crunch. Drouin failed to report to his minor league games and Yzerman was looking for answers.
Yzerman decided he would look for teams interested but there needs to be value. In one of his press conferences he stated “We are in the midst of a playoff push. If I can trade Drouin for value we will respect his decision, but if not we aren’t going to deal him for nothing.”
Many Tampa fans were not sure how this would carry over to the post season. Would Drouin be playing in Tampa much longer? Does he actually care about his teammates and the team goals? Drouin answered all of these questions and proved that he wants to be apart of the future with the Lightning by producing five goals and nine assists in his 17 postseason games played.
To anyone who was skeptical about how he would respond to being sent down, there is your answer. All the kid needed was a little wake up call and he starts scoring big time goals in the postseason for his team. Drouin stepped up and filled a hole that was left by Steven Stamkos when he had to have surgery for his blood clots.
The craziest storyline out of this season was the return of players from injuries stepping up in big ways. Anton Stralman was the first player to return after being out for more than six weeks with a broken leg. In his first game back Stralman would get the rally going in Game 2 pushing the deficit to 2-1 before Drouin would tie it late in the First. Stralman would contribute defensively in the postseason after missing the first two playoff series.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have a lot of questions to answer this offseason. Many of which are contract offers and what this team will look like heading into next season. If you don’t agree with our storylines feel free to comment below and tell us what your favorite moment of Tampa’s Season was.