x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

Tampa Bay Lightning threatening another NHL play-off surprise

Other than the Nashville Predators, who are making their first appearance in the second round of the play-offs, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the biggest surprise of the post-season.

Other than the Nashville Predators, who are making their first appearance in the second round of the play-offs, the Tampa Bay Lightning are the biggest surprise of the post-season.

Tampa Bay have surprised the hockey world before, of course, winning the Stanley Cup in 2004. But their reign was interrupted by the 2004/05 lockout, and they lost in the first round of the play-offs in 2006 and 2007 and have not been back until this season.

The Lightning had endured a rocky ownership situation the past few years until being sold to Jeff Vinik last season.

He brought in Steve Yzerman as general manager, and the former Red Wing hired Guy Boucher to coach and bolstered the team's depth with several smart moves, such as adding the forwards Simon Gagne and Dominik Moore, the defenceman Pavel Kubina and Dwayne Roloson in goal.

Boucher installed a new system, one that allowed Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St-Louis and Steven Stamkos the freedom to play their offence-friendly game, while also including defensive structure - a key component that had been missing in recent years.

The team's turnaround came quickly, as the Lightning finished fifth in the East in the regular season and pushed Washington for the Southeast Division title.

After rallying from a 3-1 series deficit in the first round, Tampa Bay beat the Capitals twice to take command of the second round contest and serve notice that the team that won the cup seven years ago is capable of doing it again.

sports@thenational.ae