They’ve been here before.
Can they do it again in their playoff series that starts tonight? This time, it will be harder without captain Steven Stamkos and defenseman Anton Stralman. But it’s possible if the players who were so good a year ago are good again.
Here we go, then. The top five players who have to shine for the Bolts to pull this series out.
- Ben Bishop: The Bolts beat Detroit last season when Bishop won the final two games in their series, including a 31-save victory in Game Seven. Bishop has been stellar this year, although his won-loss record doesn’t reflect it. Still, he led the NHL in goals against this year. He has to keep the Red Wings at bay. A shutout or two wouldn’t hurt.
- Tyler Johnson: Johnson has been injured for much of the season, and he has roughly half the goals he had in last regular season. But Johnson was terrific in last year’s playoffs. He scored five goals against the Wings in the playoffs. If he can get it going again on the Triplets line, the Bolts may be better off than you’d think.
- Victor Hedman: Without Stralman, he has to be the best player on the ice. At his best, Hedman is a hulking defensive presence with a heavy shot. He’s going to play 24 minutes a night. Hedman will have to do it again, or the Red Wings will run off and hide.
- Jonathan Drouin: It must be hard even for Drouin to believe the way things worked out for him. He’s scored in two straight games, though, and if he can keep it up, no one will remember his suspensions. More than most Lightning players, he has a scorer’s gift.5. Nikita Kucherov: A 30-goal scorer, he has more flash than anyone else in a Lightning uniform. He’ll have to show that for the Bolts to strike quickly against the Red Wings. This year, it would be preferable not to fall behind 3-2 in the series.