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5 key players for the Lightning in playoff series with Wings

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They’ve been here before.

It was a year ago. The Tampa Bay Lightning had the home ice advantage over the Detroit Red Wings in the first round of the playoffs. And they won.

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.

  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.
  1. 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.

Gary Shelton is one of the most recognized and honored sportswriters in the history of the state. He has won the APSE's national columnist of the year twice and finished in the top 10 eight times. He was named the Florida Sportswriter of the Year six times. Gary joined SaintPetersBlog in the spring, helping to bring a sports presence to the website. Over his time in sports writing, Gary has covered 29 Super Bowls, 10 Olympics, Final Fours, Masters, Wimbledons and college national championships. He was there when the Bucs won a Super Bowl, when the Lightning won a Stanley Cup and when the Rays went to a World Series. He has seen Florida, FSU and Miami all win national championships, and he covered Bear Bryant, Bobby Bowden and Don Shula along the way. He and his wife Janet have four children: Eric, Kevin, K.C. and Tori. To contact, visit

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