It no doubt took Tampa Bay Lightning fans a while to recover from the disappointing, short-lived playoff run the Bolts has last season. A lot can be attributed to the four-game sweep at the hands of the Montreal Canadians, youth and post-season inexperience is probably chief among those reasons. But heading into the 2014-2015 season there is plenty of reason to suspect this team will be as good as they were in the regular season last year if not better – especially if another post-season appearance is in the cards.
Veteran center Valtteri Filppula is convinced that the youth on this team was only benefited by the playoff appearance last year despite the way things turned out.
“I think that experience helps us, hopefully helps us for this year,” said Filppula as Media Day kicked off on Thursday morning. “If we make the playoffs hopefully we’ll be stronger.”
The Bolts return a core group of players who make them, once again, a very formidable team offensively heading into the new season. Calder Trophy finalists Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat headline a very talented group of young, hungry players who surely will make the Bolts a nightmare for any team on any given night, home or away. Defensively there is still some fine-tuning but as both head coach Jon Cooper and General Manager Steve Yzerman agree, defense is something that is the responsibility of everyone on the ice, not just those in the position.
“It’s not just about how many goals you score but also how many you keep out of the net,” Cooper said Thursday.
“I feel we have to improve our team defensively,” said Yzerman. “Doesn’t necessarily mean the defensive core but as a group, as a team, we have to improve.”
Steven Stamkos, entering camp for the first time as captain, is confident the Bolts have everything in place to make another run while at the same time understanding this is a team no one will underestimate.
“We have all the pieces in place, we know what to expect of ourselves,” Stamkos said. “I think we have to realize it’s gonna be tougher this year. We’re not going to surprise anyone this year.”
The Lightning open their exhibition season at home on Tuesday, September 23 against the Nashville Predators at Amalie Arena. Puck drops at 7:30 PM. The regular season opens Thursday, October 9 against the Florida Panthers.