PONTIFICATING FROM THE SUNSHINE STATE – AUGUST 8
By Leo Haggerty
DEJA VU AGAIN
After their Saturday contest again the Philadelphia Flyers, the Tampa Bay Lightning must be be thinking that they’re going through Groundhog Day. Deja vu again as Yogi Berra used to say.
Let me set the stage for you. The Bolts and Philly both entered the contest undefeated in the round robin stage. They were playing for the top seed in the National Hockey League’s Eastern Conference playoffs.
An added bonus was the fact that the winner would take on the #12 seed in the Montreal Canadians. The Habs dispatched the #5-seeded Pittsburgh Penguins to make it to the NHL second season.
Still, the victor would be playing a team who, during a normal season, would not even make it to the playoffs. Lots to play for, right?
Well, that all changed midway through the opening period. That’s when perennial Norris Trophy candidate Victor Hedman rolled his right ankle on what seemed to me to be a very iffy ice surface in Toronto.
Think of what I just said. Making ice in Toronto in August but I digress.
The Bolts must think they’re snake-bitten when it comes to the last two playoff series. Last year, the same thing happened. #77 was injured late in the regular season. Hedman tried to play in the first two games against the Columbus Blue Jackets but was forced to sit out the last two.
So, the team that tied the NHL record for most wins in the regular season was unceremoniously swept out of the first round of the Stanley Cup playoffs. Something you want to forget about quickly.
Now, I know coaches preach that when a player is injured it’s “next man up” time. Hey, I’ve done it myself. It’s sounds good, right?
Well, guess what? It sounds good but it’s only words. It all depends on who “the man” is you’re being asked to replace.
The Lightning, along with every other NHL organization, have no one that can fill the void that losing Hedman causes. We saw that scenario during the 2019 playoffs and it wasn’t a pretty picture.
With F Steven Stamkos on the shelf since February, Tampa Bay has found a way to “stop the bleeding” with #91 out of the lineup. Add #77 to that equation and it could be a mortal wound.
Here’s hoping that Hedman’s injury is not season ending. If it is, so are the Bolts Stanley Cup winning aspirations..