SCREAMIN’ FROM THE CHEAP SEATS – JANUARY 5
By Leo Haggerty

IT’S HOCKEY TIME

The defending National Hockey League Champion Tampa Bay Lightning have opened their training camp.  The Bolts will start defense of the Stanley Cup with a home contest with the Chicago Blackhawks on Wednesday, January 13th.  The puck drops at 8 pm in the friendly confines of Amalie Arena for the beginning of a truncated 56-game regular season schedule Covid permitting.

With the pandemic still rearing its ugly head, it will be an entirely new four division setup for the NHL with no games outside of your division until the playoffs commence. The North Division, due to the travel restrictions that the Canadian government still has in place, will consist of only the seven teams located north of the border.

The other three divisions, West and Central along with the East, will consist of eight teams each.  Tampa Bay will compete in the Central Division along with Carolina Hurricanes, Chicago Blackhawks, Columbus Blue Jackets, Dallas Stars, Detroit Red Wings, Florida Panthers and Nashville Predators.

Each team in the East, Central and West divisions will play every other team in its division eight times while each team in the North Division will play every other team in its division nine or 10 times.  To say the teams in each Division will be extremely familiar with each other when the regular season concludes in the middle of May will be an understatement.

The top four teams in each division will qualify for the Stanley Cup Playoffs, with intra-divisional play in the first two rounds (#1 vs. #4; #2 vs. #3). The four teams that advance to the Semifinal Round would be seeded by their regular season points total, with the No. 1 seed playing the No. 4 seed in one series and the No. 2 and No. 3 seeds meeting in the other.

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I had a chance to speak with Lightning F Mathieu Joseph about winning the Stanley Cup and what this season look like from his perspective.  His answer is below.  Enjoy.

LH : Mathieu, early in your career you have a chance to put a check in your Bucket List box for Stanley Cup Champion.  Has it really sunk in yet that your name is going to be on that Cup for 60 or 70 years?

MJ : You know what, obviously, yes.  I think it’s sunk in.  I think it may sink in more, maybe, after my career.  I’m not a “one and done” guy, in general.  Honestly, it’s the ultimate one but that was last year.  Obviously, we’re going to share that as a team but we have to start focusing on this season.  It’s always better to have more than one Cup than only one.  Obviously, my goal is to win another one and, if I can do it with this group again, even better.