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Is Steven Stamkos Hart-worthy?

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Steven Stamkos still has a legitimate chance to become only the second 60-goal scorer since 1995-96. (Scott Audette/Getty Images)

By Stu Hackel

Should a player whose team fails to make the playoffs get consideration for the Hart Trophy as NHL MVP? That’s a question voters for the award may be faced with this season because Steven Stamkos of the Tampa Bay Lightning has been so valuable player to his club.

It’s possible that the question won’t need to be asked, though, because Tampa Bay’s improved play during the last six weeks has given them a shot at the postseason. A main reason they have, however, it is Stamkos.

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  • Published On Mar 06, 2012
  • Did the Lightning trap the entire NHL?

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    By Stu Hackel

    Isn’t that video above terrific? On Wednesday night, Tampa Bay’s 1-3-1 defense against Philadelphia forced Mike Milbury to storm off the set in Versus’s studio during the second intermission, and that’s reason enough for us to nominate the Lightning’s Guy Boucher as not just NHL Coach of Year, but also for the The George Foster Peabody Award for distinguished and meritorious public service to television.

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  • Published On Nov 10, 2011
  • Florida’s teams on opposite paths

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    On Monday night, the new-look Panthers took full advantage of the struggling Lightning in a 7-4 win. (Chris O’Meara/AP)

    By Stu Hackel

    If the Avs are the NHL’s big early season surprise team, the two Florida clubs also have to rank as surprising, but for different reasons.

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  • Published On Oct 18, 2011
  • Goalies, (sometimes not-so) special teams should decide Bruins-Lightning Game 6

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    Besides trying to beat Bruins goalie Tim Thomas, Steve Downie (here being robbed in Game 1) may have to deal with the absence of Sean Bergenheim on his effective third line. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The roar of approval from Bruins Nation during Monday’s Game 5 win over the Lightning had to be loudest for two events. One was Tim Thomas’s save of the year on Steve Downie, which preserved Boston’s one-goal lead in the third period. The other was seeing Zdeno Chara playing in front of the Lightning net on a Bruins power play, an adjustment by coach Claude Julien that B’s fans have screamed was needed for months.

    That combination of great goaltending and some coaching flexibility will have to continue for Boston to skate into Tampa Bay tonight and come home with the Prince of Wales Trophy for the Eastern Conference championship.
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  • Published On May 25, 2011
  • Bruins, Lightning set for Game 3 in roller coaster Eastern final series

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    The Lightning now have to concern themselves with how to stop a repeat performance by Game 2 rookie sensation Tyler Seguin, who brings speed and creativity to Boston’s attack. (Jim Rogash/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    The venue will change and the delirious pace of the game may, too, but however Bruins-Lightning Game 3 unfolds, there will still be lots to look back on and admire from Tuesday’s Game 2, a 6-5 victory by Boston that knotted their series at one game apiece.

    With just over a minute left in the incredible second period, the Lightning had just scored a power play goal to narrow the gap to 5-3 and was back on the attack. An enthused Mike Emrick — who had just described 19 minutes of roaring back and forth action — said over Versus, “My goodness, it’s faster than one of those table hockey games!”

    Those old flat metal players could whip the big wooden puck along the perimeter while the center was in front to pick up a rebound. And, sure enough, that’s just what happened. As if on cue, Boston turned the play out of its zone and spent a good 40 seconds pressuring  Tampa Bay, throwing the puck around the boards the way those tin men of the ’60s used to do. And it worked out well.
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  • Published On May 19, 2011
  • Bruins must adjust to win Game 2

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    Bruins coach Claude Julien has taken heat for his reluctance to make changes during games, something he will surely have to do in order to even his series against the Lightning. (Charles Krupa/AP Photos)

    By Stu Hackel

    When it comes to coaching in the Stanley Cup playoffs, you can’t underestimate the importance of making adjustments before and during games. That was a big part of the Eastern Conference Finals opener between the Bruins and Lightning, a 5-2 Tampa Bay win, and it will be also be a big part of Game 2 tonight in Boston.

    Now trailing 1-0 in the series after being thoroughly outplayed for almost the entire game, Bruins coach Claude Julien has had two full days to mull over what he saw and fix it. He’s got lots to address: his team’s poor execution and inability to get much sustained pressure in the offensive zone, how to counter Tampa Bay’s various forechecking systems, and how to improve Boston’s special teams play. It seemed for much of Game 1 that the B’s were in over their heads. You can expect a better effort in Game 2.

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  • Published On May 17, 2011
  • Bruins vs. Lightning: Who has the edge?

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    Key figures: Bruins goalie Tim Thomas can steal any series, but Martin St. Louis, a veteran of Tampa Bay’s 2004 Stanley Cup championship team, knows what it takes to go all the way. (Elsa/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    One of the most intriguing Conference Championships imaginable, this series will match the crashing, banging Bruins against the calculating, high-skilled Lightning. The styles may contrast, but each team comes in with a similar back story, having staged a first-round comeback, then swept their second round opponent. Each has some momentum and each is rested, so rust will have accumulated evenly, and each has a top goaltender. (For a Western Conference Final analysis, click here.)

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  • Published On May 13, 2011
  • Road teams feasting on defensive breakdowns

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    Leaky goaltending is just one problem the Flyers must address as they try to recover from a Game 1 rout by Boston on home ice in their Eastern Conference semifinal series. (Bruce Bennett/Getty Images)

    By Stu Hackel

    Road teams continue to roll in the Stanley Cup playoffs. With the Lightning winning in Washington on Sunday night, visitors have now captured four of the seven games played so far in the second round and 31 of 56 since the start of the postseason. The Bruins, who won on Saturday in Philadelphia, will try to extend their 1-0 advantage tonight.

    The Flyers are going to have to be smarter and more physical to avoid dropping a second game on home ice and suffering the fate of the Capitals, who are going to Tampa Bay trailing 2-0 in that series. Can the Caps rebound? That answer is far from certain, although fans will remember that  the Bruins fell behind Montreal after losing two games on home ice, then came back to take their dramatic first-round series in seven games.

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  • Published On May 02, 2011
  • Yzerman strikes again with Roloson move

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    In just seven months as GM of the Tampa Bay Lightning, Steve Yzerman has shown a knack for making shrewd moves and surrounding himself with solid hockey people. (Cliff Welch/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    When Tampa Bay Lightning owner Jeff Vinik hired Steve Yzerman as GM last May, his first hope was that Yzerman’s lofty stature in the NHL would help restore confidence in the franchise among its fans, something that had been destroyed by the unpredictable and underfunded previous ownership group. But Yzerman’s astute moves have shown that he’s more than a stabilizing figure. He’s among the sharpest managers in the game.
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  • Published On Jan 05, 2011
  • Dismal Isles need a lot more than a coaching change

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    The Islanders have fallen earlier than usual, and they aren’t likely to get up in time to make the playoffs. (Ric Tapia/Icon SMI)

    By Stu Hackel

    A new, albeit interim, NHL head coach steps behind the bench tonight when Jack Capuano guides the Islanders against the Lightning at Nassau Coliseum. But no matter GM Garth Snow’s stated goal for the season, you can’t expect this young, struggling squad to be transformed into a playoff team, not in the short term.

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  • Published On Nov 17, 2010


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