Storylines aplenty for Tampa Bay Lightning in Stanley Cup Finals

Whether the Tampa Bay Lightning face the Anaheim Ducks or Chicago Blackhawks, there will be as many storylines as goals scored in a high-octane series.

  1. The Bolts would have a chance to be the first team to beat four of the Original Six teams en route to win a Stanley Cup. They would be the first team in history to face four Original Six teams in a playoff year, according to Pierre LeBrun.
  2. The Tampa Bay Lightning and Anaheim Ducks are the only ’90s expansion teams to have won a Stanley Cup. Somebody could claim its second.
  3. A Bolts-Ducks Sunbelt Series would draw the ire of the Canadian media, writing columns and stories of how much parity in the league is a joke and all this is just a sham to not have a Canadian team to win a Cup (hey, Vancouver made an appearance a few years ago) and hear even more demands for expansion to Quebec.
  4. The same Sunbelt Series ought to help dispel myths that nobody watches games in Anaheim and Tampa and nobody plays hockey there outside of the NHL. Anaheim is further ahead of Tampa in terms of grassroots hockey (hello, Emerson Etem) but Tampa still outdraws Anaheim in attendance. Tampa Bay averaged the ninth highest attendance average this year while Anaheim was 20th, some of which is because of the capacity. So, when looking at percentages Anaheim had 98.3 percent capacity at 18 while Tampa Bay is right behind at 98 percent capacity in 19th. That’s still better than playoff teams St. Louis Blues, Ottawa Senators, New York Islanders. I hope the media relations staff from both Tampa Bay and Anaheim team up with the NHL to tell these stories to the national outlets.
  5. A Blackhawks series would also see Brad Richards in consecutive Stanley Cup Finals and the Lightning faces not only another former Bolt, but the guy who carried the Lightning through the 2004 championship run winning the Conn Smythe.
  6. Against the Ducks, the Bolts would face former Bolt Nate Thompson. The Bolts were very close in also seeing former Bolt Eric Brewer until he was traded to the Toronto Maple Leafs in March after he returned from injury.
  7. Ben Bishop and the Ducks’ Jakob Silfverberg were briefly teammates on the Ottawa Senators in 2012-13.
  8. Behind the bench, Dwayne Roloson is the goaltending consultant for the Ducks. He the ageless wonder who took the Lightning to the Eastern Conference Final in 2011 where they lost Game 7 against the Boston Bruins, the eventual champions against the Vancouver Canucks, which had Rick Bowness behind the bench
  9. A Ducks series would also include former Canucks Ryan Kesler, Jason Garrison, Rick Bowness.
  10. A Flyers connection exists with Matt Carle, Brayden Coburn, Kris Versteeg, Kimmo Timmonen and Daniel Carcillo. All of them played in the 2010 Stanley Cup Final, but Versteeg played for the Blackhawks in that series winning the Cup. Versteeg would play for the Flyers in 27 games in 2011. Patrick Sharp also played for the Flyers from 2002-2006.
  11. Somewhere, the Washington Capitals are either smiling or crying with Bruce Boudreau and Tomas Fleischmann if the two get to a Stanley Cup Finals before Ovechkin and Backstrom.
  12. LeBrun with another nugget: Brenden Morrow’s first trip to the Stanley Cup Finals in 15 years since he was a rookie with the Dallas Stars when they won it all against the New Jersey Devils.

And I’m sure there are tons more of minutia that will not have an impact on the games themselves. But it’s fun to know.

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Watching the Bolts’ Stanley Cup Playoff Run From Afar

Seeing the Tampa Bay Lightning’s continued Game 7 heroics during this year’s playoffs has been nothing short of inspiring.

It’s a feel-good story that hurts not to be in Tampa Bay to experience the run. I was kidding myself when I moved back to Maryland thinking the  Washington Capitals would make a deep run. Not just by looking at the standings, but the visual test showed that the Bolts were clearly the better of the two teams I’ve come to support.

You always hear about the Florida transplant sports fan conundrum—how much do you weigh balancing the support between the teams you grew up with from home and the ones that are in your new home city. But nobody talks about how it is to leave your adopted team.

You go back home (ish) and hope for the best, but you look over your shoulder and have that feeling that you just left the best place to be.

In terms of living a hockey life, somehow it got worse moving from Florida back to Maryland. I’m no longer 30 minutes away from the closest ice rink—now an hour through rolling hills and mountains. I’m no longer an hour drive to see NHL hockey where I can pull up 100 yards from the arena and pay $4 to park on the street. Instead, it’s a 90-minute drive to a Metro station and a 45-minute ride to Verizon Center or instead, a two-hour drive to Consol Energy Center in Pittsburgh to see the Bolts and Caps stop by next season.

The worst is moving in the middle of a season when you see that the Lightning is going to the Stanley Cup Finals.

Here’s the uplifting part: I made a promise before I quit my job in Bradenton that I’d visit my friends on one of two conditions. Either the Washington Caps meet the Tampa Bay Lightning in the playoffs or the Lightning reach the Stanley Cup Finals.

I have to live up to my promise, even if it’s for a day, and it’ll be great to get back in such a short time. (And hey, I still have my Disney seasonal pass that I can use until August.)

Will I be able to get to see a game in person? No, and I knew it’d be a long shot. The Lightning restricted sales on Ticketmaster to those with a Florida billing address (I already switched over three months ago) and out of curiosity I checked to see what the cheapest ticket would be. All the bottom two or three tiers were gone. I’d have to pony up $347. That’s on top of a flight, rental car and hotel to get there.

When I get down there, I’ll be there for either Game 6 or 7 depending how tonight’s Ducks-Blackhawks game shakes out. You just know this thing ain’t going to be done in five games.

To be there on Channelside Plaza with thousands of other fans watching the game outside for a chance of the ultimate victory would be just as much of a thrill.

Not all of us are fortunate enough to be part of something this special, even a Stanley Cup Game. And we all have to accept that.

Instead, we have to be there in spirit, be the best fan you can be and of course, Be The Thunder.