After the bitter feeling of a Game Seven loss in last year’s conference finals, Lightning fans have been eagerly anticipating the squad’s return to the ice. The action starts back up again on October 7th, as the Lightning take on their Southeast division rival the Carolina Hurricanes in their opening game of the 2011-2012 regular season. Better yet, in a matchup fans have surely had circled on their calendars, the Tampa Bay Lightning will return to Boston for a rematch with the defending Stanley Cup champions on October 8th.
Of course, the drama and tension of last year’s playoff action was quickly replaced in the offseason by the Steven Stamkos free agency saga. To the surprise of many, the Lightning were able to retain their perennial 50 goal scorer, and he returns to help lead the club back to the playoffs. He will be joined by veteran forwards Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier to form a talented and dangerous corps of forwards. However, depth is a concern should one of the big three face injury issues.
However, at defense and goaltender the Lightning have some big question marks heading into the season. Goaltender Dwayne Roloson was solid after coming over from the Islanders at mid-season, but at age 41, questions abound as to how long he can remain effective. Roloson’s backup is career journeyman Mathieu Garon, who has done nothing to demonstrate he can be a Stanley Cup caliber goaltender. The defensive corps consists of a rather mediocre cast, and the team will be expecting 20 year old former 1st round pick Victor Hedman to continue to develop into an elite defenseman.
All in all, the Lightning have plenty of talent, yet plenty of questions remain. The answers start coming on Friday night, so settle in and get ready for an exciting season of Lightning hockey!