Last year, the Detroit Red Wings weren’t able to overcome a healthy Tampa Bay Lightning squad and ultimately lost their Eastern Conference Quarterfinal series with them in seven games, despite having held a one-game lead twice.
This time around though, it’s different. Tampa Bay will be without the services of sniper Steven Stamkos and stalwart defenseman Anton Stralman, both of whom are out long-term with injuries.
Stralman is out indefinitely with a fractured fibula, while Stamkos is dealing with a blood clot in his arm, which effectively shut him down for 1 – 3 months. In addition, defenseman Victor Hedman and winger Tyler Johnson, who was Tampa’s leading scorer against Detroit in last year’s playoff series, may be ready to play in the series opener but likely not at 100%. Both suffered injuries in the final games of the regular season, but they don’t appear to be serious.
Many in the hockey world have speculated that Stamkos may have played his last game as a member of the Lightning once he went down with the blood clot. He’s set to be an unrestricted free-agent this summer, and will be one of the most highly sought-after players in recent memory. There were also rumors earlier this season that Detroit and Tampa could swing a blockbuster deal that would land Stamkos in Hockeytown – a deal that, of course, didn’t happen.
But for now, Stamkos is still with the Lightning, and the Red Wings won’t have to worry about facing him or one of Tampa’s top defenseman in Stralman. The advantage is theirs, and they’ll look to capitalize on it.