-- When Adam Hall
was a teenager, he was among the very best goal-scorers his country had to offer in his age group.
The Kalamazoo, Mich., native continued to be a dynamic scorer into his early 20s and reached the NHL with almost no time needed in the minor leagues. But as often happens, not every kid who lights it up in the junior and college ranks becomes an elite offensive producer at the game's highest level.
Now 30, Hall has made a transition not every player can make -- from expected scorer to effective role player. He's been exactly that for the Tampa Bay Lightning
during their run to the Eastern Conference Finals.
"I think even those years it was something I always concentrated on -- it wasn't just about cherry picking or playing offense," Hall said. "I was fortunate to have great coaches in juniors and college and all the way through. They were always making me aware of playing a complete game. At Michigan State, [coach] Ron Mason was instrumental in teaching me very structured, defensive-oriented hockey."
Hall was part of one of the first classes at the United States National Team Development Program in Ann Arbor, Mich. He scored 43 goals for the USNTDP during the 1997-98 season, the most in the program's history until Phil Kessel
had 52 in 2003-04.
His total is still more in one season than any USNTDP player not named Kessel, Patrick Kane
or Jeremy Morin
"I have a lot of fond memories," Hall said of his time with U.S. Development Team. "We were seniors in high school. I remember the first half of the year they hadn't finished building all of the facility so we were kind of playing out of the visitors locker room. I think there were like 48 guys on the team and there are a lot of friendships from that."
From there, Hall went to Michigan State and had a decorated college career. He scored had 79 goals and put up 126 points in four years for the Spartans, and represented his country twice in the world junior championships.
After being a second-round pick in 1999 by Nashville, he made his NHL debut at 21 and was a regular in the League at 22. He scored a total of 43 goals in his first three seasons with the Predators, but has not tallied more than 7 in an NHL season since.
Despite playing more than 70 games in four of his first five NHL seasons, Hall ended up back in the AHL for the entire 2009-10 campaign. He was a regular for Tampa Bay the year before, but didn't make the team out of training camp and was stuck riding the bus with the Norfolk Admirals for an entire season for the first time in his career.
"All that year is just one of those things where you have to come to the rink every day and have a positive attitude," Hall said. "You just work as hard as you can to make everyone around you better and make your team better and do everything you can. You just take everything as it comes and think every day that you can only control what you can control and go out and try to win games and improve as a player."
He was back with the Lightning this season, and he's become a critical role player for the team. Coach Guy Boucher
has often deployed 11 forwards and seven defensemen in these playoffs, so fourth-liners Hall and Nate Thompson
haven't always had a regular shift at even strength.
Where both have made their mark is on the penalty kill. Often paired together, they have been a big part of why Tampa Bay has erased 92.5 percent of opposing team's power plays in the 2011 Stanley Cup Playoffs -- best among the eight teams that reached the second round.
"It has been a process all year," Hall said. [Assistant coach] Wayne Fleming has been instrumental in it all year. It is just a lot of different pieces to the puzzle and it seems to fit together nicely. We have a really strong defensive core and our goalies have been there for us."
One shift late in the second period in Game 3 against the Boston Bruins
epitomized Hall's emergence as a top-notch penalty-killer. Hall was stuck out on the ice for 1:44 because the Bruins were able to keep the puck in the Tampa Bay zone -- most of which with his team down a man.
But while the Bruins controlled the puck and were able to keep the Lightning from clearing it, they managed just three shots on net and only one from closer than 48 feet. Hall broke up three passes that could have ended as one-timers during the shift.
"He's willing to pay the price," Boucher said. "To me, whoever plays on the penalty kill and whatever system you play, it is about paying the price physically and mentally, and Adam has done that. He's a very smart who catches on real quick with whatever you teach him or ask of him. He follows the system to the T so he's always in the right place."
has been a teammate of Hall's dating back to the 2007-08 season when both played for the Pittsburgh Penguins
. Consider him not surprised by Hall's work on the PK -- citing Hall's commitment to detail as one of the reasons for his success.
"There's not one day that before practice that he doesn't do his stretching routine and he's not committed to his warmup process," Malone said. "Even if we had our rookie dinner the night before, he's there before practice doing his routine. He's probably one of very few players who off the ice is dedicated like that."
Hall has come to realize that his dedication and attention to detail are vital to keeping him in the NHL.
"It is just something that has developed over the years. It is just little things to get your body warmed up and activated," he said. "I've talked about it with some of the younger guys now. It is pretty funny to think of my rookie year and first couple of years I'd just come to the rink, go to meetings and sit in my stall and talk to trainers or see what's going on and just go out and play a game. You think back, and think how many of those games were one-goal games where I could have had a little more jump to start the game? You can't afford to take a period off.
"Over the years it is just something that I've developed a routine where I know it is a consistent thing where I know it is going to get me to a place where I feel really good for the drop of the puck."