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This Week's Question: Intriguing Opponents
Which team do you feel is the most intriguing opponent for the Lightning in the new Atlantic division this season?
In years past when Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis were the Lightning's main attractions, their home province Montreal Canadiens were the most intriguing match-up for the Lightning because of the story lines it created. While St. Louis is still with the club as it moves into the NHL's new Atlantic Division, the Lightning's main attraction is clearly Steven Stamkos, who hails from the Toronto area. Plus, with up to 10 members of the 2013-2014 Tampa Bay Lightning being Canadian, the Toronto Maple Leafs become the most intriguing divisional opponent for the Lightning. Most fans will point to Detroit because of the Steve Yzerman connection, the Wings' history, and the unfamiliarity of the opponent. However, unless you've lived in the Great White North, it's hard to grasp how big of a deal the Leafs are to Canadians who grew up watching them every Saturday night on Hockey Night in Canada. If you didn't like the Leafs, you likely hated them, but at the least, you were familiar with nearly everything about them due to the sometimes exhausting coverage of Toronto's team. You can bet every Canadian on Tampa Bay's club had raised eyebrows when they saw the Leafs and their media throng were in the Bolts' division for the foreseeable future.
In my opinion, the Boston Bruins will be the most intriguing opponent for the Lightning in the new Atlantic division. There are lots of great teams in the new Atlantic, but it’s hard to argue that the Bruins aren’t the cream of the crop. Each game the Bolts play against the Bruins will be a measuring stick game, given that the Bruins have been one of the NHL’s most consistent and dominant teams over the last three years.
For the Lightning, it shouldn’t be hard to get up to play against one of the best teams in the league. The Bruins are physical, offensively dominant, defensively strong, and they have one of the league’s finest goaltenders; simply put, the Bruins are exciting to watch. Beating the Bruins, even in the regular season, is an accomplishment. For those reasons, I’m naming the Bruins as the Lightning’s most intriguing Atlantic opponent in 2013-14.
I've noticed a real energy in the Times Forum the last two years when the Lightning have hosted the Montreal Canadiens. That's certainly aided by the fact that they bring more than their share of fans to the building, resulting in plenty of raucous back-and-forth between Habs supporters and Bolts faithful. Of course, in the grand tradition of hockey, (almost) everybody goes home as friends at the end of the night. It doesn't hurt that the Canadiens appear to be a team on the rise. As the Lightning continue to develop, it's easy to anticipate these two teams fighting each other for a spot on the playoffs in the near future.
The Lightning faces six opponents in the Atlantic that they have traditionally played regularly with mixed results. While how well the Lightning match up against each opponent is an intrigue in itself, it’s the grander context of intrigue that makes me interested in the Detroit Red Wings in the Atlantic.
The Wings are making the adjustment to the Eastern Conference. The organizations dueled in the AHL championship earlier this year (the Grand Rapids Griffins downed the Syracuse Crunch for the Calder Cup) and the other link between organizations (one Steve Yzerman) raises interest in how well the Lightning fare against a team that they’ve traditionally rarely faced.
While the Bolts 2013-14 season depends on more than how well they play against Detroit, it’s an interesting situation that highlights the progress of the organization in how well it fares against one of the league’s storied powers.