TAMPA, Fla. – The Tampa Bay Lightning have been in this position before but are not taking the New York Rangers lightly or as captain Steve Stamkos puts it, all teams playing now are here for a reason. Stamkos believes this Rangers series is going to be tough for the Bolts.
“Obviously some offensive guys there, some very, very skilled forwards, great special teams, and then not only the skilled forwards, they’ve got a lot of depth,” Stamkos said. “We’re looking forward to that challenge.”
The Bolts have arguably the best goalie in the NHL in Andrei Vasilevskiy but the Rangers goalie Igor Shesterkin has been just as hot in these playoffs.
“You guys (media) are going to make the comparisons, but we know what we have in our guy,” Stamkos said. “Obviously he (Shesterkin) has had a tremendous year in New York, regular season, and on a really good run right now. I think for us, no matter what goaltender we’ve played over the past couple of years, it’s not the main focus. We’ve got to go out there and play our best. if it’s going to be a low-scoring series, it’ll be a low-scoring series.”
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It’s three years in a row and six times in the past 8 seasons the Bolts are in the Eastern Conference Finals. But listening to them after their final practice before Game 1, it’s just the old take it one game at a time. The Bolts have had their longest rest period between series in this run. So Bolts head coach Jon Cooper, do you anticipate your team being rusty or just rested?
“We’re where we wanna be,” Cooper said. “You just don’t know how you’re gonna get there. Like, the Rangers are gonna have two days off, we’re gonna have 9 days off. It’s different every single year. The bottom like in, we’re here.”
Cooper credits GM Julien BriseBois for stacking his roster and making moves to improve the team every season. Same thing for now. BriseBois says he follows a formula that has worked when looking to acquire players, especially at the trade deadline. Talent, contract situation and the person himself.
“If the person checks all three boxes, then they’re a pretty good fit for us,” BriseBois said. “We’re looking for guys that have pride. Looking for guys that have ambition. The pride is what’s going to drive you to keep pushing yourself when things aren’t going well for you. The ambition is what’s going to fuel your continued success.”