Game three of the five-game home stand continues as the St. Louis Blues host the Tampa Bay Lightning. The Blues have already won four games against Eastern Conference teams this season; however, the Note has also lost four games, one in a shootout (to Detroit) for a total of 9 points in eight games. Last season St. Louis was a lot more successful, going 17-10-4 against the East for 38 points, including two Blues’ victories against the Lightning last season, winning 2-0 in St. Louis and 2-1 in Tampa.
Despite losing All-Star center Steven Stamkos to a lateral meniscus tear for around four months, Tampa Bay is nevertheless one of the better teams in the East, challenging upstart Ottawa for second place in the Atlantic Division, well behind the streaking Montreal Canadiens. A potent Lightning offense is led by centers Valtteri Filppula and Tyler Johnson, ably supported by winger Nikita Kutcherov and defenseman Victor Hedman. Goaltender Anton Vasilevskiy has been lights-out, sporting a goals against average of 1.89 and save percentage of .940 with six victories in nine games. Ben Bishop has not played all that well well, losing eight of 15 games with a goals against average of 3.04 and mediocre save percentage of .902
Tampa Bay joined the NHL for the 1992-93 season along with the Ottawa Senators. The Lightning’s best player that first season turned out to be center Brian Bradley, taken from Toronto in the 1992 expansion draft. Bradley notched 42 goals and 86 points in 80 games and would go on to play five more seasons for the Lightning, retiring in 1998. Currently a resident of Tampa, Bradley is still affiliated with the franchise and makes spot appearances on television as a color commentator.
The Lightning would qualify for the playoffs only once during its first ten years. It was in 2004, though, that Tampa Bay would win the Stanley Cup, defeating the Islanders, Canadiens, Flyers and Flames. Led by forwards Vincent Lecavalier, Martin St. Louis, Dave Andreychuk, Conn Smythe Trophy winnerBrad Richards, the Lightning also got excellent goaltending from Nikolai Khabibulin. After the lockout, Tampa Bay made the playoffs six (of 11) seasons, advancing to the Conference Finals in 2011 and 2016, as well as the Stanley Cup Finals in 2015.
The Blues and Lightning have never met in postseason play.
In 24 seasons, St. Louis and Tampa Bay have completed nine trades. Before the Lightning even played a game, the Blues acquired Basil McRae and four draft picks in June 1992 for goaltender Pat Jablonski, defenseman Rob Robinson and forwards Darin Kimble and Steve Tuttle. The following January veteran defenseman Doug Crossman became a Blue in exchange for three of the previous draft choices acquired from the Lightning and forward Jason Ruff. Crossman played 19 games for the Blues before being demoted to Peoria. McRae played most of four seasons for St. Louis with three goals and 14 points in 112 games. He also racked up over 300 penalty minutes. Jablonski played parts of two undistinguished seasons in Florida before going on to play for the Houston Aeros, Chicago Wolves, Blues again, Montreal Canadiens, Phoenix Coyotes, Cleveland Lumberjacks, Quebec Rafales, Carolina Hurricanes, Wolves again, and Frolunda of the Swedish Elite League. Robinson, Kimble and Tuttle never played a game for Tampa Bay. Ruff appeared in seven games over two seasons for the Bolts and then played in the minors for eight seasons before going overseas.
A minor deal saw Adam Creighton become a Blue in October 1994 and defenseman Tom Tilley going to Tampa. Creighton played center for two seasons in St. Louis before moving on to Chicago; Tilley never played as member of the Lightning and was dispatched to the minors. Over six years later in 2000, the Blues obtained winger Stephane Richer for defenseman Chris McAlpine and goaltender Rich Parent. Richer only played 36 games in St. Louis; McAlpine only saw service in ten games and Parent 14 for Tampa Bay.
At the amateur draft of 2003, the Blues sent popular winger Cory Stillman to the Lightning for a second-round draft choice, which turned out to be David Backes. Stillman only played one season in Florida, netting 25 goals and 80 points in 81 games before moving on to Carolina as a free agent. His name was engraved on the Stanley Cup in 2006 when the Hurricanes won the championship. Captain Backes, of course, played ten seasons in St. Louis, scoring 206 goals and 460 points.
A very minor deal saw the Blues acquire winger Erkki Rajamaki from Tampa Bay in October 2003 for an eighth-round draft pick. He never played in St. Louis. A bigger deal saw the Blues deal Captain Eric Brewer to the Lightning in February 2012 for a third round draft choice (goaltender Jordan Binnington) and defenseman Brock Beukeboom. Brewer became a mainstay on the Tampa defense for five seasons while Binnington plays for the Blues farm team in Chicago. Beukeboom never made it.
And finally, the Blues sent popular winger B.J. Crombeen and a fifth-round pick to the Bolts for two fourth-round picks in July 2012. Crombeen had two undistinguished seasons for Tampa Bay before moving on to Arizona. Neither fourth round pick worked out for St. Louis.
If the Blues continue to persevere with superior defensive play and timely goals, home cooking will fatten up the club’s points total. Tampa Bay is at the end of a three-game road trip after losing in Boston 4-1 and Columbus 5-1. Can the Note earn two more points tonight and earn an incredible 24 out of 28 possible points at home so far this season?