The late Tom McEwen, sports editor of The Tampa Times from 1958-62 before being named sports editor of The Tampa Tribune in 1962, graced the Tribune sports section with his award-winning column, The Morning After, and his Breakfast Bonus notes columns were a signature offering from the 19-time Florida Sports Writer of the Year. McEwen died in June, 2011 at the age of 88. His wife, Linda, occasionally contributes past columns and exerpts to this blog.
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Lightning closing in on another title shot
Posted Apr 4, 2011 by Tom McEwen
Updated Apr 4, 2011 at 10:49 PM
Ever improving, now fast-closing, Tampa Bay Lightning team has a solid shot now at post season heroics after an important 2-0 win over the defending Stanley Cup champion Chicago Blackhawks in Chicago on Sunday night, when Vincent Lecavalier scored two goals, tender MIke Smith stopped all 31 shots on goal and the charging Tampans moved closer to the playoffs and some home field advantage.
This team has gotten better and better and better under rookie head coach Guy Boucher who has his team playing “relentlessly,” his favorite description of that which he seeks out of his players. Boucher is doing one fine job since he took over this season, taking over a team set unlikely to go anywhere, even to the playoffs, least of all to the championship.
Boucher has told his team he wants them to play from the starting whistle to the final whistle and they have been doing that. Leaders, Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, and in this game, goalie Mike Smith, were heroic, while Steve Downie was all over the ice all night long harassing the Black Hawks. This was not just a win over the champion Blackhawks but in their place and before their home crowd. If anything could lift this team one more rung, this was the kind of win that could do it. Now, the Lightning are in a better position to win the valuable home field advantage in the playoffs so they can play in the St. Pete Times Forum. The Lightning publicist, Bill Wickett, said his club already has sold 1,000 more season tickets for next year than this past one. That has to please owner Jeff Vinik who had previously announced he was going to spend millions to improve the Forum next year, and has told his team management to go buy whoever they need to improve the team, he wants this club to have the best of everything. Vinik is moving to Tampa as soon as he can with his family. It looks now as if this hockey franchise will come to be not only one of the best, but one of the most local of them all. Wickett said to expect major improvements and changes in the Forum in the years to come.
Wickett said the same thing about the team after visiting with Vinik and Coach Boucher. “We got winners here, top to bottom and I thank those who want to see the Lightning at its best will see it once the improvements have begun. This owner is dedicated to the Lightning, to Tampa Bay , and to the entire area. He is a good new citizen as we all have become as part of the contract.”
Tuesday night, the Lightning plays the Buffalo Sabres up there and they play Miami here Friday night, and then end the season in Charlotte Saturday night. The home field advantage now is vital, particularly in Tampa where the fans get into the game more than in most arenas in hockey. The Lightning is contributing to this with promotions and giveaways.
What has happened is that the Lightning have improved vastly game to game and thrust themselves into this final drive. Lecavalier, who suffered an eye injury Sunday night, and St. Louis are vital to this stretch drive, if Lecavalier can be repaired. He was punched directly in the eye in that last game against the Black Hawks. No one in the early going of the season expected the Lightning to come this far, to be this far advanced at this time, but they are because of the good coaching of Guy Boucher and the grit of this team which has epitomized the word Boucher loves to use so relentless, with their goal to goal spirit and fast play. This has been one fast gritty team with no one faster than St. Louis , a marvel on skates.