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Tampa Bay Lightning Start Season Strong

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COMMENTARY | In Tampa Bay, there has been a lot of change over the last year which included but is not limited to a coaching change, trading away Cory Conacher for goaltender Ben Bishop, and buying out the contract of Vincent Lecavalier.

It has not been an easy stretch for the Lightning especially having to face the previous four Stanley Cup Champion teams, Chicago and Boston twice, Los Angeles and Pittsburgh.

The chemistry between Steven Stamkos and Martin St. Louis continues as expected and have a combined 32 points, but have also been getting significant offensive contributions from secondary scoring.

When Vincent Lecavalier's contract was bought out over the summer, it left a void at center for Lightning General Manager Steve Yzerman to fill on that second line. Valtterri Filppula, 29, was brought in on a five-year, $25 million dollar contract and has made his presence felt in the first 12 games of the season recording four goals and five assists.

It appears the Tampa Bay has found their number one goaltender in Ben Bishop after acquiring him last season from Ottawa in exchange for Cory Conacher. Bishop is currently 7-2-0 with a 2.41 goal-against average, .914 save percentage and has allowed two or fewer goals in seven of his nine appearances.

Behind the 6' 7" goaltender Bishop is another big presence between the pipes Anders Lindback (6' 6"). At the beginning of the season Lightning head coach Jon Cooper discussed using the two as a tandem but right now Bishop is giving his team the best chance to win each night.

Cooper is now in his first full year as the head coach after replacing Guy Boucher last season and has brought a style of play that is fast paced and encourages his players to stay the course regardless of who their opponent is or the score.

Tyler Johnson, Alex Killorn, Ondrej Palat, Richard Panik and Radko Gudas are some players that have had a smooth transition into the style of Cooper since he was their coach with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League.

These young guns have been stepping it up at both ends of the ice providing an offensive presence and working hard on defense to get the puck going back in the other direction. It will certainly be something to keep an eye on as the season moves forward, but if this trend continues so will the success of this hockey club.

The multiple changes heading into the 2013-14 campaign have resulted in a great start for Tampa Bay, there is plenty of hockey remaining and consistency will be key if they want to remain at the top with the Eastern Conference's elite teams.

Danny Di Nicolantonio has been covering the Lightning for 5 years. He has been a frequent radio guest on TSN690 (Montreal) and can be found on Twitter @InsideHockeyTB

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