Originally posted on Fox Sports Florida  |  Last updated 1/16/13

EDMONTON - May 1: A dejected Steve Yzerman of the Detroit Red Wings talks to the media in the locker room after being eliminated by the Edmonton Oilers in game six of the Western Conference Quarterfinals during the NHL Stanley Cup Playoffs on May 1, 2006 at Rexall Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. Edmonton defeated Detroit 4-3 to win the series 4-2. (Photo by Jeff Vinnick/Getty Images)
Steve Yzerman is once again committed to defense. Only days after Yzerman's Tampa Bay Lightning missed the postseason, the GM overhauled his team's roster, trading for a promising young goaltender and signing a slew of free agent defensemen. Paced by Steven Stamkos' 97 points and league-leading 60 goals last season, Tampa Bay also fielded four other 20-goal, 40-point players. But they finished last in the NHL with a 3.39 goals-against average. If last year proved anything, offense means little to a team if it can't protect its own end. It's a lesson all too familiar to Yzerman. A prolific goal scorer early in his playing career, the former Detroit Red Wings captain experienced little playoff success in his first 10 seasons. Detroit rarely got past the first round -- if it even made the playoffs at all. Scotty Bowman took over as coach in 1993, transforming Yzerman into one of the game's premier two-way pivots and the Red Wings into an annual Stanley Cup contender. In the three seasons Yzerman captained a Cup winner, Detroit never allowed more than 200 goals in a season. With that target in mind, Yzerman wasted little time implementing a defensive strategy. Four days after the Stanley Cup final, Tampa Bay acquired 24-year-old netminder Anders Lindback. On July 1, the Bolts bolstered their blueline with veterans Sami Salo and Matt Carle, and added depth with the signing of Matt Taormina. Tampa Bay's success in this lockout-shortened season hinges on its goaltending. Understudy to two-time Vezina Trophy winner Pekka Rinne in Nashville, Lindback enters with just 38 games of NHL experience. Over the previous two years, he's posted a respectable .914 save percentage and 2.53 goals-against average. The Bolts are dedicated to the 6-foot-7 Swede manning their crease, but they're also concerned about pushing him too quickly, especially with a compressed schedule ahead. "We're not asking him to be exceptional and play all the games," third-year coach Guy Boucher said. "He's a young goaltender who has played some games in the NHL and needs to play more. We're going to let him grow at his pace and have expectations that are realistic for him." If Lindback's growth is slow, however, the Lightning are comfortable shifting Mathieu Garon into a full-time starting role. Garon took over as Tampa Bay's No. 1 goalie in December 2011 after 43-year-old Dwayne Roloson floundered. Garon steadied the Bolts after the new year, winning 12 of his last 17 decisions before a groin injury ended his season. Tampa Bay, which gave up an average 30 shots per game in 2011-12, can also expect to get help from its revamped defense. Joining Eric Brewer on the team's shutdown pairing is Carle, who spent the last three seasons honing his game in Philadelphia alongside hard-nosed veteran Chris Pronger. Carle averaged just over 23 minutes of ice time last season and ranked 15th among the NHL's top shot blockers. The Bolts will also benefit from the addition of Carle's puck-moving abilities, which should mesh nicely with Salo's heavy shot from the point. Tampa Bay's power play is poised to see a major improvement after finishing in the bottom six last season. Returning from injury are Victor Hedman and Marc-Andre Bergeron. With the mix of Stamkos, Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Ryan Malone and breakout Teddy Purcell up front, Tampa Bay boasts nothing short of a Murderers' row during the man advantage. The same group should give the Lightning one of the better offenses in the NHL, although scoring depth may be lacking. Outside of Benoit Pouliot, who registered a career-high 16 goals last season in Boston, the Lightning will have to rely on a crop of youngsters to step up. But Yzerman seems hesitant to break up the team's minor league affiliate, the Syracuse Crunch, which is dominating the American Hockey League. A perfect example is Brett Connolly. The winger recorded 19 points in 68 games as a rookie with the Lightning last season, but did not receive an invitation to training camp. Yzerman indicated he'd rather see the gifted shooter get more ice time in the minors than receive less at the NHL level in a role that does not utilize his skill. "I'm very comfortable where he is right now and pleased with his development," Yzerman said. "He's going to be a great player for us. He needs to play and play a lot. I can bring him here any time I want." The Lightning hope Cory Conacher, the reigning AHL MVP, has the ability to perform at the NHL after one year in the pros. Another option is Tyler Johnson, who has 20 goals through 36 games with the Crunch. Competing against all Eastern Conference opponents may not play to Tampa Bay's advantage. Although the Lightning posted the best intra-division record among their Southeast rivals, they posted losing records against the Atlantic and Northeast divisions. Nearly a quarter of their 84 points came against Western Conference opponents. And for Tampa Bay, a second-half team last season, dealing with a shortened schedule with little preparation doesn't help either. It's a situation Boucher welcomes, though. "We're already in the second half," he said. "For me it's not a threat. It's a challenge."
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

Trade Rumors: Clippers ‘reluctant’ to deal injured Blake Griffin

Bright future for Minnesota Timberwolves

Eli and Archie Manning say Peyton won’t likely leave Denver if he plays in 2016

NCAA mulls changes to graduate transfer and targeting rules

Cavs active in NBA trade market, covet Jared Dudley

Roger Goodell expectedly dodges Patriots-related questions at Super Bowl


Baltimore Orioles acquire starting pitcher Odrisamer Despaigne

USC athletic director Pat Haden to retire in June

Report: Browns owner ‘frustrated, emotional’ about Johnny Manziel

Raiders and Texans to play MNF game in Mexico City in 2016

Goodell wants to keep Raiders, Chargers in home markets

Deadly shooting breaks out at Dublin boxing weigh-in

Take a moment to appreciate the greatness of Cam Newton

4-Star 2018 quarterback Matt Corral commits to USC

QUIZ: Name every NFL regular season MVP

WATCH: Avery Bradley nails buzzer beater to beat Cavs

WATCH: Jimmy Butler taken to locker room in wheel chair

Klay Thompson's first five years in historical context

WATCH: Cubs' Kris Bryant went swimming with sharks

Sports Authority taking steps to file for bankruptcy

Major League Baseball threatens to disassociate from DraftKings

NFL considering moving Pro Bowl to Australia

Joe Montana warns NFL players about potential long-term damage after retirement

Report: Two people fired for leaking Jason Pierre-Paul information

‘Crying Jordan’ photographer had no idea it existed until this week

NHL News
Delivered to your inbox
You'll also receive Yardbarker's daily Top 10, featuring the best sports stories from around the web. Customize your newsletter to get articles on your favorite sports and teams. And the best part? It's free!

By clicking "Sign Me Up", you have read and agreed to the Fox Sports Digital Privacy Policy and Terms of Use. You can opt out at any time. For more information, please see our Privacy Policy.
Get it now!
Ios_download En_app_rgb_wo_45

The 14 biggest plays in Super Bowl history

Five outrageous predictions for Super Bowl 50

QUIZ: Name the winning starting quarterback from every Super Bowl

The top six matchups that could decide Super Bowl 50

Seven unheralded players set to make major impacts in SB 50

10 underrated performances in the NBA Slam Dunk Contest

X-factors in Super Bowl 50

NHL nightmare: No Canadian teams in playoff hunt

QUIZ: Name the Super Bowl halftime performers since 1991

Manziel's father fears for QB's life

Today's Best Stuff
For Publishers
Company Info
Follow Yardbarker