Half the season down, half the season to go.
Let's not waste any more time, let's get right to it.
Here are my Tampa Bay Lightning Midseason Awards :
- Best Moment - A Very Special Thunder Kid
8-year old Benjamin Roy from Quebec, who is battling a brain tumor, was able to live out his dreams right here in Tampa Bay. Not only did he get to meet his favorite player Yanni Gourde and the rest of the Lightning players after morning skate, he was part of the pregame festivities as the Thunder Kid and even joined the team on the ice for the National Anthems. Gourde ended up scoring later on, his 100th point of his career, and gave the puck to Roy. What a great night!
- Best Move - Double E in the Booth
The Bolts radio team has done a phenomenal job for as long as I can remember, but this year I think they've gotten even better. Former Lightning beat writer for the Tampa Tribune, Erik Erlendsson, has now joined up with host Greg Linnelli to provide added commentary during pre/postgame and during the intermissions. Erik is one of the most knowledgeable hockey people I've ever been around and if you want to hear more from Double E, make sure to subscribe to LightningInsider.com . Trust me, it's worth it.
- Best Farewell - See Ya Later Jonesy
Well, who are you gonna get mad at now? Long-time columnist for the Tampa Bay Times, Tom Jones, is done covering sports and has now moved on to be the Senior Media Writer at the Poynter Institute in St. Pete. Labeled as one-half of the tag-team "Doom and Gloom" with Martin Fennelly (Tom told me he once asked Jon Cooper who was Doom and who was Gloom and Cooper told Tom, "you're whoever's worse") Tom was never afraid to write what he felt, even if it didn't always sit well with some in the Bay Area. Regardless of YOUR feelings about Tom, his opinions were always well-researched and it came from a guy who's been all around North America covering sports. Thanks Jonesy for always being there for me for advice and showing me the ropes covering the Bolts, Bucs and Rays.
- Best Practice Moment - Mathieu Joseph is Flippin' Awesome
Have you ever tried to throw a puck up into the air and then catch it on your stick?
Not so easy.
During a practice in Anaheim, Mathieu Joseph -- in one motion -- flips the puck AND his stick in the air and then proceeds to catch the stick and then the puck.
Sound confusing? Check it out BELOW!
- Best Save - Vasy Save on Marleau
First game back, Vasy should have some rust right?
Ummmmm, how about no?
Patrick Marleau is probably still shaking his head about this puck not going on.
What an incredible save!!
- Best Goal - Cally Springs Cirelli
OK, there were a TON of goals to choose from, 171 to be exact, but this one is the one that sticks out to me.
The Lightning were down 1-0 to the Leafs in a huge measuring stick game for both teams.
It was Vasy's first game back and Toronto was on the power play.
William Nylander was skating up the ice with the puck until Cirelli knocked it away. Ryan Callahan made a great effort to push the puck forward to the young Bolts center to spring him for a breakaway.
Cirelli deked Freddy Andersen out of his jock to tie the game and send the Amalie crowd into a frenzy.
There may be better ones, but I like this one the best.
- Best Play - McDonagh Saves The Game
It was over.
Ottawa scored late and it looked like the Lightning were headed for a loss.
The Bolts were putting pressure on the Senators to score and then craziness ensued.
Nikita Kucherov took a laser of a slap shot that hit off Ryan McDonagh and Ottawa looked to be heading the other way for the empty net goal to seal the deal. In one fell swoop, McDonagh lifted the stick of Mark Borowiecki and backhanded the puck to a waiting Tyler Johnson. Johnson alertly fed Brayden Point in front and the game was tied with 24.6 seconds left in regulation.
Yanni Gourde scored in OT and the Lightning once again snatched victory from the jaws of defeat.
If that play happens in the postseason instead of November, it would be in the history books forever. Maybe it's not in the history books, but if you were watching that night I guarantee you'll never forget it.
- Best Game - 1-0 Win Over Colorado in Denver
Yeah there's been some exciting games with a lot of goals this season, but this is the one to me that really stands out. It showed that the Lightning can win in any situation, not just games that are 6-5. With arguably the two top lines in hockey this year, many thought that this one would be a high-scoring affair but it wasn't. Games like these are so important because once the playoffs come around, there are more of them like this than like the second time these teams faced off where the Bolts ran these dudes out of the building 7-1. Has a 1-0 game ever been more exciting?
- Most Surprising - Louis Domingue
No one would have batted an eye if the Lightning went into a bit of a tailspin when Vezina-caliber goalie Andrei Vasilevskiy went down with a lower body injury for about a month. But credit to Louis Domingue and the team, that didn't happen. The Bolts didn't miss a beat with Louis in net and he impressed the hockey world with how he performed with Vasy out. If your backup goalie is 15-4, I'd say he's done a pretty good job right?
- Most Disappointing (sorta) - Mikhail Sergachev's Offense
I thought the young Lightning defenseman had a rough start to the season, but he's played much better the last six weeks or so. My only issue is that he doesn't have a goal after scoring nine last season. He's getting the looks but they just aren't going in for him. With that being said, there's still a long way to go and I wouldn't be surprised that when he get's one, he goes on a little streak and gets a couple.
- Best Blueliner - Ryan McDonagh
Is he going to be an All Star? No
Is he going to win the Norris Trophy? Probably Not
But that doesn't diminish how important Ryan McDonagh has been to this team this season. With injuries to Victor Hedman and Anton Stralman, McDonagh has been the rock that this team has relied on all year. He can play in any situation and has even formed a dynamite tandem with rookie Erik Cernak that looks like it could be a dynamic duo for years to come. I've always loved Mac's game and was thrilled to see him traded to Tampa Bay last year to help take this team to the next level. There's no situation in this game that Ryan McDonagh hasn't seen and that experience will be extremely valuable to the Bolts in their quest to hoist the Stanley Cup once again.
- MVP - Nikita Kucherov
What more do you have to say?
69 points at the halfway point and there's really no signs of him slowing down.
He's crept slowly into the conversation of top players in the world in the last few years, but now he's on the short list for #1.
I know Crosby and McDavid and Ovechkin are going to get top billing, but with the production Kucherov has had the last couple of years, he is right there with him.
Best stat I've heard this year is that the Lightning are 21-0 this season when #86 gets multiple points in a game. Good luck slowing him down.
There's such a good balance right now with the Tampa Bay offense and a big reason why is the separation of Kucherov and Stamkos in my opinion. Both of those guys can have that shoot-first mentality without having to worry about setting each other up. That's why they're doing things in the League that we haven't seen since Mario Lemieux and Jaromir Jagr were together.
That's it for my Midseason Awards. What do YOU think? Have any different answers? Feel free to tweet at me @jayRecher and keep the conversation going!