The Tampa Bay Lightning will be without one of their best players for the remainder of the regular season and into the playoffs, as Steve Stamkos has been sidelined for six-to-eight weeks after undergoing surgery to repair a core muscle.
This is obviously a huge blow for the Lightning. Stamkos ranks second on the team in both goals with 29 and points with 66. Losing him will leave a gaping hole in their offence, especially on the power-play, where his one-time shot represents a lethal weapon for the team.
On the flip side, while you obviously never, ever cheer for injuries, this could be a pretty big break for the Leafs, who seem poised to meet Tampa in the first round of the playoffs. As of right now, the Leafs have a four-point lead on Florida for the third seed in the Atlantic Division. They’re nine points behind Tampa for the second spot, so catching them before the end of the season is incredibly unlikely. Tampa is also seven points behind Boston at this point, so it looks like Toronto and Tampa would be the first-round series.
Obviously, the Lightning will be no easy task in a playoff series, but facing them without Stamkos, their captain and likely their best goal scorer, makes things look a little bit brighter for the Leafs, a team who have had to navigate through their own fair share of injuries.
But we’ll worry about the Lightning when we get there. Making the playoffs is the first task at hand.