Post-season heroes come in all forms, from the star player to the unknown fourth-liner. We all know the exploits of the great playoff performers. However, we hardly hear about the unlikely playoff heroes. These unlikely post-season stars can contribute in many ways. Contributions could be for an entire playoff run, a series, a game or even a goal. These unlikely heroes have made big plays that no one expects. This series looks at all of these unknown stars. These are the unlikely Tampa Bay Lightning playoff heroes.
Tampa Bay Lightning Playoff Heroes
Before the Moment
To start the list, we have Ruslan Fedotenko. After having some of the best seasons in his career while in Tampa Bay, Fedotenko’s most significant moment came during the Lightning’s Stanley Cup-winning season in 2004. The 25-year old Russian born player was heading into his fourth season in the NHL. With each year showing signs of improvement, it was their Cup-winning playoff run where Fedotenko would spread into the spotlight.
During the regular season, Fedotenko was a consistent player for the “Bolts.” After appearing in 77 games, Fedotenko finished with 17 goals and 22 assists for 39 points. With a nickname like “Tank,” Fedotenko is built like one while playing like it as well. It was making him an ideal player when the playoffs roll around. Yet, it was his Game 7 Stanley Cup Final heroics that mattered most.
While Fedotenko had a fantastic playoff run, in general, it was not until Game 7 of the Stanley Cup Final where he made his most significant impact. During their playoff run, Ruslan appeared in 22 games for Tampa. During that time, he scored 12 goals and two assists for 14 points. Not only did he jump to fifth on the team in playoff points, but he also tied Brad Richards in goals scored, leaving him tied for second in playoff scoring just one purpose behind Jarome Iginla.
In a 2-1 victory of the Calgary Flames to clinch the Stanley Cup, Fedotenko scored both the Lightning securing the franchise’s first Stanley Cup. During the first period of the game, Fedotenko would open the scoring with over six minutes left. This allowed the Bolts to hold a 1-0 lead heading into the first intermission. Ruslan would end up with the game-winning goal after a fantastic pass from Vincent Lecavalier as the game went on. These shots were beating Flames netminder Miikka Kiprusoff from the high slot, securing the Cup for the Lightning.
After his incredible Stanley Cup playoff run, Fedotenko would return to the Lightning for the 2005-06 season. Continuing his success from the 2004 season’s playoff run, Ruslan had the most productive season of his career. Through 80 games played, Fedotenko has proven he can be utilized more so moving forward. During this season, he scored 26 goals and 15 assists for 41 total points. Not only did he score more, but he also played more as well. Averaging 15:21 worth of minutes on the ice, Fedotenko had gained the confidence of John Tortorella. They were allowing Ruslan to play in arguably one of the best seasons of his career.
Before the Moment
Continuing down the list, we have Sean Bergenheim. During his only season with the Lightning, Bergenheim made sure to make the most of his opportunity with the Bolts. Signed as a free agent before the season, Bergenheim went on to have a very modest season yet one of his most productive ones, as well. During the regular season, Sean would finish tenth on the team in scoring. However, with only 29 points through 80 games played, nothing about Bergenheim’s season would make you believe he would be a go-to guy come playoffs.
During the run of the 2011 Stanley Cup playoffs, Bergenheim stepped-up in a big way. While Bergenheim was a substantial key on the penalty kill, his scoring touch aided in the Lightning making it to the Eastern Conference Final that season. Through 16 games played, he recorded nine goals and two assists for 11 points. Finishing second on the team in playoff goals, he also finished fourth in shooting percentage with 19.6 percent.
With that, it was Bergenheim’s first-round actions where he could make the most significant impact. Not only did he score seven goals in the first 11 games of the playoffs. If it were not for Sean, the Lightning would have never upset the Pittsburgh Penguins in the first round. After rallying from a 3-to-1 series deficit, three of his goals would tie the game or take the lead. Allowing for Bergenheim to be a playoff hero, not many expected.
Despite an unexpected run by Bergenheim, the ‘Bolts’ were unfortunately upended by the eventual Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins. Bergenheim’s only season in Tampa was short-lived, but one he’ll never forget. As July first rolled around, Sean found himself heading down to Sunrise with the Florida Panthers, where he would go on to continue his unlikely playoff dominance, as well.
As a sith round pick in the 2002 NHL Entry Draft, Paul Ranger was never anticipated to become a significant part of the Lightning roster. Yet, during his five seasons with the ‘Bolts’ Ranger made the most of his time there. During his first few seasons there, Ranger was showing consistent improvement. Despite finishing his rookie regular season with just 18 points, the 21-year old defenceman finished third on the team in defensive point shares at 3.5. Yet, the blue-liner had a significant impact during the 2006 Stanley Cup Playoffs against the Ottawa Senators.
During the conference quarter-finals against Ottawa, Ranger took a massive leap forward in helping the Lightning compete for the Stanley Cup. While in the five-game series, Ranger scored two goals and four assists for 6 points. On top of that, Ranger averaged 21:43 minutes of ice-time, leaving him fifth on the team by the end of the series. He finished with a 15.4 shooting percentage, too, also going him third on the team during that time. Overall, Ranger’s production helped the Lightning make it through five give games with the second-best team in the league that season, record-wise.
With the 2006-07 season following shortly after, Paul Ranger continued his steady improvement. During that next season, Paul had gained the trust of his teammates and coaching staff. While his point production jumped from 18 to 28 points, his ice time had also risen. Averaging 20:16 minutes worth of ice time, the second-year defenceman proved that his playoff actions were not a fluke. While he may have been a lesser-known Tampa Bay Lightning playoff hero, whenever you can have a rookie step up like that during their first time in the Stanley Cup playoffs, they are the unsung hero no one would have expected.
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