Downie's impact on the Lightning 

May, 16, 2011

The Tampa Bay Lightning are 9/16ths of the way to the Stanley Cup, and maybe they'll get no further than that this spring. Still, it has been amazing to watch the rejuvenation of Vincent Lecavalier. ( How long ago was it when he was considered the worst contract in the NHL?)

We all knew Steven Stamkos was coming when he was on fire the last couple of months of his rookie season, tore up the world championships two springs ago, then tied Sidney Crosby for the league lead in goals scored last season. And Martin St. Louis' play has been steady as ever.

Still, it's the supporting players who have caught my eye. Guy Boucher is a first-year NHL coach, but he recognizes the value of his third-liners and grinders. He neatly summed it up a before the conference semifinal win over Washington. "We always [have] new heroes every game," he said. "The difference does not come from [the Lightning's stars], because they are doing their job. It's the young guys no one was expecting."

Sean Bergenheim is unrecognizable from the guy we saw with the Islanders, and it might be that he just plays better with a winner than a loser. A 27-year-old who never scored more than 15 goals in a NHL season has managed eight in 12 playoff games so far, including the opening goal in Saturday night's 5-2 victory in Game 1 in Boston. With Dominic Moore, well, we saw this before when he was in Montreal last spring: He had only 10 goals during the regular season but four in 19 playoff games for the overachieving Habs. The guy who really gets my attention, though, is Steve Downie.

Gare Joyce is a contributing writer for ESPN The Magazine.