Anton Stralman had one goal when he signed with the Tampa Bay Lightning at the start of free agency last July. That goal was to become a top-pair defenseman. That is exactly what Stralman has done this season.
With injuries to Victor Hedman, Matt Carle, and newest Bolt, Braydon Coburn, it has been up to Stralman to keep the blue line together.
At the beginning of the season Michelle Timian wrote about Stralman’s stellar start to the season and his highlight reel save during a Bolts victory against the Montreal Canadiens. His huge save was just the start of his career high season.
The 28-year-old has had a career high 36 points with eight goals and has a plus-21 with an average of 22 minutes per game.
“When I came here I looked at it as a chance to be able to challenge myself a little bit more,” Stralman said. “I knew I was going to be asked to play more time on the ice and play in a lot of different situations. The last couple of years I’ve taken small steps as a player, and this year has been another step. I’m just trying to be better every day and take advantage of the opportunity.”
The Tibro, Sweden native may not be the most vocal on the team, but his work ethic is unparrelled. If help is needed he is always there to assist, even if it means spending an extra 30 minutes working with goaltender Andrei Vasilevskiy and defenseman Mark Barberio and Jason Garrison.
Last season Stralman fell with the Rangers in the Stanley Cup Finals against the Los Angeles Kings and does not want to see that happen again.
“The playoffs are obviously what everyone wants to be in,” Stralman said. “I had a great run last year, and it was so much fun even though we didn’t win. I’m definitely excited about this group. I think with all the talent we have in here, we can do some damage as long as we play our game.”
Stralman learned to focus on what was right in front of him and tries not to get too excited. Whenever he goes out on the ice he does his thing and enjoys himself. Every game he tries to have fun and look at it as one of the best hockey games he’s ever played without letting the pressure get him down.
That idea is one that he has tried to share with his teammates in Tampa. From watching the Bolts get swept by the Canadiens last season, Stralman feels as though many of the players have grown a lot. The new skills, mentality, and experience are some of the things that are going to help the team during their cup run.
“We have a very talented team, but we are going to have to earn it. We can’t have a bad start or a bad period like we’ve been doing in recent games. We’re going to have to find our way and follow our system, follow our structure. If we can do that, I know we can win a lot of playoff games.”
The Lightning’s coach, Jon Cooper has said that Stralman’s calm demeanor hides a fierce competitor who tries hard to be a good leader and teammate. He is an outstanding defenseman who’s skill set can complement any style of play. You can put Stralman anywhere and he will make it work whether it be on the offense, defense, or penalty-kill. Stralman has proved himself to be one a go-to on not only the penalty kill, but on the power play as well. He is a well-rounded two way player who plays hard every shift.
Playing with the Lightning has allowed for Stralman to become the star he has always wanted to be. Coming into the Lightning he was unsure of what the team was going to bring him. He had gone from playing with the small market Columbus Blue Jackets to the large market New York Rangers. He was pleasantly surprised with what he found with the fans and the organization. With Jeff Vinik in charge, the Lightning aim high, and will reach their goals. It is a an organization that Anton Stralman is proud to be a part of.
On her previous stint with The Hockey Writers, Casey covered the Tampa Bay Lightning, but she has returned to take on the Carolina Hurricanes. Even though she is Steel City born, a former season ticker member with the Lightning, and lives in Orlando, the Canes have always been her favourite team. She started her hockey career as Keeper of Time for the California University of Pennsylvania Vulcan Hockey Club while going to school for Sport Management. She hopes to one day work with Hockey Ministries International as a team chaplain. You can usually find her tweeting about hockey or posting pictures on Instagram.