Former University of Maine standout Mike Lundin has played in 224 regular-season games for the NHL’s Tampa Bay Lightning.
But he won’t make his playoff debut until Wednesday night when the Lightning invade Pittsburgh to kick off their best-of-seven Stanley Cup Eastern Conference quarterfinal series.
“I’ll definitely be very nervous,” said Lundin. “I’ll just have to calm my nerves the best I can.”
Lundin, who was an All-Hockey East second team defenseman, is one of three former Black Bears playing for the Lightning. Two other ex-Bears, Jimmy Howard and Dustin Penner, will be playing in the Western Conference quarterfinals for Detroit and Los Angeles, respectively.
And former UMaine winger John Tortorella, the head coach of the New York Rangers, will lead his team into a series with Washington.
Lundin had a goal and 11 assists in 69 games while averaging 20 minutes, 24 seconds of ice time. He was minus-three in the plus-minus, which rewards a player with a plus-one if he is on the ice for an even-strength or shorthanded goal and penalizes a player with a minus-one if the other team scores one.
He was a plus-four in his final five games.
Defenseman Brett Clark was Tampa Bay’s top-scoring defenseman with 9 & 22 in 82 games. He was a plus-two and had 6 & 11 on the power play. He averaged 18:53 of ice time.Right wing Teddy Purcell had a breakthrough year as he finished as Tampa Bay’s fourth-leading scorer with 51 points on 17 goals and 34 assists. He had 3 & 18 on the power play and was plus-five while averaging 14:06 of ice time.
Left wing Penner had 2 & 4 in 19 games for Los Angeles after being traded by Edmonton to the Kings. He finished with 23 & 22 in 81 games between the two teams and was minus-12 while averaging 18:07 of ice time.
Los Angeles opens at San Jose.
Howard was 37-17-5 with a 2.79 goals-against average and a .908 save percentage for the Red Wings, who host Phoenix.
Lundin is healthy again after missing 13 games with a groin/abdominal injury.
“I had been dealing with it since early December and it just kept getting worse,” said Lundin. “The only thing to do was rest it, so I had to take five weeks off. And then I had to try to get back into shape. It wasn’t fun.”
One of the positives was he got to spend time with his infant son, Finn. It’s the first child for Lundin and his wife, former Black Bear first team All-America East volleyball star Shelley Seipp.
He returned to the ice in early March and said, “I’m finally back in great shape. I don’t have to worry about my lungs anymore. I can focus more on my hockey skills.”
Lundin is regarded as a steady stay-at-home defenseman and he said, “I got to play against a lot of the other teams’ top lines this year.”
“He continues to get better,” said Lightning defenseman Mattias Ohlund in Mark Pukalo’s story in the St. Petersburg Times. “He’s a very important part of our hockey team. He’s not a flashy guy. He’s low maintenance. He’s one of those guys that, unless you know hockey, you might not see everything that he brings.”
Lightning coach Guy Boucher told the St. Petersburg Times that Lundin has “great mobility and vision” and he “covers the ice very well. His gap control is amazing. His biggest asset is his mind. He learns fast.”
“It’s more important for me to play solid defensively than it is to get points, considering my role on the team,” said Lundin. “I just want to eat up minutes and not be noticed out there. If I’m not noticed, I’m doing my job.”
He said the Penguins, with or without injured superstar Sidney Crosby, will be a tough test.
“They’ve proven they can (get the job done) without their big stars. But it wouldn’t surprise me to see (Crosby),” said Lundin. “It will be a hard-fought series.”
He said Purcell and Clark have had great years.
“Teddy has been putting up points and he keeps getting better. He has a lot of skill and he has been playing a lot of minutes on our top lines,” said Lundin, who was a Maine teammate of Purcell’s in Purcell’s only season at Maine. “He has proven he can produce.”
“Brett is a steady defenseman who makes great plays with the puck,” said Lundin. “You can learn a lot from him.”
Howard made his Stanley Cup playoff debut last year when he went 5-7 with a 2.75 GAA and a .915 save percentage as the Red Wings were eliminated by San Jose in the conference semifinals.
“I feel great. I’ve been looking forward to this since Christmas. I’ve been chomping at the bit,” said Howard.
He matched his win total of a year ago, but his goals-against average (2.26) and save percentage (.924) were better last season.
He said he went through a lull during the middle of the season but is playing well now.
“It’s tough to explain. Sometimes the pucks don’t hit you,” said Howard. “But you don’t change anything. You have to keep playing the same way and work your way through it.”
“Maybe you have to be a little more patient or a hair more aggressive,” he added.
He said he is confident and expects a long series against Phoenix.
“They’re very well-structured and well-coached,” said Howard. “They work hard no matter what the score is.”