During the first period of Saturday’s home opener against the Washington Capitals, Vincent Lecavalier muscled Jack Hillen off the puck. The momentum sent Hillen into the boards, unfortunately injuring his shoulder. A ripple of surprise went through the row I was sitting in. Our captain isn’t necessarily known for an abundance of physical play. The surprise has continued through the other opening games against the Islanders and Hurricanes.
Known more as a finesse guy with a scoring touch through most of his career, Vinny used his sizeable frame to assert himself from time to time. His fight with Jarome Iginla in the 2004 Stanley Cup Finals is one of the most enduring images of that series. His reputation as a skilled offensive player was definitely in the forefront. The between the legs goal in the playoffs against the Habs, the 2004 World Cup of Hockey, winning the 2007 Rocket Richard Trophy.
Things changed a bit after he suffered a shoulder injury at the hands of Matt Cooke. He had surgery in the 2007-08 offseason. Whether it was the shoulder or the wrist he also had surgically repaired that summer, something seemed off when play resumed.Still an invaluable piece on the ice, it seemed as though Vinny couldn’t elevate his shot as he had before. Could he change his game or would he remain stagnant? We seem to have our answer so far this season. Lecavalier has consistently been one of the best players on the ice through the first three games. He’s working hard along the boards, driving to the net, using his big body to his advantage. Just another shade of the new toughness the Bolts are showing this season.
Head coach Guy Boucher had some thoughts on the matter after last night’s game in Carolina as well.
“I think Vinny sets the tone for this team. There were things we had discussed that we were horrible at (Monday) and we wanted the puck deeper and created tons of turnovers at the other team’s blue line (on Monday) that gave the other team a ton of chances.
And Vinny, right off the bat putting pucks right on net, walking in and forcing himself in with deep work. I think today Vinny did it again, he set the tone and he’s doing terrific work as the captain, I’ve asked him for that before the season started and he’s been terrific.’’ (Quote Source: Tampa Tribune)
It’s definitely been fun watching the captain lead by example so far. Keep your eye on Vinny on Friday. The little things he’s doing differently have been very pleasant surprises.