Tampa Bay Lightning
Florida's Finest: While the Panthers' John Vanbiesbrouck was the better known of the Sunshine State's goalies, the Lightning's Daren Puppa had the better regular season, with 29 wins, a 2.46 goals-against average and a .918 save percentage, which was .014 higher than the Beezer's.
Who's the Boss Now? Right wing Alexander Selivanov, who led Tampa Bay with 31 goals last season, married general manager Phil Esposito's daughter Carrie last month. Esposito, who played for Canada in the historic 1972 Summit Series against the Soviet Union, took the nuptials in stride. "Twenty years ago I would have said, No way is my daughter marrying a Russian," Esposito says. "But times have changed, and he's a good kid."
Marriage seems to agree with Selivanov, who has a reputation for laziness. He scolded veteran center John Cullen for having skipped a weight-training session during the preseason. Selivanov is also playing with more gumption; in a preseason game he retaliated against Florida's Ed Jovanovski after Jovanovski leveled him with a check. "Must show that I take no crap," Selivanov said afterward.
The Streak: The NHL's longest string of postseason appearances—the Bruins' 29 years—will probably end. Right wing Cam Neely has retired because of his injured right hip, goalie Bill Ranford is angry because he lost his salary-arbitration case, center Adam Oates doesn't have anyone to pass to, and redoubtable defenseman Raymond Bourque can't carry Boston by himself. Bourque, who will be 36 in December, should break John Bucyk's Bruins scoring record in mid-November. It will be one of the few red-letter dates on the Boston calendar.
Kasper the Friendly Coach: Steve Kasper has added an element to Boston's game plan: the smile. Kasper was assailed by Bruins fans for what they perceived as his sullen personality; now he says he wants to come across differently. "I don't want them to think I'm this guy who has no fun," Kasper says.
Slim Pickings: After Bourque and Don Sweeney, Boston's best defenseman is 19-year-old Kyle McLaren. Other than Oates and Rick Tocchet, Boston has no proven goal scorer. The Bruins have added grinders Jeff Odgers, Trent McCleary and Troy Mallette, but the NHL's least-penalized team still isn't very gritty.