TAMPA, Fla. -- It has been an emotional 15 months for former New York Rangers captain Ryan Callahan. He could not come to terms with the Rangers on a contract extension during the 2013-14 season and found himself shipped to the Tampa Bay Lightning in a swap of captains with popular Bolt Martin St. Louis going to Broadway.
Then the Lightning were swept in the first round of the 2014 playoffs by the Montreal Canadiens while his old mates were headed to the team’s first Stanley Cup finals since 1994, ultimately losing to the Los Angeles Kings.
This spring, of course, it has all fallen into place for the Lightning, including their win over the Rangers in an emotional seven-game series.
"It was kind of business as usual," Callahan insisted on Tuesday, the day before Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals.
"Obviously making it to the Stanley Cup finals is pretty special, and just having that was something that I really enjoyed," he said. "Obviously there’s been a lot of years in New York. I have a lot of close buddies on that team. I don’t know if it could have got any more exciting just being able to go to the finals."
Callahan conceded that the transition from New York to Tampa Bay took some adjusting, even though his role did not change along with the uniform.
"I think it takes time to get comfortable with a team and where you are in your role," Callahan said. "But I don’t think you change the way you are off the ice or around the ice by any means. I try to be the leader off the ice. I still do that and on the ice my game can’t change. That’s the only way I’m successful is if I’m playing my style. But it takes some time just to fit in and get comfortable with your surroundings is the biggest thing."
Is he now as comfortable in Tampa as he was in New York?
"Absolutely. I think it came actually pretty quickly," Callahan said. "Last year was a bit of a whirlwind with the trade and everything else going on, but I think having the training camp under my belt and being with the team throughout that is really when I really started to feel comfortable."
At 30, Callahan is one of the veteran voices on a young Tampa Bay team that will have its hands full with the experienced, talented Chicago Blackhawks.
"Yeah, they’re a very experienced team, a very talented team," he said. "It’s something we have to be ready for but we’re ready for that challenge and it’s going to be one.
"I think it’ll be exciting games; both teams are pretty good defensively too. I don’t expect this to be a wide-open affair by any means. It can’t be. I think it’s going to be exciting hockey, a lot of talented players on both sides. We’re excited for it."
Still, Callahan insisted the Bolts have matured a great deal this spring regardless of their youthfulness.
"Throughout the whole playoffs we’ve been pretty loose," the Rochester, New York, native said. "When it’s game time, everybody knows it’s game time. It seems like these young guys, everybody really hasn’t felt that pressure, let that pressure come to them.
"I don’t think that’s going to change now. We’ve had some pretty games early on in the playoffs. Detroit, having to win Game 6 on the road, Game 7 obviously in MSG, we’ve had our adversity and we’ve met that challenge. I think we have a very mature, young group, I guess you could say. You could see that throughout the regular season too. They have a maturity about them that not every young guy has."