Tomorrow, the Lightning are in Montreal to take on the Canadiens. If our Bolts cannot get up for this one, I will officially consider this season a write-off. It’s always exciting for this group to play in Montreal. Few teams have the French connection that the Bolts do. Guys like Marty St. Louis and Vinny Lecavalier typically put in that extra little bit to play well in their home province. So as you can tell, I’m excited for this tilt.
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It was only last week that the Bolts came back to defeat the Habs at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. The victory showed some great resiliency from the Bolts. They put in a great effort and came out with two points. Since that Habs win, part of three straight, the Lightning have struggled. With two straight regulation losses, you can bet that Guy Boucher will want to put two points up against the organization that watched him walk out its front door.
Montreal Canadiens: 15-18-7 for 37 Points
Tampa Bay Lightning: 17-19-3 for 37 Points
If you hadn’t already figured it out, the bolded note above should highlight the importance of this game. The Bolts and Habs are currently tied in points. If the Lightning want any shot at making the playoffs, they are going to have to start separating themselves from these “bottom feeding” teams before they become one. Here are some pre-game notes.
- The Lightning currently sit in 12th place in the East. It’s a position that they have pretty much cemented themselves into over the course of the last couple weeks. After the three straight wins, I thought they may have had a shot at 10th by the end of this stretch. That’s an impossibility. The Buffalo Sabres sit directly in front of the Bolts in the standings with 40 points and the same number of games played. That should REALLY make this a MUST WIN GAME. Also, lose this game and the Bolts will find themselves in 13th place.
- Despite playing a little better as of late, I still don’t know about this Canadiens group. They have a lot of nice pieces, but a lot of the key players aren’t performing. Lars Eller, coming off a superb 4 goal game, is a player to watch in this tilt. He could give the Lightning a tough time in the defensive end. Despite not putting up huge offensive numbers in Montreal, Eller is a great player. He plays with a lot of intelligence and underrated strength. Keep your eye on him,
- With injuries taking their toll on the Lightning, Brett Connolly will step right into the line-up after taking home bronze at the World Junior Championship. Despite not coming back to TB with gold, Connolly had a GREAT tournament. He was a dominant, physical force each and every game. His ability to create timely offense cannot be ignored. In a season or two, he should fit right into our top 6.
- Steven Stamkos looks to continue his hot streak tomorrow night. I want to get some responses from the readers here; is 60 goals unreasonable for Stammer this season? It would be something spectacular to witness. Thank goodness we got this guy signed over the summer. Imagine if one of the many trade rumors had come true. I shudder to think, folks!
- The last note I want to make about the game tomorrow is the Bolts road record. It’s time to improve it, simple as that. Now, sitting with a road record of 6-14-3, the Bolts have got to make something go right away from the TBTF. I don’t understand how a team can be so decent on home ice but so terrible on the road. Sure, there are a few differences, but the disparity is not this great.
Overall, I would put this game into the must win category. In fact, every game until playoff time is going to become “must win” if the Lightning don’t go on a little bit of a run shortly. The Canadiens will pose an interesting challenge for a lot of the Bolts. It’s always tough, yet exciting, to play in a hometown. Hopefully the Bolts keep their composure so we can see a great game.
The last note I want to make is with regards to the Blair Jones/Brendan Mikkelson trade pulled off by Steve Yzerman. Mikkelson is a depth defenseman who should be able to play with this group. What I really like about him is his size. Mikkelson is a winner at just about every level; it will be nice to have him in the room. Hopefully he fits in here and we see the development of a great defenseman. I’m a firm believer that talent doesn’t just disappear. He was the 31st overall pick in the 2005 draft. Perhaps he will be a late bloomer for us.
Thanks for reading and have a great day!
Follow me on Twitter: @michaelstuart93
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