Outwit, Outplay, Outlast. While that may be the tagline for CBS’s popular show, Survivor, it is also exactly what the Montreal Canadiens did to the Tampa Bay Lightning last night. That loss, giving the Bolts a record of 3-3 on my little stretch, all but puts the Lightning out of contention. Unless drastic changes are made, we aren’t going to be seeing playoff hockey in Tampa. From the outside, the situation in Tampa may not be as dire as I am making it out to be. That said, as a fan, I am simply fed up. I’m fed up with a few players who consistently don’t put in enough effort, I’m fed up with our coaching staff’s inability to adapt and I’m fed up with management for not realizing how bad this situation is.
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For those of you who read my works frequently, you know that I am typically not this negative. That said, last night’s game was my last straw. In this post-game blog, I won’t be doing my typical analysis. This blog will focus on the bigger picture and how this Habs game is in fact a microcosm of it. Take a look at the Bolts’ road record right now. It’s sitting at a dreadful 6-15-3. What does that mean? It means that this group is barely on pace to get into double digits in the road W column. That’s absolutely brutal. To put that into perspective, the Edmonton Oilers, who finished dead last in the league last season, had 12 road wins. It’s just plain unacceptable. For Steve Yzerman to come out and say that he’s not surprised with where the team is because he knew “that it was going to be tough this year” is absolutely ridiculous. I’d rather him come out and say that he is just as shocked as all of us.
Alright, I’ve come to my senses. I’m still fairly upset with this group but now let’s focus on the game that was played against the Montreal Canadiens.
There’s no doubt that the Bell Centre is a tough place to play. However, a lot of our team resides from the area and you typically see a heightened energy level because of it. Going into the first period, I was feeling pretty good. On this trip, I actually pegged this one as one of the easier wins. Of course, my predictions have been pretty terrible this season; but, I digress. When Lecavalier scored his goal to open the scoring, I thought that things were going to continue to go our way. The goal was the result of a really hard working play. Now, with 15 on the season, Vinny has a chance to put up some decent offensive totals. Wow, that was a pretty rosy assessment of our captain, but hold on. I’m not finished here. After scoring his goal, I thought Vinny had a tough night. He just looked lazy and disinterested. For a guy playing at home, you would think that he would have a little more saved up in the tank. Not so for number 4. My concerns for Vinny grow each day that I watch him. Sure, he does bring a lot of great things to this team, but it seems like after he scores, or chips in once or twice he gives up. We need a captain who doesn’t EVER give up.
The goal that tied things up for the Canadiens off Blunden’s stick pretty much summed up the goaltending that we’ve seen all season. Watching the replay, I had a tough time figuring out how there was any room to put that puck in. That’s one Garon HAS to have if he wants to be the number one guy for this team. The second that goal was in, my stomach dropped a little bit. The game was all but over. It was only moments later that the second goal was put in. We’ll get to that one in a second because I have A LOT to say about it. That was a moment that the Bolts could not afford. Any other team goes down 2-1 like that and I wouldn’t feel so bad, but this group, it was over.
Until the end of the game, there wasn’t any offense. For a team heading into the third period down by a goal, the Bolts didn’t generate a lot. How does a team with so much talent and supposed drive only generate 7 shots in the third period of a tight game? I don’t want to hear any excuses; it’s simply unacceptable. Anyways, the game ended 3-1 and that pretty much tells the story. Now, onto the next part of the game analysis (the catchy opening line did have a reason).
This is where I am going to highlight the second goal that the Habs scored. What was it a result of? Steve Downie lost his mind out on the ice. The Montreal Canadiens are not a particularly physical team, or a dirty team, but they won the intimidation battle on that sequence. Personally, I didn’t like every hit the Habs dished out on that shift, but what’s done is done. The point of this is that the physical play knocked Steve Downie right off his game and he went nuts. He was chasing guys down for hits that weren’t presenting themselves and he just looked like a human wrecking-ball. His stupid play resulted in a good rush for the Habs in which they put the puck in the back of our net. Why did all this happen? The Habs kept their emotions in check; that’s something the Lightning failed to do.
The first period this game wasn’t great for the Lightning, but it was far from the worst (I wouldn’t go as far as to say that it was “good,” as the coaches put it). After that period, things went downhill for our Bolts. The Canadiens outplayed us in every facet of the game. They got good goaltending, timely offense and solid defense. Even more than that, I want to highlight the puck battles and turnovers. I can count on one hand the number of puck battles the Lightning won in the second period. When that happens, you know it wasn’t a good night. Forget the puck battles, you win some, you lose some. What really concerns me is the turnovers. The blind passes, stupid giveaways and inconsistent passing all made for one of the ugliest displays of puck control in recent memory. Give credit to the Canadiens for creating these opportunities, but the Bolts have to be better.
This one is pretty simple to explain. Sometimes in tight games, weird things happen. That didn’t occur tonight; the Canadiens held on until the end of the game to get their insurance and finally take home the two points. Randy Cunneyworth did a great job of keeping this group calm despite their lack of confidence. It’s tough to come back from a deficit, but the Lightning have got to give it a better shot than that. All I can say, again, is simply unacceptable.
Anyways, I’m in transit tomorrow so there won’t be a blog until late tomorrow night. It bodes well as the Bolts now have two days off before they take on the Vancouver Canucks at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. That will be a daunting test despite the fact that the Canucks will be playing their third in four nights. If I had to guess, the Bolts will be seeing Cory Schneider in net for the Canucks. I’ll have more on him and the team from Vancouver in my pre-game report. However, I will say this. Let’s hope that Schneider puts on a show for the Bolts a shuts us out. No folks, I have not gone insane. If that happens, maybe Steve Yzerman will make a call to Mike Gillis to make it so Cory doesn’t have to leave Tampa with the Canucks. A fan can dream, right?
Thanks for reading and have a good Sunday!
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