It’s game day for the Lightning as the Calgary Flames come to town for the only meeting of the year between these two teams. When I look at both teams, I see disasters. Neither team is playing well right now. That being said, at least the Lightning have a future. We have young, talented players who should be able to carry this team for a really long time. In Calgary, not so much. Regardless of what the standings tell you, the Tampa Bay Lightning are a much better team than the Calgary Flames.
When I look at the two rosters, it’s almost like each team is looking for an identity. Are the Lightning going to be that run and gun offense we all want to see, or are they going to play the structured, defensive hockey that Guy Boucher preaches. I think you have to take a look at Vancouver a couple years ago. The Canucks played really tight defensive hockey and relied heavily upon Roberto Luongo for a couple years. Then, after struggling for a good streak, Alain Vigneault opened up his style. The Canucks haven’t looked back since.
This streak has made me wonder whether or not Boucher needs to have a change in heart. While he has a proven track record of being a great coach in every league he has coached in, I don’t know that he’s established himself as NHL elite yet. The mark of a good coach is the ability to adapt. Boucher needs to show us that he can adapt. Instead of coaching this team not to lose, coach to win. Then, any only then, will things begin to look up for this team.
This game against the Flames is the perfect opportunity to show fans that this is a team with that killer instinct necessary to win. Say what you want about the Flames, but you can’t deny that they are terrible offensively. They don’t boast any threats that make you really cringe other than one Jarome Iginla. Man, would I love to see him on a line with Stamkos and St. Louis. So this game is right there for the taking.
Early indications are the Garon will be getting the start in net and I have no doubt in my mind that this is the right choice. He has been the better of the two goaltenders and it’s high time that Yzerman calls up Tokarski to give him a real NHL shot. I’m tired of seeing the team continually go back to Roloson based on his past. News flash, this league is about winning hockey games. Right now, Roloson can’t win hockey games. Heck, he let in 6 goals against Toronto on the 22nd of November and only has 6 wins on the season. Anyone else see a little problem with this?
The Lighting come in to tonight’s game with Steven Stamkos still rather hot. He scored his way out of his little slump with two goals in the last game. Even while not scoring, he was a consistent offensive threat with assists chalked up in nearly every game. This is good news for the Lightning as they will undoubtedly need his continued contributions as they attempt to salvage this season.
Interestingly enough, the Calgary Flames are attempting to salvage their season. Despite putting up a decent record in the last ten games (6-3-1), the Flames are not doing well this season. The inconsistency that has plagued them since their cup run against us is continuing to dominate the headlines this season. One has got to think that Brent Sutter is feeling a little heat on his seat as the Flames continue to struggle. One of my favorite things to say about the Calgary Flames in regards to the post-lockout era is that they are good enough to finish 9th but not bad enough to finish last and get that great draft pick that could really help the franchise. I know that a lot of frustrated Flame fans share that mentality.
So with that, here’s where we switch from my little cynical game preview to a different “what if” sort of topic. If the Lightning get into the New Year and around all-star time it becomes incredibly apparent that they are not going to make the playoffs, would you be alright with the team tanking to get that top-3 draft pick? There’s a lot of top end talent for those who get to pick in the top-5. Ryan Murray is a defenseman that would look really good wearing a Bolts jersey. Even better, how would you like to see Yakupov lining up beside Stamkos for years to come? A fan can dream.
In all seriousness, I ask you, if the playoffs are out of the question, is tanking the right option moving forward?
Thanks for reading, enjoy the game and have a great day.
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