My prediction was a high scoring, offensive battle with the Lightning coming out on top. Instead, we got a low scoring chess match in which the Lightning lost. It’s high time I stop predicting Lightning wins; they never seem to come through. Let’s get to my post-game Good, Bad, Ugly analysis.
The best part about tonight, despite the outcome, was the effort shown by the Bolts. It has been some time since I saw the team come out like they did tonight. Outshooting the Avs 14-5 in the first, the Bolts had a sense of urgency that will serve them well in the New Year. Even though we didn’t come out on top, the try was there and on some nights that can count for a lot. I really feel like the team needed an effort like tonight in order to spring board them onto better fortunes. As Artyukhin76, a frequent commenter, pointed out in my last blog, if the Lightning continue to play like they did tonight, there will be quite a few wins down the stretch. I couldn’t agree more. The team came out hard and with heart. Having Marty St. Louis in the line-up really does seem to inspire this group. With the New Year on the horizon, efforts like this will help us on that quest for a playoff spot.
It was nice to see a low scoring affair tonight. Even though I predicted (and was looking forward to) a high scoring match, having a solid defensive chess match was a nice change. Both teams did a phenomenal job defensively. That coupled with some highlight reel goaltending made for a great battle. This is what is so great about the NHL. Whether it is a high scoring affair or a low scoring battle, something can always entertain the true hockey fan. I could sit and watch the goaltending highlights from this game for hours. Props to both J.S. Giguere and our pal, Garon for great performances tonight. For those of you who don’t follow the Lightning, you’re probably thinking I’m crazy for getting this excited about a bit of solid goaltending. Trust me, I’m mostly sane.
Is it just me, or does it seem like the team plays different with Marty St. Louis in the line-up? I don’t want to get all philosophical here, but I feel like there is a certain aura around this guy that just makes everyone give that extra little bit of effort. Tonight that really came through. For the second straight game since his return, Marty had a point. It’s always nice to see him on the score sheet. Having him in the line-up down the stretch can only help this team. The guy is really the heart and soul of the entire Lightning franchise. Sorry Boucher, I love your enthusiasm, but Marty takes the cake.
My last “good” note is that the Lightning are now 2-1-1 in their last four games. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but I am going to do a little bit of extrapolation. That pace gives the team 5 out of a possible 8 points. If you expand that pace over an entire season you get 103 points. That’s playoff pace right there folks. When you consider the playoff bar being set somewhere just above 90, you’d have to think that the Lightning will have to go on that 2-1-1 pace for the rest of the season. As shown in the last four games, it’s very possible.
Simply put, the loss. You never like to see your team lose. It was a great effort tonight and everything, but there is something about walking out of a road building with two points that just warms a fan’s heart. Well, I digress. As a whole, I was pretty happy with the team tonight as shown by the lengthy “good” section. It’s a few paragraphs longer than the one after the San Jose game.
The only bad note I have written down for tonight’s game was in regards to the passing ability of the team. At times, I felt like the entire team was having trouble making a crisp pass and moving the puck through the neutral zone. As a whole, it didn’t cost us tonight and it should be something easily worked out in practice. Other than that, it was a night free of real “bad” moments.
Actually, one other thing I’d like to point out. Both Brewer and Hedman’s ice time was up again tonight. We saw both players make a few little mistakes throughout the game and I do believe that it has a lot to do with them being over worked. My solution, well you’ll have to keep reading to find out.
Matt Duchene’s OT winner was downright ugly. After such a strong performance, Garon had to go let that goal in. While I’m disappointed that we lost the game in overtime, I almost feel worse for Garon himself. He had such a strong game and a lot of people will forget all about that because of the OT goal. Give Duchene credit; scoring from behind the goal line is a real talent.
The holiday break is now in full swing for the Lightning as they return home to spend time with family and friends in preparation for a nice three game home stand starting on the 27th. When I looked at the schedule at the beginning of the season, the next 6 games were ones that I pegged as some of the best of the season. Coming up, we take on the Flyers, Canadiens and Hurricanes at home and then the Leafs, Senators and Habs (again) on the road. There’s something about these northeastern trips that really gets me excited. Out of those six games, I’m most looking forward to the Leafs tilt. It should be a good test against a team that has some very exciting pieces.
With the holiday season upon us and the trade freeze in full effect, I’m a little surprised that the Lightning rumor mill is so cold. I’ve decided to do my weekly rumor round-up here as Sunday is Christmas Day. There’s not a lot to work with but that being said, there’s a couple of really interesting ideas being floated out there right now.
With Niittymäki now healthy in San Jose, there is a little bit of a goaltending cluster forming. The rumors this week have Niittymäki on the trade block with Tampa showing interest. Now personally, I’m not a fan of the idea of Niittymäki coming back to Tampa. Look at his career stats and tell yourself that he is a better option than Garon. I can’t do it myself. I don’t think that it’s worth giving up something to get a guy who may not be any better than what we already have.
This one here is complete speculation on my part. Greg Zanon is widely believed to be available from the Minnesota Wild. While the Lightning haven’t been linked to the guy as of yet, I believe they soon will be. He is exactly what this team needs right now. The guy is a defensive stalwart who is one of the best shot blockers in the game. Look at Tampa’s defense and it’s pretty obvious that this is a guy we could use right now. What’s really nice about Zanon is that his price should be quite low. Coach Mike Yeo has scratched the 31 year old blue-liner a few times this season and it looks like his time in Minny is really coming to an end. What would it take to acquire Zanon? In my mind, nothing higher than a lower round draft pick.
Now interestingly enough, in response to a question about the “failing Lightning” Darren Dreger from TSN responded with this:
“At the moment, defence and goaltending appear to be Tampa Bay's biggest issues, although I'm not willing to throw Dwayne Roloson under the bus. He's a fiercely competitive guy who may not be able to handle a full season at this stage of his dimming career, but I trust there is still enough in the tank to help stabilize his team. Defensively, the Lightning aren't good enough, but because of the big contracts this team has to contend with, fixing the holes in season is tough to do. Lecavalier's mammoth term and salary obviously haunts this organization, largely because he's closer to a third line player now than a game-breaker. And as well as Tampa Bay did last season, their success was based more on riding momentum then it was the pure readiness of this franchise to move to the next level. There are still a few growing pains the Lightning have to push through, but they are well coached, well managed and have a great stable of young players.”
I may be reading too much into this, but it sounds to me like he doesn’t expect too much to happen with the Lightning right now. Does that concern anyone here? As pointed out by comments in a previous blog of mine, this franchise can’t afford a season of failure. We need to succeed now with the players we have. In my opinion, Steve Yzerman knows this and will make a move before he lets this season go to waste.
Well folks, there you have it: my game report, rumor du jour and a little bit of speculation. Hopefully you enjoyed the read. I wish each and every single one of you a happy holidays.
Thanks for reading.
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