Dare I say it; what a game! This tilt had a little bit of everything in it. There was a great deal of animosity, some great goals, solid goaltending from Garon and a whole bunch more. Like my game preview stated, this shaped up to be one of the best games of the year (despite the lack of chances). Of course, from the Lightning perspective, it helps that we kicked off this six game stretch that is ever so important with a huge win. I did not expect that the team would be able to beat the powerful Flyers but low and behold, they did. Even more surprising, they did it without one of their top defensive guys. Let’s get to the Good, Bad, Ugly analysis.
Everything that could possibly go the Lightning’s way tonight, did. Other than the Hedman injury, everything seemed to go according to plan. Let’s start off with that hit for a second. With the state of the NHL right now, there seems to be a great deal of commotion every time a player gets hit like that. Personally, I thought it was a clean hit that should remain a part of hockey. While I wish Hedman a fully and speedy recovery from whatever ailments he is suffering with, there shouldn’t be any further discipline for the hit. Hedman wasn’t in a vulnerable position and he wasn’t taken advantage of. It was just a really solid body check that ended with unfortunate consequences. Get better soon, Vic!
When I played up this game in my preview, I noted that it was the top end talent that would really make this game what it was. Despite the Flyers losing big time, Hartnell’s goal really showcased some talent. The show didn’t stop there. Tonight’s game was the Steven Stamkos show and he really did will this team to victory. We all said it’s time to stop all the talk and walk the walk. Stamkos did more than that with his two goals that now put him tied for the league lead in the category. What I really love about Stamkos, even more so this season, is his ability to score in so many different ways. He can beat you off the rush, in tight or on the cycle. Tonight’s game really cemented him into the minds of Flyers players and their faithful fans. Bryzgalov is going to be having nightmares about #91 for awhile.
To start the game tonight, it looked like the Flyers were going to run away with things. Had it not been for a STELLAR first period from Garon, the Lightning could have very well found themselves down and out early. That’s now two really great games in a row for Garon, something the Lightning haven’t been able to say about a goaltender at all this season. If he’s getting hot, it’s just in time.
Lost in all the Stamkos hype is the fact that Martin St. Louis now has 4 points in the 3 games he’s played since returning from his facial injury. Props to Marty for continuing to go into the tough areas and create chances even after a scary injury like that. Lots of times you will see a player back off and stay away from situations that could be dangerous; not Marty. He’s a battler if ever there was one.
The last good note I want to mention is the fan support for the team this season. In a “non-traditional market”, it’s always nice to see sell-out crowds. The Lightning have now sold out the SPTF 8 times in the 14 home games they’ve played. It’s that kind of fan support that makes writing for this team so much fun. We have a great fan base that’s so underrated league wide. Bolts fans are some of the most knowledgeable and entertaining fans around.
As mentioned in the intro to this blog, the lack of chances was a little bit of concern. When you consider that the Bolts had a grand total of 16 shots and the Flyers had 32, it’s pretty obvious to see that Ilya Bryzgalov was not on his game. In my opinion, the Bryzgalov contract is going to come back to haunt the Flyers in years to come. He’s one of those goalies that relies a lot on system. That’s why he was so successful under Dave Tippet in Phoenix.
Had the Flyers gotten any sort of decent goaltending tonight, this could have been a VERY different game. I actually found it very interesting watching Peter Laviolette tonight. Why wasn’t Bryz pulled? The Lightning scored 4 goals on their first 12 shots of the game after being viciously outshot in the first period. I would have pulled Bryz instantly after the 4th and quite possibly after the 3rd. It doesn’t matter that a lot of them were Grade-A chances; the team needed a new look in net.
This is more of a funny thing than a bad thing, but I’ll file it here anyways. Kubina with over 27 minutes of ice time tonight? Yikes! If that’s the strategy moving forwards, this team may have a few problems on the back end. If Hedman is down for any serious length of time, it will be up to Guy Boucher to manage the ice time of his D better than he has this season. As my frequent readers know, I haven’t been impressed as of yet. Wouldn’t it be great if the Bolts were forced to call someone up from Norfolk and he came in and played GREAT hockey. We could finally displace Clark! It would be like a second Christmas.
Jagr’s mullet is pretty much gone, so there isn’t any ugly tonight.
Tonight’s game was exactly what the Lightning needed to kick off this important stretch of six games. It may seem like I’m blowing these games way out of proportion, but I really feel like this is the make-or-break moment of the season. With an unexpected win against the top seeded Flyers, the Lightning are well on their way to turning this stretch into a make-it moment.
Up next, the Montreal Canadiens come to town. After winning tonight, the Habs will come in with confidence that they haven’t had in a few weeks. That said, if the Lightning get the offensive output they got tonight, it should be a game for the Lightning’s W column. Because the Habs won tonight, the Bolts will go to bed remaining in 13th place in the East. If we can beat the Canadiens on Thursday, we’d be one spot closer to that elusive top 8. I’ll be back with my game preview for that one tomorrow.
One last note of interest. Brett Connolly played a GREAT game for Canada at the WJC. He scored, he was physical and he played like a true leader. With Devante Smith-Pelley’s injury, Connolly will get a bigger role for Team Canada moving forward. Hopefully he can come back with a Gold medal and a bucket load of confidence. This young man is going to turn into a great hockey player for this franchise.
Thanks for reading and have a good night.
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