The Lightning are in DC tonight to take on the Washington Capitals. Despite not being the powerhouse group that haunted the league only a few short years ago, the Washington Capitals boast some great offensive weapons that shouldn’t have any problem feasting on weak defense and spotty goaltending. As Ian Esplen, the Canucks blogger here at Hockeybuzz, always says, “respect your rivals.” That’s exactly what the Bolts have to do tonight. Just because Ovechkin isn’t producing at superhuman levels doesn’t mean that he should be taken lightly. We all know that he has the ability to go out there and be a massive game changer. My words of advice to Eric Brewer are GOOD LUCK.
Playing for the second time in two nights, the Bolts should expect a huge push from the Capitals to start the game. The Verizon Center is always a loud, tough place to play and tonight shouldn’t be any different. Unfortunately, starts haven’t been overly friendly to the Lightning as of late. Look no further than last game’s first period debacle at the hands of the offensively challenged Carolina Hurricanes. If the Bolts come out in the opening period with the same effort as they did last night, this game will be over before I have a chance to yell at my TV.
The problems the Bolts have been having lately seem to stem directly from the starts they’ve been putting forward. There is no effort, no try and no desire to win. Fans shouldn’t have to expect a third period comeback every time they want to see a win. Guy Boucher shouldn’t have to call a time-out every single game in order to rally the troops. Isn’t two points motivation enough? Apparently not.
Last time the Capitals and Lightning took to the ice, fans were treated to an offensive display. The Capitals took the game 6-5 in the shootout. That was way back on October 10th when we all though the Capitals were going to be one of the premier teams in the league. The fact that the Bolts took them to a shootout in an offensive chess match was promising. Now, we all know that hasn’t been the case. After that game, the Capitals struggled to find any sort of consistency culminating with the firing of former coach Bruce Boudreau. The Lightning have been worse.
For those of you who have followed my blogs over the course of the season, you know that I often complain about urgency with this group. Funnily enough, lightning.nhl.com posted a quote from Steven Stamkos talking about the exact same thing.
“It doesn't seem like there's any urgency right now when there needs to be. Our season is on the line, and we're not playing like it.” – Steven Stamkos, on his team’s current struggles
All I have to say to that is, go out and “play like it!” Don’t sit here and complain to us about the heart with this group, go out and prove that it exists. We saw last year that this group could find ways to win games in the regular season. Sure the goaltending was better, but come on, the heart was there. You could see the drive and determination each and every single night. Now, that ship has all but sailed.
If I had to predict, which regular readers know I hate to do, I would say that the Lightning will fall short in this one. The Capitals boast too much fire power that can still feat on weaker teams like the Bolts. Garon has fallen back to earth, and Roloson is unreliable at the best of time. This could shape up to be a very long night.
Before I end my blog, I just want to make note of a quick concern I have. Victor Hedman’s status is still “out indefinitely.” While I understand the delicate nature of concussions, this is becoming incredibly concerning. Personally, I wasn’t expecting him to be out this long. I’m not looking at this from a hockey perspective; I just want to see the guy get healthy. You’d hate to see him out for any real extended period of time.
Thanks for reading and I’ll be back tonight with my post-game report!
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