The Lightning finish off a busy couple of weeks with a visit from the big, bruising, Boston Bruins tomorrow night. It should be an interesting game between two teams who have gone in opposite directions since a meeting in last season’s Stanley Cup playoffs. I would argue that that series was largely dominated by the Lightning. Last season, when the Bolts were successful, they forced the opposition to play a fast paced, offensive game. Boston just wasn’t comfortable doing that. Before I start rambling about my feelings on game 7 (cough…officiating), let me get back on topic. With a game against the Bruins tomorrow night, the Bolts are going to have to play that feisty, frustrated style we saw at the end of the Pittsburgh game for a full 60 minutes.
Speaking of 60 minutes (not the television program), the Lightning have had a great deal of trouble putting together a full 60 minute effort. It seems like this group comes out slow every single game. That trend has got to stop now. There is no excuse for the lackluster play that ceases to exist once they are in a deficit too large to come out of. To me, the onus, and pressure, lands squarely on the shoulders of the players. We’ve seen that this roster has enough talent to at least be competitive; they show it for stretches within games. The guys just can’t put together a solid, complete effort. Until guys like Vinny, Stammer and Marty step up and say something, this trend will continue. As I’ve said before, I couldn’t care less if the Lightning lost every game until the end of the season. It would set us up for a GREAT young prospect or two. All I ask is that the guys come out and give a complete effort. Show the fans, who have supported this team through thick and thin, that they care. That’s what I want to see tomorrow night against the Bruins.
The Boston Bruins have two of the best goaltenders in the game, a great defense core and balanced, depth scoring up front. By no means do I expect the Lightning to win this one; but I’d like to see a great effort from EVERYONE. Of course, the one saving grace the Bolts may have in this one is that the Bruins will be playing their second game in a back-to-back scenario. The Bruins are in Florida tonight (with puck drop just a couple minutes away). All I can say is that I’m hoping that the Panthers play their game and just take the life out of the Bruins. Make them work for every inch of space they want on the ice. Then, and this is a huge maybe, we might have a chance to win.
Having not won in 2012 as of yet, you can bet that the Lightning are a fragile group when it comes to confidence. All that can change with one good effort, or even better, a win. As I said, I don’t expect the Bolts to win, but having a solid effort against the Bruins could make the road trip to Dallas and Phoenix a lot more bearable. In the last ten games, the Bolts boast a record of 3-6-1. Remember, all three of those wins came in a row right at the start of this ten game stint. That dismal record is in danger of getting even worse tomorrow night. On the other hand, the Bruins have a record of 7-3-0 in their last ten.
The trouble the Bolts are going to have tomorrow night is never-ending. The Bruins don’t give up goals yet they manage to be the highest scoring team in the league. For a team like the Bolts, that struggles on special teams and can’t seem to find any offensive consistency, this could be a real ugly night.
Two things to mention about tomorrow night’s game before I get to the second part of my blog.
Dana Tyrell will be out tomorrow night with the injury he sustained a couple days ago. In my opinion, this is actually a bigger blow than meets the eye. Two guys whom I’ve been really impressed with are Tyrell and Wyman. Both seem to have a great intensity level every night. That bodes well with a team that has looked half asleep to start games over the last few weeks. The hope is that Trevor Smith, recently called up from the Admirals, can come in and bring that same sort of passion and intensity. For a guy who is a great scorer at the AHL, Smith hasn’t really had a huge shot at the NHL level. Hopefully the drive to stay in Tampa for a little while will help him play well. I have a feeling that he could slot in rather nicely.
So that’s my little rant on tomorrow night’s game. I’ll be watching intently and I hope all of you will be too. That should make for some very interesting post-game discussions as always. I really appreciate what everyone brings to the table as far as comments, opinions and everything in between.
The second part of this blog is my rumor du jour!
The Fourth Period is reporting that Jeff Schultz of the Washington Capitals reportedly “wants to play” and may be available. He has been a healthy scratch for the Capitals in 14 of their last 16 games. For a guy with his size, and proven track record, you’d think that he would get a better opportunity in DC. As a result of not playing, I’d think that the Lightning would be able to get him cheap. He is a guy who would fit RIGHT in with the Lightning moving forward. Here are some highlights on the guy. I’d love to hear your opinions.
- He’s still very young at 25 years old. That young age would make him a perfect fit on a team that is trying to bridge the gap between the old core and the new core.
- He’s a massive presence on the blue line. At 6’6” and 230 pounds, Schultz makes guys think before they cut to the middle or try to do something too fancy. That’s something that this team is truly lacking right now
- He’s not just a plug. Three seasons ago, Schultz had a great year in which he put up 23 points and a +50 rating. That’s incredible for a young guy in this league. It shows that he’s defensively responsible while not afraid to move the puck.
- He’s affordable and signed long-term. Schultz has a $2.75million cap hit for this season and two more afterwards. He’s not just some guy who is going to come in for a month and walk away on July 1st.
I’ve got another little bit of interesting information regarding Schultz here. He does have a little bit of history with our Tampa Bay Lightning. It’s actually rather impressive when you truly think about it.
“A record was set by Schultz in the 2011 playoffs in Washington`s 4-2 loss to the Tampa Bay Lightning in Game One of the Eastern Conference Semi-finals. He was on the ice for a postseason record 119 consecutive minutes without being scored upon in the Stanley Cup Playoffs, before Steve Downie of the Tampa Bay Lightning scored a goal.” (Wikipedia)
It’s hard to argue that he isn’t a proven performer. This is an NHL caliber defenseman not getting a good shot in the NHL. Steve Yzerman, let’s look long term here and see that Schultz isn’t just a plug for this season. He could be a long term fit.
Well that just about concludes the blog for today. I just want to throw something out here before I finish up.
Over the next couple of days, I’d like to collect your questions on the Bolts or NHL in general. I’ll post them in a blog with my responses and a shout out to whomever sends them (include your Twitter name if you’d like). I would love to get as many as possible, so please, fire away!
Anyways, thanks for reading! I look forward to getting your questions.
Follow Michael on Twitter for the latest Bolts news, notes and his blogs: @michaelstuart93