There’s a jam packed blog here for you folks tonight full of my post-game thoughts, a rumor update, and the answers to the questions you submitted to me. Speaking of the game, it’s really funny to think that this is the exact same team we saw play Pittsburgh just a couple nights ago. Maybe all that mumbo-jumbo I was saying about frustration really did make a difference. Anyways, the Lightning ended up winning the back-and-forth tilt by a 5-3 margin. With the win, the Bolts are now 10 points back of 8th spot in the conference. Can it be done? My bet is on no. That said, it would be nice to see a magical run this season!
The First Period
It’s funny to consider that just two nights ago we saw a team that didn’t even come close to resembling the one that we saw tonight. From the moment the puck dropped, the Lightning were pressuring the puck, pressuring Tim Thomas and forcing turnovers. Garon was solid early on the PK as he made some big saves to hold the Bolts in a tie game. It was nice to see the special teams help out in what we can only consider a GREAT start for this group.
The tie was broken just over 7 minutes in when Vinny Lecavalier scored on a broken play in front of Tim Thomas and the Bruins’ net. That goal, the direct result of a rather lucky bounce, is exactly the kind of goal that effort breeds. When a team plays hard, the bounces tend to go right for them. That couldn’t hold any truer than it did tonight for the Lightning. On that goal, the Lightning were winning puck battles and just out-working the Bruins. That’s how success is created; especially for a team that lacks depth.
Despite not scoring on either one of the power-play chances they were given in the first period, I thought the Lightning moved the puck around and created some great chances (Vinny’s one springs to mind). It’s a huge positive to finally see that group play with some confidence as the power-play is going to have to be HUGE down the stretch for the Bolts to make the playoffs.
Overall, I’m not sure that the Bolts could have asked for a better start. It seems that every night for the last few weeks, the Lightning have fallen behind the eight ball early. That wasn’t the case tonight. One player who stood out in the first, and all night for that matter, was Matt Gilroy. After a slow start to the season, we are starting to see the development of a really nice, young defenseman. He makes key offensive plays while not sacrificing defensive awareness. For that reason, he gets the player of the period award.
Bolts Player of the Period: Matt Gilroy
The Second Period
When the second period started, I was a little bit concerned. How many times have fans seen this team do something stupid to ruin a perfectly good night? Too many times. About five minutes in, we witnessed that stupid moment. Nathan Horton used his size and strength to cut to the middle of the ice and create two or three great scoring chances for himself. I counted not one, not two, but three Bolts just chasing him around the slot. Garon made the first save (a great one at that), but was unable to stop the rebound. At 1-1, I didn’t think this was going to be our night. Who could blame me? We are talking about the big, bad, Bruins!
The tie was broken late in the second period when Tom Pyatt was able to poke the puck past Thomas. What was this goal the result of? Again, hard work. It just goes to show you that when this team works hard, and goes to the dirty areas, it can compete with the best. Downie was really the pioneer of the play with some impressive puck movement and stick work. As I’ve said before, when he keeps his cool, Downie is a really solid player for this team. Again, Gilroy made a GREAT play on the goal when he kept the puck in at the blue line. I’m really quite high on this guy. He’s turning into quite the solid D-man.
Of course, this wouldn’t be the 2011-12 version of the Lightning without giving up a late period goal. That goal came courtesy of Nathan Horton when the puck ricocheted out in front of the net and landed on his stick. Garon really didn’t have much of a shot on this one as it’s really tough to track the puck in tight when it deflects so many times. Chalk that goal up to bad luck; we were in for a great third period.
Despite giving up two goals in the period, I thought Garon did exactly what the team needed him to do. If I’m looking back at this game, I believe that the game’s pivotal stretch was when it was tied 1-1. The Bruins had a few great chances in that stretch but Garon was there to close the door. That’s exactly what this team needs from the goaltenders moving forward. For that reason, Garon gets the player of the period honors.
Bolts Player of the Period: Mathieu Garon
The Third Period
With a tie to start the third, the tension was palpable as the puck dropped. Of course, it didn’t take long for me to start freaking out when Eric Brewer had trouble with the puck at his own blue line and ended up giving Daniel Paille his first break away of the night. Garon made a HUGE save on that play and kept the Bolts in this one. Had it not been for that save, I believe we would have seen a very different ending to this one. TSN Turning Point?
The Lightning got the goal to break the tie when Moore and Malone drove hard to the net to put the puck past Thomas. If there was any way to give credit for the goal to two guys, it should have been done on this one. Both guys worked so hard on the play and finally, the puck ended up in the net. Malone got credit for his 10th of the season to give the Bolts a 3-2 lead.
Just when you thought that things were all rosy and nice for the Lightning, a shorthanded goal was given up when Paille broke in on his second breakaway of the game. There was no way Garon was going to stop that unbelievable move from a guy who is known primarily as a shooter when it comes to breakaways. Still, at 3-3, the Lightning looked pretty good. Confidence wasn’t an issue and neither was intensity level.
The Lightning once again broke a tie when Moore came into the zone and wired one past Thomas. You can bet that’s one that Thomas would like to have back both because it was a terrible goal and because it was the game winner for the Lightning. I’m happy to see Moore and Malone produce together. That could be a good duo going forward.
Steven Stamkos sealed the deal with an empty netter from his own zone. It’s funny, I was talking to a buddy about empty netters and how they really don’t “mean anything”. That said, if you ask me, what Stammer did on that play took talent. Congratulations to him for getting his 31st of the season.
Once again, I have to give the player of the period award to Mathieu Garon. He was solid when the game was tight and he made really key saves at really key times. I was really happy with what I saw from him tonight.
Bolts Player of the Period: Mathieu Garon
Your Questions, Answered!
First and foremost, I’d just like to thank everybody who submitted questions in the comments section and on Twitter. I’d like to make this a more regular this. Any time you have a question you’d like to see answered, send it to me and I’ll be sure to include it. Let’s get to those questions.
@wdancdn: If the slide continues this week, think Yzerman would field offers on Vinnie?
If anyone would take Vinny’s contract, I’m sure it would have been done by now. Personally, I have no problem with Vinny as a player, person or leader. My problem with the guy is his salary, and more so his term. Here’s a guy who just scored his 18th of the season, and yet he’s still not living up to his salary. His contract could hamper this franchise for a long time. If there was some way to get it off the books, I think Yzerman would be all over it.
@JScottPhotos: Does the Lightning, or my mom, have a better chance at making the playoffs?
Unfortunately, I’m going to have to go with the Lightning. Though, I’m sure it would be quite hilarious if your mom were to make the playoffs. That said, the margin isn’t that great. The Bolts have a lot of work to do to get into the playoff bracket.
@todd1a: What would the Caps want for Schultz? Maybe Moore + a 4th rounder?
Personally I think Washington would be looking for a 2nd or 3rd round draft pick. Schultz has voiced that he just wants to play. That’s something you love to hear from a hockey player. Unfortunately, he’s not getting the opportunity in Washington, and by the sounds of it, he isn’t part of their long term plan. He could come really cheap if the Bolts are lucky.
@AlexF: Should the Bolts trade St. Louis for either Schneider or Bernier?
I’m going to go with no on this one. Unless St. Louis voices that he wants out of Tampa, there’s no way I’m trading him. He’s meant so much to this franchise in so many different ways and I think that we owe it to him to allow him to retire down here. Personally, I don’t think Vancouver would take him for Schneider. They are going to want young assets who can help now, and in the future. Marty’s not that guy.
Thanks again to everyone who submitted questions! I look forward to getting more in the future. Hopefully we can make this a regular segment on my blogs.
The Rumor Round-Up
Damian Cox (yes, I know, Damian Cox) is reporting that should Malone become available, the Leafs could have interest. Forget “should” he become available, make Steve Yzerman an offer. The Leafs have a lot of really good young blue liners that could go a long way in turning the Bolts’ blue line core around. Malone may not be worth a Luke Schenn, but perhaps a Keith Aulie plus something else?
Michael Russo, a Minnesota Wild writer, mentioned that with Koivu’s injury, the Wild could get active in their search for a top six forward. While the report I read doesn’t specifically mention Malone’s name, I have heard it from other outlets. There is thought that a deal of Malone + for Harding could be talked about. Harding is one of those guys who is walking under the radar when it comes to star goalies that could become available this summer.
This is just the rumor that won’t go away. I’ve read that Snow and Yzerman have talked about the prospective of bringing Nabokov down to Tampa. Now, here’s a rumor that just doesn’t make sense to me. If we were in a playoff race like last year, sure, this one makes sense. Now, not so much. I’d rather see Tokarski get a string of games than see Nabokov tending our net.
The Tim Gleason rumors are heating up (as we all thought they would) with the deadline approaching. The Lightning are still linked to Gleason and he could be a really nice, veteran fit on our blue line. Here’s a move I’d like to see Yzerman make. Gleason is one of those guys that just does everything really well. He’s not spectacular; he’s just solid in every facet of the game.
If the Predators find out that they can’t hold on to both Weber and Suter, I expect that Suter would be the one to go (as a UFA). If that’s the case, many teams will be lined up to acquire his services. I’ve read that the Lightning could be one of those teams. That doesn’t surprise me; I’d love to see it happen. This team needs a true number one defenseman.
Well there you have everything for tonight. Hopefully it wasn’t too much to swallow! I’ll be back soon with more Lightning stuff including a game preview for the Dallas/Phoenix series coming up on the road.
Thanks for reading, and please keep sending those questions!
Follow me on Twitter: @michaelstuart93