Game two of this Western Conference back-to-back road trip is tonight with the Bolts taking on the Phoenix Coyotes. As a result of the quick turnaround time, the Bolts will probably be a little bit tired in Phoenix. The key for the Bolts is to remain disciplined as they search for their 3rd win in a row. If history means anything, the Bolts come into this one having won five of their last six games in the desert. Let’s go over my three keys to the game:
Key Number One: Discipline
Dave Tippett is one of the highly underrated coaches in the NHL. He has the Coyotes playing at an above .500 clip despite a goaltending tandem that is led by former Bolts’ goaltender, Mike Smith. There is a good chance that Phoenix will be able to suffocate the Lightning’s high flying style. That leads into frustration, and frustration leads to penalty trouble. The key tonight is discipline. If the Bolts can stay out of the penalty box and wait for chances to come about, they’ve got a good chance in this one. Steve Downie, I caution you not to do anything stupid. The Coyotes will make you pay.
Key Number Two: Solid Goaltending
I haven’t seen anything concrete as of yet, but one would have to assume that Roloson will be getting the start in net after Garon played last night. If that’s the case, he is going to have to be really solid against a Coyotes team that can strike despite not boasting an overly daunting offensive line-up. Rollie needs to turn in a good performance tonight. This team cannot go into every single game not knowing what it is going to get from the guy between the pipes. We’ve seen Garon play some solid hockey as of late, now it’s Rollie’s turn.
Key Number Three: Weather the Storm
This one isn’t a huge secret. As I mentioned, the Lightning are playing their second game in two nights against the Coyotes. Knowing this, the Coyotes will probably come out flying. Any advantage they can get using speed, energy and drive is an advantage the Bolts cannot afford to give up. If the Bolts can just weather the flurry, it should be easy sailing for the rest of the night.
As I said, tonight’s pre-game report is quite short. The post-game re-cap will have lots of information including your questions, rumors and my thoughts on the game. Before I sign off, I just want to draw in the importance of tonight’s tilt. Two points will go a long way.
The Lightning currently sit 10 points out of the playoffs in the Eastern Conference. While that may seem like a huge gap, those of you who follow me on Twitter know that I don’t believe that this group is as far out of the race as it seems. Here’s a quick look at the standings:
11th Place: Buffalo Sabres with 43 Points through 47 Games
12th Place: Montreal Canadiens with 43 Points through 47 Games
13th Place: New York Islanders with 42 Points through 45 Games
14th Place: Tampa Bay Lightning with 42 Points through 46 Games
Looking at that sub-section of the overall standings, it’s pretty clear that this is an important game. With a good little run here, the Lightning could easily find themselves in the 11th slot in the East. It’s not hard to fathom right now, despite all the dread and disappointment we have put up with this season. Really and truly, it all starts with one win. That win needs to be tonight. The season is coming down to its final stretch and it’s make-it or break-it time for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let’s hope they beat the Coyotes tonight and find themselves in a promising position come morning tomorrow.
I’ll be back tonight with my post-game thoughts and much, much more! Thanks again for your continued support. Go Bolts!
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