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Chalk up another two points for the boys in blue. What a story the last 7 games has been for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Now, the Lightning find themselves in a true race with some tough opponents for just a couple playoff spots. Tonight’s post-game report will have a short synopsis of the game itself and then a larger feature on individual pieces and how they relate to tonight’s win and the road heading forward.

The Game
It’s hard to find any negatives in tonight’s performance from the Bolts. They came out hard, back checked like never before and created timely offense. The big guns stepped up to the plate tonight and delivered performances for the ages. Guys like Marty, Vinny and Stammer all had huge nights tonight. It’s hard to imagine that any victory this season felt better than this one.

A lot of people, myself included, were worried about the seemingly patented “let down game”. Earlier in the year, the Bolts made a habit of following up a hard performance that resulted in a loss, with another loss. That wasn’t the case tonight. The effort, determination, hard work and skill that were on display during the Jets contest were out in full force again tonight. Everybody knew that this was a huge game and very few disappointed with their performances.

The race is on right now and everybody wearing a Lightning jersey knows it. Fans, players, coaches and management alike are preparing for what is sure to be an exciting ride.

Vinny Lecavalier
It’s pretty safe to say that everybody in Bolts nation has ripped on Vinny, and his contract, at least once since his hay-day in Lightning blue. Whether you like it or not, the guy is producing right now at levels we haven’t seen in years. Consider for a second that, after tonight’s performance, Lecavalier is on pace for his first 70 points campaign since 2008. That’s pretty special stuff.

This year, fans have witnessed a different Vinny Lecavalier. He seems to have a lot more want, desire and try than in years past. Regardless of offensive production, he is a great captain for this franchise. Not only does he consistently produce decent point totals, but he’s also a role model.

Tonight, the Vinny show was on full display. With four points on the night, including a beautiful goal from the slot, Lecavalier showed fans, and opposing players, that he can still be one of the most dangerous forwards in the game. For those who believe that this team is a one line team, open your eyes. This franchise has arguably the best 1-2 punch at center ice in the league right now. Vinny, Marty, and Stammer form one of the most dominant trios in the modern day NHL.

Martin St. Louis
Remember when we were all scared by his eye injury? How would he come back, would he be scared to go into the tough areas? Well, I think those questions have all answered themselves. Here is a guy who has defied all odds throughout his National Hockey League career. Not only is he an offensive force, despite his diminutive stature, but he’s also the heart and soul of hockey in Florida (yes, I’m including the Panthers there). Right now, he is one of the best ambassadors to the game for young kids, fans like myself and age-old veterans who simply love the game.

Tonight’s hat-trick, the fifth of his National Hockey League career, capped off a very special day. On the day of his 900th career game, Marty St. Louis turned in a performance that is going to turn some heads on NHL highlight reels around the media world. He is consistently showing that even at age 36, he can still be one of the best players in the game.

With 10 points in his last 5 games, Marty is going to be counted on to deliver big game performances at the Bolts make their quest towards a playoff berth. My hunch? He won’t disappoint.

Steven Stamkos
It’s always nice for the Bolts when Steven Stamkos isn’t relied upon to produce all the offense in a game. With another two points tonight, including his 34th goal of the season, Stamkos is proving all doubters wrong. Yes, there are doubters out there. I’ve talked to numerous hockey fans who still believe that this guy is a one-dimensional player. That’s plain wrong.

When you think about the stretch run, it’s pretty obvious that no player is going to be counted on more than Steven Stamkos. He is on pace for more than 50 goals and 90 points this season putting him in contention for many scoring awards. If the Lightning are going to make the playoffs, he’s the guy who is going to get them there.

The Standings

3rd Place: Florida Panthers with 59 Points through 51 Games
8th Place: Toronto Maple Leafs with 60 Points through 52 Games
9th Place: Washington Capitals with 58 Points through 51 Games
10th Place: Winnipeg Jets with 54 Points through 53 Games
11th Place: Tampa Bay Lightning with 51 Points through 51 Games

The Lightning currently boast a 6-3-1 record in their last 10 games. Obviously the past doesn’t mean a lot when it comes to the future, but it is worth noting that every team the Lightning are chasing down for the two spots available has a worse record in the same 10 game span. That’s just a little food for thought. Being 8 points out of a playoff spot with 31 games to go isn’t such a terrible spot to be.

Post-Game Notes

* First and foremost, I’d like to mention the fans. Yet another sellout occurred tonight at the Tampa Bay Times Forum. For a franchise that was once struggling to draw people in, there has been quite a turnaround.

* Victor Hedman had another really strong game on both sides of the puck tonight. He moves the puck so incredibly well and seems to always be in the right spot defensively. As I’ve said before, he just makes the defense core that much better. His presence was missed while he was out; having him back should mean a few more Ws down the stretch.

* The Brett Connolly puzzle continues. Is there an attitude issue, or is this something more? Whatever the case, Connolly isn’t getting a real good shot right now. Perhaps he should still be playing in junior and developing with big minutes. To me, that would make a lot more sense. He isn’t developing at all right now under Guy Boucher; in fact, he is probably losing confidence at an alarming rate.

* Mathieu Garon wasn’t very busy tonight. If you looked at his stat line, you might think that he had an ugly game; that wasn’t the case. Garon made the saves he had to in order to keep this game close when it was close. That’s all this team needs from a goaltender. As the days go by, the need for a stop-gap to come in and “save the season” is shrinking. Garon is proving that he is more than capable of doing what this team needs.

Trade of the Day

Over at Canucks.com, fans were discussing the possibility of trading Cory Schneider to Tampa. Here was one proposal fans drafted up. My question to Bolts Nation is, would you make this deal?

To Tampa Bay:
Cory Schneider

To Vancouver:
Brett Connolly
2012 First Round Draft Pick

That’s just some food for thought. Personally, I would do it. As the days go by, it looks more and more like the Lightning won’t be picking the top-5. In fact, as it sits right now, the Lightning would be picking in the number 7 slot. With the way the Bolts have been playing lately, there’s a good chance that they move down in draft position before the season is over. Bob McKenzie of TSN believes that the drop-off in talent occurs right around that number 7 slot. So, if the Lightning are going to be drafting somewhere in that 8-11 region, are you willing to trade that pick?

Anyways, thanks for reading this somewhat philosophical game review. The Lightning now have a couple days off before they finish off this home stand against the Los Angeles Kings. This could work out to be a very tight, physical hockey game. I’ll be back with my game preview for that one within a couple of days.

Follow me on Twitter: @TBLHockeyBuzz
Filed Under:   tampa   bay   lightning   florida   panthers   review  
February 4, 2012 10:53 PM ET | Delete
No way Jose! Not gonna happen Van.
February 4, 2012 11:11 PM ET | Delete
But my own (very unscientific) calculation TB would need to target at least 90 (last year the 8th seed got 93) to stand a playoff chance. With 51 point and 31 games remaining, that's roughly 2 wins out of every 3 games, or something a derivation of 20-11-0. So if the current pace of 6-3-1 over the last 10 is kept up, that just might do it.
February 4, 2012 11:13 PM ET | Delete
Re the trade, I highly doubt Van make that trade. The loss of Schneider in the short term would hurt more than the addition of Connolly.
February 5, 2012 2:04 AM ET | Delete
I would make that trade right now. But thats not gonna happen
February 5, 2012 3:11 AM ET | Delete
Alex: Yeah I think 92 is the number to get to. It's going to be tough to get there, but I do think it's do-able. It all starts with another win against the Kings two days from now. Take it one game at a time, and good things will happen. As for the trade, I guess the Vancouver mentality is that when the Sedins are gone, Hodgson and Connolly would be the front line guys along with Kesler.
February 5, 2012 9:08 AM ET | Delete
As long as they keep worrying about them selves and not anyone above them they will be have a chance. As a fan thats all i can ask for, no more 5-6 game loosing streaks and the season wont feel like such a loss if they miss the playoffs. Don't get me wrong i want to see them there but we are not the perennial playoff team just yet, another year or 2 and it would be devastating for a playoff miss.
February 5, 2012 9:15 AM ET | Delete
I don't see the trade going thru. That's a trade previous regimes would do and This is Yzerman and I have a hard time thinking he would technically give 2 1st for a goalie. Connolly i think is just getting a taste of the pro's, next year it wouldn't shock me to see him with the Admirals at least to start the season. He is still getting better developement with the big club then playing juniors. Time will tell i guess
February 5, 2012 9:36 AM ET | Delete
Oomroy: I agree that as long as we end this season without the losing streaks, and the sour taste that comes with them, I'll be happy. It will be interesting to see what happens with Connolly moving forward. Personally, I wouldn't be shocked if he was really unhappy with his current situation. I guess only he knows for sure.
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Blog Archive

01 Lightning News and Notes to Start December
02 Why Bolts Must Get Into Bobby Ryan Trade Discussions
02 Breaking News: Lightning Make Minor Trade with Panthers
03 10 Bold Predictions for Rangers vs. Lightning Game
04 Lightning Lose to Rangers: My Prediction Round Up
06 Simply Embarassing: Lightning Drop 5th Straight to Islanders
08 Lightning Beat Rangers to End Losing Streak - Mixed Bag
10 The 1-3-1 Returns: Flyers Take on Bolts at Wells Fargo
11 Lightning Fall to Flyers: The Slot Looks Like a Drive-Thru
12 From Bad to Worse + Lightning Sign Miettinen
14 Lightning Talk: Defensemen to Target in Free Agent Frenzy
14 Scenario
15 Bolts Squeeze By Flames Thanks to Dominant Second Period
17 Lightning Should Make a Push for Shea Weber
18 Bolts Down Blue Jackets + Rumor Round-Up
20 Why the Lightning WILL make the Playoffs This Season
22 Lightning Embarrassed by Sharks in San Jose: U-G-L-Y
22 Tampa Bay Lightning: I Want Your Opinions
23 Bolts vs. Avalanche: A Long-Winded Game Preview
24 Bolts Lose to Avalanche in Goalie Battle + Rumor Round-Up
25 Risky Business: Victor Hedman and Other Top-5 D-Men
26 Flyers vs. Bolts Shaping Up to be a Great Game -- Preview
27 Next 6 Games Vital for Lightning + My Predictions
27 Bryzgalov Shaky as Lightning Beat Up on Flyers
29 A Tale of Two Underperforming Teams: Bolts vs. Canadiens
29 A V for Vinny, a V for Victory: Bolts Down Habs 4-3
30 Bolts/Canes Preview + HB Hotstove Response + Rumor Update
31 Lightning Defeat 'Canes 5-2 on Phil Esposito Night