It’s tough to measure the impact that one win can have on an NHL franchise. Still, last night’s Lightning win against the New York Islanders should be counted as a big one. It’s not a big one because it keeps the Bolts mathematically alive in the Eastern Conference playoff race; it’s a big one because it showed heart and resiliency from a group that could have easily gone to sleep and played for a top-5 draft pick. That’s not the Steve Yzerman way. This team just won’t go to sleep regardless of the standings, regardless of injuries and regardless of league expectations. Tonight’s win was about more than two points; it was about setting a standard for solid performances. Every player who comes up through the ranks of the Tampa Bay Lightning system needs to know that losing is not acceptable. Right now, that’s the way this group is playing. Let’s take a look at some post-game notes from tonight’s tilt.
* Who is this Dwayne Roloson guy and when did he learn to play goalie? For a guy who struggled all season long, Rollie the Goalie has put together a couple of really solid performances this week. First he beat his old Oiler team and then he beat his old Islander team. Can we just play teams that Roloson’s played for in the past? Hello, Minnesota Wild! In all seriousness, it’s nice to see Roloson playing well. In all likelihood, he will retire at the end of the season so it’s nice to see him going out on a high note. Keep up the solid play and go out in style!
* Steven Stamkos ended his scoring “drought” as he notched his 51st and 52nd goals tonight. I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again. Stammer has really developed into a more dynamic threat this season. On the first goal, he went to the net and took advantage of a loose puck in the crease. The Steven Stamkos of two years ago would have never even been in that position. Imagine this kid when he is 26 or 27 years old! He’s going to be even more of a rock star than he already is. Look out world, Stammer is coming for you.
* Teddy Purcell continued his high level of play last night and got in on the offense as well. For a guy who couldn’t make the Los Angeles Kings, he’s certainly turned into an excellent player. At the intermission, he spoke about being given the opportunity to succeed under Guy Boucher. That’s exactly what this Lightning group is all about; Purcell is a perfect example of how a guy can run with an opportunity and become an integral part of this team’s success.
* Speaking of success, how about the line combination of Connolly, Pyatt and Malone? Guy Boucher may have found a winner with that trio. Over the past month and a half, Connolly has looked like a completely re-vamped player. He’s using his size and strength to move the puck into the offensive zone and he is creating offensive chances because of it. Tonight, Tom Pyatt was the beneficiary of some great work by Connolly as he scored his 11th of the season. That line is playing really well right now. Connolly and Pyatt are two guys playing for jobs next season. This sort of inspired hockey is great to see.
* Some good news from the Lightning today as it looks like Vinny Lecavalier may be able to make the trip with the Lightning this week. When/Whether he’ll play remains to be seen but it’s a good sign that he is getting better and ready to come back and help this team down the stretch. Also of note: Nate Thompson and Adam Hall are working hard to come back before the season ends. To the casual observer, that may not mean much. However, it really shows the kind of guys that this Lightning club has on the roster. This team, in all likelihood, is not going to make the playoffs. Having guys who want to come back, rather than guys who want to take an extended summer, speaks volumes about the character of this organization. Top notch guys.
* Tim Wallace has been a great story since joining the big club this season. He scores at key times, is hard on the forecheck and he seems like a quality guy in the dressing room. It goes to show you that hard work and determination can go a long way in deciding whether or not a player makes the NHL or not. Here’s a guy I could see sticking around for a little while as the Lightning attempt to build a winner over the summer.
Well folks, there you have it. The Lightning now head out on a really tough three game road trip with back-to-back games in Philadelphia and Boston and then another game in New Jersey to close out the trip. I’ll try to have a blog or two up during that time as I work on launching my own site within the next couple weeks. Thanks so much for reading, and as always, GO BOLTS!
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