What has gotten into Johan Holmqvist as of late? Back to back shutouts against the high-powered Pittsburgh Penguins and Ottawa Senators? On the road?
Maybe one can credit the addition of Kari Ramo into the equation. No longer can Holmer expect mediocrity in the form of Marc Denis to be competing for his job. Kari is young, hungry and wants it, something that Denis had never displayed. Maybe one can credit the bag skate and lecture after what was arguably the Bolt's worst display on home ice EVER when they were shut out by the Colorado Avalanche last week. Perhaps Holmer seized the opportunity to win his job back after riding the pine and watching Ramo man the crease. Whatever the reason, he's hot right now and you can't argue with that.
Holmer stopped all 52 of the shots he faced on this trip, and in the process reignited the Lightning's playoff hopes. They're not dead yet, folks. The Lightning, now sitting at 7 points behind the Southwest division leading Carolina Hurricanes with 2 games in hand, have once again made this a ballgame. If Holmer can keep the hot streak alive and the Lightning continue to get additional offense from guys not named Vinny and Marty, there is a VERY realistic chance that the Bolts could be right back in the mix. The Bolts were playing as a team these last 2 games........ Something they haven't done in quite awhile and something they'll absolutely have to do if they want to continue to be successful. Finding consistency is key right now, and unfortunately it's something the club has struggled with all season.........
That said, tomorrow night's home game against the Edmonton Oilers is huge. Not a doubt in my mind that Holmer will get the nod in net once again and the chance to keep the shutout streak alive. It is also being reported that Dan Boyle will be back sometime this week, possibly as early as tomorrow night.
Keys To the Game:
-Goaltending. Holmer needs to be good and give the team a chance to win. This has been his biggest problem for most of the year. He has been on fire as of late, so he will be a huge factor in this game.
-Defense. With a possible Dan Boyle return tomorrow night, things are looking up. Keep it simple, play sound positionally and execute those key first passes out out of the zone.
-Scoring. As I said before, it has to be a team effort. Seeing goals by Andre Roy and Kyle Wanvig was refreshing. Everyone needs to pitch in to be successful. Marty, Vinny and Vinny cannot be responsible for producing all the offensive output on this team. It needs to be supplemented. And Brad Richards needs to start making his presence known again.............
-Stay out of the Box. While Edmonton is not a powerhouse on the powerplay at 14.6%, the Bolts aren't exactly tearing it up on the PK at 80.9% (21st in the league). Don't give any unnecessary chances.
-Johan Holmqvist, for his recent efforts, was just named the NHL's Second Star of the Week.
-Brad Richards has just 2 goals in his last 16 games.
-Defenseman Dan Boyle is expected to return to the lineup this week.
-On Tuesday, Coach John Tortorella will tie the late Herb Brooks for most games by a US-born coach at 506. He needs 7 more wins to tie Bob Johnson's (great name) record for most wins by a US born coach at 234.
-Lightning GM Jay Feaster sees a less-than-usual amount of transactions going down between teams as a result of the salary cap era. Feaster is noted as saying that he is still looking to improve the team, but if they are out of playoff contention come the trade deadline, he'd "have to be realistic" and try and move some of the Lightning's unrestricted assets before they can walk for free. Don't expect any blockbusters, as Feaster is pretty much handcuffed in that department right now with a possible change in ownership looming.