Monday, March 19, 2007

Ice Cold

With their 7-1 drubbing by the Caps Sunday afternoon, the Lightning find themselves on a 3 game losing streak. The Bolts now trail Atlanta by 6 points for the Southeast lead. What is more disconcerting is the fact that the Lightning are now only 3 points ahead of 8th place Carolina, and 4 points from being out of the playoffs. There have been many excuses made for the recent slump, most having to do with a tough road trip to Westen Canada, then back home for 1 game against East leading Buffalo, then back on the road to Washington. But is the road trip to blame? Or could it be that the holes in the Lightning lineup that have been there all year were exposed by the trip? Holes such as a no quality number one goaltender. Holes such as no second line scoring threats. Holes such as sub par defence. To compare we need to look no further than the Bolts Stanley Cup season. That year, aside from the Big 3, the Lightning had a solid #1 in goal in Khabibulin, quality second line scoring in Modin(57points) and Stillman (80 points) , and solid defense. Not to mention veteran experience and leadership in Dave Andreychuk. Compare that to now. In goal the Lightning have a rookie in Holmqvist (2.88/.891) and a veteran in Denis (3.13/.884) with a combined 0, games of playoff experience. A second line consisting of Eric Perrin (30 points) and Ruslan Fedotenko (30 points) that realistically are third liners at best. On defense, the only player with a +/- not in the negatives is Paul Ranger with a +3. Veteran leadership has been put in the hands of Tim Taylor who has posted 5 points this season and gets very little ice time. Feaster did adress defense at the trade deadline adding Shane O'Brien, a good puck moving defenseman who has been a nice addition to the line-up. But that is where it ended. No second line scoring, no veteran net minder with playoff experience. Which leaves us where we are today, in a similar situation to last season, fightning for our playoff lives. Even if the Lightning do make the post season, questions abound as to how far they can realistically go. If it's less than 2 rounds with fewer than 7 home games, ownership will lose money and will impose a team salary cap of $40 millon next year. That could mean the end of the big 3 era in Tampa Bay, and quite possibly the Feaster/Tortorella era as well.

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