Thursday, April 26, 2007

Who Will Be Available - Part 1:Goalies

I will be doing a few posts showing who will be available in free agency this summer. First off will be goaltenders. It seems this is the biggest topic of conversation in Lightning circles. If the Lightning choose to stay with Holmer and Ramo, next year could be a repeat of this past season, musical goalies part 3. But most "experts" have the Lightning going after a veteran "1 year guy" to let Ramo develop his NHL skills for one more year before he is handed the keys to the car. Here are the top unrestricted free agents:

1. Dominik Hasek (Detroit):
Age 42, 06-07 Stats: 38-11, 2.05, .913

2. Jean-Sebastien Giguere (Anaheim):
Age 30, 06-07 Stats: 36-10, 2.26, .918

3. Ed Belfour (Florida):
Age 42, 06-07 Stats: 27-17, 2.77, .902

4. Niklas Backstrom (Minnesota):
Age 29, 06-07 Stats: 23-8, 1.97, .929

5. David Aebischer (Montreal):
Age 29, 06-07 Stats: 32-13, 3.17, .900

6. Robert Esche (Philly):
Age 29, 06-07 Stats: 5-9, 4.32, .872

7. Curtis Joseph (Phoenix):
Age 39, 06-07 Stats: 18-31, 3.19, .893

Important Dates:
Jun. 22 - 23: NHL Entry Draft in Columbus
Jul. 1: Free Agency period begins

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Tuesday, April 24, 2007

A Quick Look Ahead


What direction will the Lightning be going this off season? We'll know in the months to come. In the meantime, here's how things look with a few guys:





Fedotenko: Gone. Unrestricted free agent. Scratched from game 6.


Sarich: Probably gone. Unrestricted free agent, will get more from other teams than the Lightning will be able or willing to pay.


Denis: ??? Under contract but demoted to 3rd goalie for playoffs. Not sure if any team will want to pick up his $2.8 mil. May end up in Norfolk or will have his contract bought out.


Artyukhin: Will be back. The fences have been mended and he was offered a $475,000 one-way contract.


Taylor: The Captain will have hip surgery in the off season that will require a 6 month rehab. May be the end of the road for his career.

"I do have a game plan," Feaster said.

Said Tortorella: "What cuts do is cut into your core. It's pretty scary what core you're talking about. It's one of those top four guys. I'm not telling the owners what to do. I'm speaking as a coach."

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Sunday, April 22, 2007

End of the Road: TB2 - NJ 3


Brad Richards' 2 goals weren't enough to overcome all the mistakes, and New Jersey came away withe the game and series win. Too many penalties, too little discipline. Jersey played their game, and the Lightning played right into their hand.

This series was the Bolts season in microcasm. Flashes of brilliance, at times looking like cup contenders. But highs were shortlived as the relatively young and inexperienced Lightning seemed to fall apart. In the end, the Bolts put together a 3 game losing streak at the worst time of the year.

Officiating, near misses, and Brodeur aside, the Lightning just weren't good enough to beat he #2 seed in the East. Good but not great goaltending and sloppy defense ultimately saw to the Bolts demise. The team has some obvious issues to address in the off season, and we'll be following along to see what the Bolts do.

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Game Preview - Game 6


TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- The Tampa Bay Lightning said all the right things.

Yes, they are confident their first-round playoff series against New Jersey will go the distance. No, it won't be easy to overcome a 3-2 deficit against Devils goalie Martin Brodeur. And, yes, it would be nice -- though not imperative -- to get an offensive boost from someone not named Vincent Lecavalier or Martin St. Louis.

Game 6 is Sunday.

"We have to win. That's what it comes down to," Lightning forward Jason Ward said Saturday. "It doesn't matter if it's 1-0 and Vinny scores, or it's 4-3 and four guys who haven't scored at all score."

Lecavalier and St. Louis combined for eight goals and six assists in the first four games of the best-of-seven series, however the high-scoring tandem was shut down in New Jersey's 3-0 victory in Game 5 on Friday night.

After giving up three goals in each of the first four games, Brodeur made 31 saves to push Tampa Bay to the brink of elimination.

Throughout the series, Lightning coach John Tortorella has talked about the importance of the team's best players performing like stars. He reiterated Saturday that another key to advancing in the playoffs is having less-heralded players step up their games as well.

"I think there's still plenty of series left to see a surprise," Tortorella said.

But time is running out.

Lecavalier and St. Louis have scored eight of the Lightning's 12 goals. Although Vinny Prospal delivered the winner in a 3-2 victory in Game 3, there hasn't been enough production from the supporting cast.

Tortorella benched Ruslan Fedotenko, one of the unsung heroes during Tampa Bay's Stanley Cup run in 2004, for Game 5. The forward has no points in the series and has scored just one goal in his last 29 games.

"There's pressure on everybody," St. Louis said, adding that there's still time for others to step up. "I think we feed off that as a team. But it doesn't take the pressure off anybody. We all have pressure to do the best job we can."

New Jersey's confidence was bolstered with Brodeur reverting to the form that helped him become one of the best playoff goaltenders in history. Friday night's victory moved him into a tie with Grant Fuhr for second place on the career postseason win list with 92.

The Devils insisted they were never concerned about the 34-year-old goalie, who had never before allowed three goals in four consecutive playoff games.

"There's no question he's the best in the game," New Jersey's Zach Parise said. "You knew eventually he was going to play like that."

The Lightning outshot the Devils 31-14, however Brodeur got stronger as the game progressed.

"When the bounces are going your way, mentally you feel like you're going to make the next stop," Brodeur said, adding that he didn't make any adjustments from the previous four games.

Brodeur noted the Devils played better defensively as a team, limiting Lecavalier and St. Louis' scoring opportunities. New Jersey coach Lou Lamoriello stopped short of saying his team has figured out how to slow down the tandem.

"You're talking about two elite players," Lamoriello said. "But we know in our minds how we have to play as a team."

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Friday, April 20, 2007

On the Brink: TB 0 - NJ 3


The Lightning will be fightning for their playoff life Sunday after dropping game 5 in Jersey 3-0 to the Devils and falling behind 3-2 in the series. The Lightning outshot the Devils 31-14, but failed to get any past Martin Brodeur. He did have help from the goal post on seperate opportunities by St. Louis and Lecavalier, as well as a block off the shaft of his stick. In a game of inches and lucky bounces, everything went Jersey's way.

The Jersey goals came from Green, Gionta and an empty netter from Gomez.

The Lightning will play Sunday at 1:00 at the Forum to try and even this series up and send it back to Jersey for a game 7.

Notes:

Ruslan Fedotenko was relplaced on the second line by Adreas Karlsson. Torts said "we've been waiting for Feds to get going, we're not waiting anymore." Fedotenko had no ice time in the game.

Andre Roy received a game misconduct for not having his jersey tied down during his fight at the end of the third.

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Game Preview: TB vs. NJ Game 5


What is there really to say. The Bolts have to stay out of the box and not turnover the puck. Holmer has to continue to step up, and Vinny and Marty need to do what they do. The D needs to shut Parise down.

The Devils need to keep the emotion high, and keep feeding Parise. Expect Brodeur to be solid and the Devils to do their lockdown the neutral zone turnover thing.

This series is so evenly matched, who ever comes out with more intensity and plays a clean game will probably win.

The Bolts have been good on the road this year, especially in Jersey where they have won 3 out of 4.

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Thursday, April 19, 2007

In Holmer We Trust


To think, just 2 weeks before the playoffs started Holmqvist had been sat, yet again, in favor of Marc Denis. Flashbacks of last seasons pathetic goalie by committee and subsequent struggle to get in were invading my thoughts. It looked like we were sliding, and fast, right out of the playoff picture. Then with Denis playing like garbage, the goalie carousel turned once again, Torts manned up and put Holmer in for good. At the time I thought, well at least until he gives up a few bad goals, then in Denis will come back. But to Torts credit, he proved me wrong. Holmer was yanked in the Florida game, the debacle that saw the Bolts division title hopes dashed. But the next night in Atlanta, he was back in net, and he put in a solid effort in an OT loss to the Thrash. To see him in there that night was reassuring, was it possible the game of musical goalies was really over?

Indeed it was. Just days before the Lightning were to take the ice in game 1 against New Jersey, Torts came out and made rookie call-up, Karri Ramo, the playoff back up to Holmer, relegating Denis to the third goalie position. That move seemed puzzling. If the Bolts were going to do this, why didn't they move Denis before the trade deadline and get something for him? Now his value is zero. But that is why I am not a coach or GM. The organization was less concerned with Denis future value, and more concerned with Holmer's confidence heading into the post season. Not having to look over at the bench and see Denis waiting to come in was the shot in the arm Holmer needed. He wasn't going to get pulled if he let in a soft one, he was THE MAN.

What a job he has done since. He has held the Bolts in this series making one sick save after another. If not for his play in net last night, the Bolts could have been pounded much like they were in that Florida game. His playoff stats are good not great, 3.10 GAA, .899 SV%, but the stat sheet doesn't always reflect a player's value to his club. He has matched the play of Brodeur, one of, if not the best goalies to play the game, and has showed poise that makes you forget that he is playing in his first ever playoff series.

Whether the Lightning win or lose the series (Bolts in 6!) they have already won in one respect. Finding their #1 netminder. It took a long painful season to get here, but it has been worth it. Watching this kid is a treat, and I can't wait until game 5 to see what he comes up with next.

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Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Opportunity Lost: TB3 - NJ4 (OT)


The Lightning came back from a 3-1 deficit to force overtime, but the New Jersey Devils prevailed in overtime winning 4-3. The game winning goal came from Scott Gomez unassisted on a wrister from the left point after he blocked a Corey Sarich shot. Gomez's shot beat Holmqvist high glove, and evened the series at 2 games each heading back to Jersey Friday night.

The game started out bad for the Lightning who came out uninspired and lethargic. They were sloppy on the puck and at the blue line. The first Jersey goal came at 14:20 from Zach Parise. The Lightning answered 2 minuets later on a slap shot from the point by Eric Perrin. New Jersey took the lead at 6:04 on a goal from Brian Gionta just 1 second after a Brad Richards penalty had expired.

Zach Parise got his second goal of the game at 9:42 of the second. Marty St. Louis answered minutes later on a re-direct from Filip Kuba. Finally with a renewed vigor, the Bolts tied it up at three when Vinny Lecavalier put home a feed from Vinny Prospal at 15:20.

After a scoreless third the game went into overtime. After killing a penalty and looking in control, Corey Sarich had a shot blocked at the point by Scott Gomez who skated into the Lightning zone a ripped a shot high over the glove of an outstretched Holmqvist for the game winner.

The series will head back to the Jersey swamp for game 5 Friday night.

Commentary:

This game could have been ugly. The Bolts came out flat for the first period and a half, and if not for Holmqvist would have been dead in the water. Jersey was getting to the loose pucks, forcing turnovers and drawing penalties. The Lightning seemed content to stand around and watch the Devils skate and control the game. Not until St. Louis' goal in the second did the Bolts come to life. They got back to what made them successful in the previous two games, a solid forecheck and puck support. Brodeur finally showed up, and like Holmer, if not for some great saves in the second half of the game, the Bolts could have walked away with their third win in a row. For the Lightning Holmer, Marty, Vinny and Vinny were great, the rest of the cast was just o.k.

For the Devils, Gomez played like a man posessed and Parise showed he is a star in the making netting 2 goals. Looks like we have a series folks. This is possibly the most even playoff matchup, and could easily go seven. I still say Bolts in 6!

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Game Preview: TB vs. NJ Game 4


The Lightning come into tonights game having won 2 in a row. The Bolts have made Martin Brodeur look average at best. In order to continue their success, the Lightning have to continue to get the contributions from the "Big 3" they have been getting in the 1st three games. The Bolts need to stay out of the penalty box as Jersey has been strong on the powerplay, and they need to limit their turnovers. The big key for the Bolts is netminder Johan Holmqvist who, in the past two games, has outplayed his counterpart at the opposite end of the ice.

For New Jersey it's simple, they need a better game from Martin Brodeur. He has given up 9 goals in 3 games, very un-Brodeur like. The Jersey defense has to find an answer for Lecavalier and St. Louis. And the team as a whole needs to find a way to match the intensity of Tampa Bay.

This should be a hard checking, in-your-face game between these two clubs. With a win, Tampa Bay will head back to Jersey up 3-1 and in total control. A Jersey win would quell the Tampa momentum, and send the series back to NJ all tied up.

Face off is at 7pm EST at the Saint Pete Times Forum.

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Who is this Masked Man?


BORN: Tolfta, Sweden, May 24, 1978.
HEIGHT: 6'2"
WEIGHT: 198 lbs.
UNIFORM #: 32 (NY Rangers), 31 (Hartford), 29 (Houston), 30 (Sweden), 40 (Tampa Bay).
CATCHES: Left

Scouting Report:
Has good size for a goalkeeper. Is mature beyond his years and has excelled at every level he's played regularly.

Career Path:
* Selected by New York Rangers in seventh round (ninth Rangers pick, 175th overall) of National Hockey League entry draft, June 21, 1997.
* Traded by Rangers to Minnesota Wild for D Lawrence Nycholat, March 11, 2003.
* Resigned as unrestricted free agent by Minnesota, July 8, 2003.
* Signed with Brynas IF (Swedish Elitserein) during NHL lockout, July 29, 2004.
* Released by Minnesota, August 1, 2004.
* Signed one-year contract as unrestricted free agent with Tampa Bay Lightning, June 1, 2006.

Accolades:
* Winner, Jack Butterfield Trophy (AHL Calder Cup playoff Most Valuable Player), 2002-03.
* Member of Calder Cup champion Houston Aeros, 2002-03.
* Member of gold medal-winning Sweden, 2006 IIHF World Championships, May 21, 2006.

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Monday, April 16, 2007

On a Mission: TB 3 - NJ 2



Tortorella said "If our best players are better than their best players, we'll win this series." Tonight the Lightning's best: Lecavalier, St. Louis, and Richards were far better for the second game in a row, leading the Lightning to 3-2 win in game 3 and a 2-1 series advantage. Also for the second game in a row, the rookie, Johan Holmqvist outplayed his rival at the opposite end of the ice, making one spectacular save after another finishing with 30 on the night.

The Lightning scoring got started at 9:06 in the first on Vinny Lecavalier's 4th goal of the playoffs (can you say Hart Trophy), a powerplay score that snuck by Brodeur just inside the right post.

New Jersey got on the board at 17:21 in the second on a backhander from John Madden that bounced around and off the inside of the left post to beat Holmqvist.

The Lightning started the scoring in the third as Brad Richards scored 1:09 into the frame. Jersey countered at 4:46 on a goal by Zach Parise that ricocheted off Dan Boyle past a sliding Holmqvist. The game winner came at 13:31 in the third when Vinny Prospal redirected a Vinny Lecavalier feed past Brodeur. "Like we've been saying the past few days, everyone in this room respects them, and [Martin Brodeur] may be the best ever, but there is no fear," Tampa Bay defenseman Dan Boyle said after Monday's Game 3. "There is a big difference from respecting someone and fearing them."

The Lightning have taken a 2 games to 1 lead in the best of seven series. Game four will be Wednesday at 7:00 at the Forum.

Special Note: Our friends over at Japers' Rink are looking for photos from folks at the game: "In an attempt to live vicariously through fans whose teams are actually in the playoffs, we've started a recurring feature - "The View From Your Playoff Seat" - and we're hoping to get people to send in pics to capture the game experience." If you want to send in your pix to the folks at Japers' Rink, e-mail them to: Japers.Rink.Photos@gmail.com

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Game Preview: TB vs. NJ Game 3


(Sports Network) - The Tampa Bay Lightning will try to make it two in a row over the New Jersey Devils tonight, when the series shifts to Tampa for Game 3 of the Eastern Conference quarterfinals.

The first two games in this best-of-seven set were in New Jersey and the Lightning earned a split in those tests by taking Game 2 at the Meadowlands on Saturday.

The great Brodeur has seemed mortal so far in this series, yielding six goals on 46 shots for a mediocre save percentage of .870. This is after the future Hall-of-Famer had another Vezina-caliber regular season in which he posted an NHL-record 48 wins to go with a .922 save percentage and 2.18 goals against average.

With Saturday's setback, New Jersey has surrendered home-ice advantage to the Lightning for the time being. The Devils, however, were an impressive 24-14-3 as the away team during the regular season and would like to carry that road success into Games 3 and 4 in Tampa.

The Lightning, meanwhile, were not exactly dominant at home this season, going 22-18-1 as the hosts.

Game 4 of this series is scheduled for Wednesday evening 7:00 EST at the Forum.

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Sunday, April 15, 2007

Doubts in NJ?


Seems Jersey fan is a bit worried these days, and for good reason. Marty the Great has been beaten. "We knew (the Lightning) were gifted offensively, and I think they exposed us a little bit scoring six goals in the two games," Brodeur said.

A little bit? This years probable Mr. Vezina has been lit up in 2 games. Vinny has gotten to him 3 times, Marty twice, and they knew that line was what drives this team, but they still haven't been able to stop them. Whether they are together or they're split, they're two players you have to be aware of and watch," Lamoriello said. That's all the Devils have been doing, watching the duo skate past them and score.

The Devils have only had a small taste of the offense the Bolts can produce. If they stay out of the box, and stay clean on the the turnover front, I would be surprised if this series didn't head back to Jersey with the Bolts up 3-1.

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Saturday, April 14, 2007

Bolts Gitter Done!: TB 3 - NJ 2


Vinny Lecavalier netted the game winner on a deflection just minutes into the third, and the Lightning beat the Devils 3-2 Saturday evening in Jersey. Philip Kuba got the Lightning scoring going with a shorthanded goal off a feed from Eric Perrin in the 1st. Marty St. Louis scored with under a minute left in the second on an odd angle shot that went between the legs of Brodeur to tie it up after 2. Johan Holmqvist responded with a solid game stopping 34 shots, including shutting down a Devils surge with seconds left in the final frame to preserve the win. The series now heads back to Tampa Monday night tied up at 1 game each.

The Bolts played a total game tonight. Solid on the forecheck, and in the neutral zone. The turnovers that haunted the them in game one were gone. The only hiccups were a few penalties taken at bad times, mainly the "too many men on the ice" that eventually ended up a 5-3 Devils powerplay and led to the second Jersey goal. Most of all, any questions about the ability of Holmer to be the man in net were answered time and time again as he stopped 34 0f 36 shots. Marty and Vinny were relentless, Fedotenko played big in the corners, giving the Jersey Defense fits. In all, a very good complete effort by the Bolts. Three more like tonight and we will be on to round 2.

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Friday, April 13, 2007

What to take away from game 1


Usually with a 5-3 loss, there is little positive to take away. But this game was different. Jersey played they way everyone expects them to play. Solid defense, good forecheck and good goaltending. They make the opponent make mistakes and then they jump on them. No big surprise there.

The Bolts are a different study. We got what we expected from Marty and Vinny, and that is essential if the Lightning are going to compete in this series. What I was most impressed and encouraged by was the play of the 4th line, what I like to call "the Nasty Boys," Tarnasky, Roy and Karlsson. They came in and layed down huge hits, a relentless forecheck, and if not for Brodeur being Brodeur, Tarnasky lights the lamp. These guys were the spark plug in game 1 that got the Bolts going and nearly led to them stealing this one. This kind of contribution from the auxillary lines is what the Lightning need to be successful.

At no time in this game did I feel the Bolts were out of it. They have come back against Jersey in previous games, so being behind didn't bother me. At no time did i think, man...Jersey is sooo good. There is no reason the Bolts can't regroup, fix a couple of mistakes (mainly defensive zone turnovers) and take control of this series. I think Holmer got valuable experience in game 1, and will come out solid for ALL of game 2.

Look out Jersey, the boys from FLA have your number and are going to send you packing in 6.

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Thursday, April 12, 2007

One Down, Down One: TB 3 - NJ 5


Vinny Lecavalier had 2 goals and Marty St. Louis added another, but it wasn't enough as the Bolts dropped game one 5-3 to the Devils. Zach Parise netted two and Scott Gomez had three helpers for the home team. Martin Brodeur was solid in net for Jersey making 23 saves. For the Lightning, Holmqvist showed both flashes of brilliance and rookie inexperience. Down 4-3 in the 3rd with the Lightning pressing, Holmer decided not to freeze a puck and turned it over for what was the back breaking 5th goal. "Holmer played okay," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "It was his first game. He'll be better next game. All I'm looking for is for him to give a solid effort out there and I think our team will be okay."

The two teams face off again Saturday night in Jersey for game 2.

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It's On!


I have been enjoying the banter between Devils fan from "2 Man Advantage" and Bolts fan. This is the time of year that we all love. Tonight the boys will put it all on the line. I stand by my Bolts, and say we will take it in 6.

How about Torts? "Our team," he said, "is ready to play."

Enough said.


BTW, A special thanks to Sticks of Fire for publishing my Lightning/Jersey playoff preview.

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Wednesday, April 11, 2007

Lightning Watch Parties


Want to watch the games with your fellow Lightning Fans? Here are the official Lightning watch parties:

Thursday, April 12th, 2007 ~ 7:30pm
Gators Dockside (USF area) – Fowler Ave
Barnacles (Brandon) – Providence Road
Buffalo Wild Wings (Oldsmar) – Tampa Road
The Finish Line (St. Pete) – 4th Street & Gandy Blvd
Eddies Bar & Grill (Dunedin) – Alt 19 (Bayshore Blvd)
Hawk’s (South Tampa) – Bay to Bay Blvd
Muvico (Ybor) – 8th Ave

Saturday, April 14th, 2007 ~ 7:00pm
The Press Box (South Tampa) – S. Dale Mabry
Barnacles (Brandon) – Providence Road
Thirsty Marlin (Palm Harbor) – Florida Ave & Alt 19
Boston’s (North Tampa) – Anderson Road
The Finish Line (St. Pete) – 4th Street & Gandy Blvd
Buffalo Wild Wings (New Port Richey) – State Rd 54
Muvico (Ybor) – 8th Ave.

Friday, April 20th ~ 7:00pm (GAME 5, if necessary)
Hawk’s (South Tampa) – Bay to Bay Blvd
Boston’s (North Tampa) – Anderson Road
The Finish Line (St. Pete) – 4th Street & Gandy Blvd
Muvico (Ybor) – 8th Ave.

The first 40 fans who show up to each location after 6:30pm, dressed in Lightning attire
will receive a Lightning player Bobblehead!
(Fans MUST be dressed in Lightning attire to receive Bobblehead)
All Lightning fans will receive food & beverage discounts at all locations. Every 20 minutes
during the game fans will have a chance to win autographed merchandise & playoff
tickets!
Members of the E-team, as well as the Gold & Diamond Source Ice Girls will be in
attendance at the watch parties along with the Bud Girls!

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Bolts Blog Official 1st Round Picks: West



#1.Detroit vs. #8.Calgary
The Wings have been bounced in the first round the past 3 seasons. Not this year. This should be Datsyuk's coming out party. Figure in a dash of Zetterberg, a pinch of Holmstrom and a heaping helping of Hasek and the Wings will be too much for Calgary to handle.
Detroit in 7

#2.Anaheim vs. #7.Minnesota
Pronger, Neidermeier Giguerre. Home ice. Enough said.
Ducks in 6

#3.Vancouver vs. #6.Dallas
A matchup of elite goalies. Luongo is making his first playoff appearance, while Turco is trying to get the playoff monkey off his back. It will come down to speed and firepower, and I think Dallas has the edge. Should be a tight low scoring series.
Dallas in 7

#4.Nashville vs. #5.San Jose
I like the Sharks. 2 number one goalies, Thornton, Cheechoo, and now Weight. Nashville has tanked at the end of the year. They once looked like they had the division and possibly the conference locked up, but reality set in and not even Peter Forsberg could stop the fall.
San Jose in 6


There is the West, take it to the bank.

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Ramo will back up Holmer



Tortorella announced Tuesday that Ramo will back up Holmqvist in the playoffs. That is amazing. The guy you brought in to be the man at the beginning of the season is now out. Can you blame Torts? Denis is statistically the worst goaltender in the league this year with an .883 save percentage. He gives up too many soft goals, and at playoff time, that is unacceptable. "I'm somewhat surprised. But I know what I can do and was kind of waiting for something, maybe some game action or something like this," said Ramo. Asked how disappointed he was, Denis said one word: "Very."

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Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Bolts Blog Official 1st Round Picks: East



Here are my East Picks:

#1.Buffalo vs. #8.NY Islanders
If DiPietro plays for the Isles he may steal one. If not look for a first round sweep by the Sabres.
Buffalo in 5

#2.New Jersey vs. #7.Tampa Bay
Ths Devils can't score. The Lightning have too much fire power. Brodeur can't do everything.
Lightning in 6

#3.Atlanta vs. #6.NY Rangers
Lundqvist, Shannahan, Jagr...that should be enough add in Avery and the Rangers are too much for ATL to handle. The Thrash will be bounced in the 1st round in their 1st playoff appearance.
Rangers in 6

#4.Ottawa vs. #5.Pittsburgh
Ottawa is a playoff disappointment every year, and this year is no different. The Pens have too much firepower, youth mixed with veteran leadership and quality goal tending.
Pittsburgh in 5

Take this to Vegas and bet big!!!!

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Monday, April 9, 2007

Round 1 Prediction: Lightning in 6


I know I am in the minority (except for ESPN) picking the Bolts to win this series. Jersey has the great Martin Brodeur and home ice, so am I crazy or what? I don't think so, my wife may disagree, but I digress. Aside from Brodeur what does Jersey bring to the table? Not much. They are the lowest scoring team to make the playoffs and have their top players, Gionta, Gomez, Elias and Madden just coming back off injury. Durability is a question with these guys. Brodeur could put this team on his back and carry them to the promised land, but I doubt it. He will have to face a barrage of shots night after night from Marty, Vinny and the gang who have beaten Brodeur and the Devils in Jersey both times this season, and are 3-1 against hem overall. Holmqvist has had success against the Devils this season: 2-1 with a 1.30 goals-against average and a .946 save percentage. The Lightning are good away from home having gone 22-15-4 this season. And you can't discount having veteran leadership that has been there and done it. It won't be easy , but I think the Bolts will take one up in Jersey and 3 at home. I say Lighting in 6, you can take that one to the bank.

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Saturday, April 7, 2007

Bolts Lose in Shootout, Open Playoffs in Jersey: TB 2 - ATL 3 (SO)


Atlanta, GA (Sports Network) - Jon Sim scored in the sixth round of the shootout as the Atlanta Thrashers closed out their best regular-season ever with a 3-2 win over the Tampa Bay Lightning.

After a five-minute delay to repair the glass behind the Tampa net, Sim skated in, deked to his forehand and slid the puck between the pads of Johan Holmqvist.

Eric Perrin was the last hope for Tampa Bay, but Kari Lehtonen made a right pad save on Perrin's wrist shot for the win.

Vinny Prospal and Filip Kuba each had a goal for the Lightning (44-33-5), who dropped their last two games of the season.

The Lightning drew first blood in the game as Vincent Lecavalier sent a pass from the right circle to the top of the left circle where Prospal drifted in and banged a shot in off the right post just 1:19 into the game.

Holmqvist made 13 saves in the first period.

Tampa Bay took a 2-0 lead in the second as Tim Taylor won a right circle faceoff and drew the puck back to Kuba, who wristed a shot by Lehtonen with 7:38 left in the second.

Atlanta, though, got one back with a power-play goal as Kovalchuk received a pass at the left circle, held the puck to get Holmqvist down and then wristed a shot in with 2:19 to play in the second.

The Thrashers tied the game just 56 seconds into the third when Kozlov buried a puck in the back of the net from the low right side.

Holmqvist made 41 saves for Tampa Bay, which will start the playoffs in New Jersey.

"Throughout yesterday's game it was ugly," said Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella. "Holmqvist made some great saves tonight. Lehtonen made some great saves. It was a great game to watch, but they ended up with one more save than we did and got that extra point."

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Friday, April 6, 2007

No division title this year: TB 2 - FLA 7


With the Southeast division within reach, the Lightning came out flat and got pummeled by the Panthers 7-2. The loss coupled with Atlanta's win in Carolina, gave the Thrashers their first ever Southeast Division Title. The Lightning will now head to Atlanta to finish out their regular season schedule.

The Bolts gave up 4 goals on 12 shots in the opening frame, chasing Holmqvist, and never looked like they were in the game. The Panthers dominated the offensive zone with a relentless forecheck and skated around the Bolts like they were standing still. The only Lightning offense came in the third period as Jason Ward and Nick Tarnasky each scored. This was the 6th time in a row the Lightning lost their home finale.

The Lightning will either finish 6th or 7th in the Eastern Conference, and will match up against either Atlanta or New Jersey in the first round.

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Game Preview: TB Vs. FLA


With a playoff berth secured, the Tampa Bay Lightning still have a chance to enter the postseason as division champions.

The Lightning (44-32-4) look to win their fourth straight game and set up a possible showdown for the Southeast Division title as they meet the Florida Panthers on Friday night.

Tampa Bay was idle on Thursday, but clinched a playoff berth after the New York Rangers' 3-1 win over Montreal. The Lightning have 92 points, leaving them one point behind division-leading Atlanta which also plays Friday night against Carolina.

Tampa Bay will travel to Atlanta for the final regular-season game between the teams on Saturday night. The Lightning are 5-2-0 against the Thrashers in 2006-07.

First, the Lightning need to get past the Panthers, against whom they've been outscored 11-4 in two straight losses. Overall, Tampa Bay is 3-3-1 against Florida, but needs a big game from Vincent Lecavalier

Lecavalier leads the league with 52 goals and is third with 107 points. Against the Panthers, though, the top overall pick in 1998 has managed only two goals and four assists. Lecavalier and Dan Boyle scored less than 2 minutes apart early in the third period to defeat Carolina 3-2 on Tuesday and eliminate the defending Stanley Cup champions from the playoff chase.

"We're trying to build that intensity that you need in the playoffs," said Lightning forward Eric Perrin, who also scored.

Martin St. Louis, Tampa Bay's second-leading scorer with 101 points, has a six-game point streak versus the Panthers with four goals and five assists.

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See the Cup


See the cup and have some wings at Beefs on S. MacDill. The cup will be there today (4/6) from 12-2.

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Thursday, April 5, 2007

Bolts are in! (Updated)


This just in...the Rangers just beat Montreal in regulation. The loss by Montreal clinched a spot for the Bolts. Now it's up to them to win out and take the division! Thanks Rangers.

Update: Toronto just lost to the Islanders 5-2.

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Atlanta's Loss is Bolts Gain


Whoo Hoo...The Thrash got beat last night by Alex the Great!!! That means with 2 games left, the Bolts are only 1 point back of ATL. All the boys have to do is win out, including the season finally in Atlanta, and they take the division! To think, a week ago the bolts were sitting on 7th, 8th and not looking good. Now here they are, winners of 3 in a row, their fate in their own hands. Win out and not only do you make the playoffs, but you take the division and the 3rd seed. You gotta love this time of year. BTW keep an eye on the Toronto and Montreal games tonight, both have playoff implications for the Lightning. (see post below).


GO BOLTS!

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Burns says Vinny for MVP!

Here's a snippet of a piece on Vinny from TSN.

MONTREAL (CP) - Former NHL coach Pat Burns says that while Sidney Crosby may one day be the best player in hockey, that honour currently belongs to Vincent Lecavalier.

"He's the best hockey player in the National Hockey League by far," Burns said Wednesday while promoting a prostate cancer fundraiser.

"I saw a game in Tampa when he played against Crosby and he just put on a show. You could see Crosby thinking `I'm going to be good like that one day.' He's big, strong, he can skate, he can score and I'd say he's probably the best hockey player in the league.

"And him and Marty St. Louis are probably the best duo in the NHL."

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Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Down the stretch they come: Games to Watch


The Lightning could clinch a playoff berth before they even hit the ice Friday night against Florida. The Bolts only need to gain 1 point on Toronto or 2 on Montreal to sew up a playoff spot. A Leafs loss to the Islanders Thursday on the Island either in regulation or OT would clinch it for the Lightning. Montreal is at the Rangers Thursday night. A Montreal loss in regulation would clich a spot for the Bolts. Also, let's not forget the Lightning is only 1 point behind Atlanta for the Southeast lead. The Thrashers host the Capitals tonight in Atlanta. This season the Thrashers have taken 5 of 7 from the Caps, but who knows, Ovechkin and company could easily play spoilers to the division title aspirations in the ATL. If the Bolts take care of their business Friday night against Florida, they could be heading into Atlanta to play for the Division. By the end of the weekend it will all play out, and who knows, we could be raising another Southeast Division banner here in Hockey Bay!

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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Magic Number is 1: TB 3 - Car 2


Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Dan Boyle scored the game-winning goal early in the third period as the Tampa Bay Lightning downed the Carolina Hurricanes 3-2.

Vincent Lecavalier and Eric Perrin each added a goal for the Lightning, who have won three straight.

Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 shots for Tampa Bay, which now has 92 points and sits in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference. Also, Tampa Bay is just one point behind idle Atlanta for first place in the Southeast Division.

Carolina is now the first team since the 1995-96 Devils to miss the playoffs after winning the Stanley Cup the previous season.

Tampa Bay was trailing 2-0 early in the second period, but scored three unanswered goals to take the lead.

The Lightning got on the board at the 8:33 mark of the second when Jason Ward rushed into the Carolina end down the left wing and from the low left side flung a pass over the stick of a Carolina defender to Perrin, who banged the puck into the net out of mid-air to make it a 2-1 game.

Tampa Bay tied the game just 1:20 into the third period when Lecavalier scored on a wrist shot from the slot for his league-leading 52nd goal of the season.

The Lightning then grabbed their first lead of the game less than two minutes later as Boyle grabbed the puck in the neutral zone, split the defense and from the slot snapped a wrister into the left corner of the net for a 3-2 lead.

Holmqvist was called upon several times in the third period to preserve the lead and he stood tall as he stopped 13 shots in the final frame to preserve the victory.

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Game Preview TB vs. CAR


From Yahoo Sports:

The last two Stanley Cup champions, the Tampa Bay Lightning and Carolina Hurricanes, meet in a pivotal game Tuesday at the St. Pete Times Forum that's likely to have a major impact on the Eastern Conference playoff race.

With a victory and a Toronto loss the same night, the Lightning (43-32-4) would clinch their fourth straight playoff appearance. The defending champion Hurricanes (39-32-8), meanwhile, could move into a tie for eighth place -- or be eliminated from the race if they lose and Montreal defeats Boston.

This is the second matchup between the teams in a week. They met Friday at the RBC Center, with the Lightning winning 4-2 after twice rallying from one-goal deficits. Tampa Bay, which captured the Stanley Cup in 2004, followed up Friday's victory with a 5-2 win over Washington the next day.

Tampa Bay had lost five of seven prior to the back-to-back victories.

"We've got to keep it going," said Vincent Lecavalier, who scored his 51st goal of the season and added two assists Saturday. "A loss (Saturday) would have eliminated a little bit of what we did last night. When you win a big game, an emotional game like we did against Carolina, we've got to come back and back it up. If you don't do that, it definitely hurts you."

With three games left, Tampa Bay is only three points behind Atlanta for first place in the Southeast Division, but just two ahead of the eighth-place Canadiens. The Lightning close out the season Saturday against the Thrashers at Philips Arena.

Lecavalier, who has 106 points this season, has 15 goals and 24 assists in 45 games against the Hurricanes. The 39 points are second only to the 40 he has against the Capitals.

Tampa Bay leads the season series with Carolina 4-3-0. The Lightning have won three straight against the Hurricanes - all at the RBC Center - and nine of the last 12 meetings at Tampa.

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Monday, April 2, 2007

Devils fire coach

From TSN:

EAST RUTHERFORD, N.J. (CP) - Lou Lamoriello is back behind the bench in New Jersey.
The playoff-bound Devils have fired head coach Claude Julien with less than a week to go in the regular season with the veteran GM Lamoriello taking over for the second straight season.
Lamoriello also stepped behind the bench last season after Larry Robinson stepped down as coach in December.
The surprising move Monday comes with the Devils second in the Eastern Conference with a 47-24-8 record and 102 points. The Devils have won four of their last five games, including Sunday's 3-1 win over Boston. They went 6-6-2 in March while battling key injuries to Brian Gionta, John Madden and Patrik Elias.
Julien, a former Montreal Canadiens coach, took over the Devils on June 13, 2006, after Lamoriello relinquished the coaching duties.
It's reminiscent of the 1999-2000 season when the Devils fired head coach Robbie Ftorek on March 23 and went on to win the Stanley Cup under Robinson that spring.

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Magic Number is 3


The Bolts have shown they have some fight in them after all. Two straight wins have put the Lightning in good position. Any combination of the Bolts gaining 3 points on Toronto and they clich a playoff berth. Should the Lightning beat Carolina tomorrow and Toronto lose, either in regulation or OT to Philly, the Bolts are in. There is also the Southeast division race to watch as the Lightning are only 3 points back of Atlanta. This is a great time of year for hockey!

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Sunday, April 1, 2007

2 in a row: TB 5 - WSH 2


Tampa, FL (Sports Network) - Vincent Lecavalier had a goal and two assists as the Tampa Bay Lightning inched closer to securing a playoff berth with a 5-2 win over the Washington Capitals at St. Pete Times Forum.

Martin St. Louis and Dan Boyle each added a goal and an assist for the Lightning, who have won their last two games.

"It was a good game for us and I felt pretty comfortable, too," said Lecavalier. "I think right now we're playing as good as we can. We're playing hard, we're playing desperate."

Johan Holmqvist stopped 23 shots for Tampa Bay, which has 90 points and sits in the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference, one point ahead of the Rangers. Also, Tampa sits just three points behind Atlanta for first place in the Southeast Division.

Matt Pettinger and Matt Bradley each had a goal for the Capitals, who have dropped their past six contests. Olaf Kolzig stopped 24-of-28 shots.

"They got a good start, but overall I think we hung in there until we started to take penalties," said Washington coach Glen Hanlon. "Our goalie battled hard tonight."

Tampa drew first blood in the contest when Lecavalier scored his league- leading 51st goal of the season just 36 seconds into the contest.

Washington tied the game at the 11:16 mark of the first when Pettinger's one- timer from the low slot slid underneath the right pad of Holmqvist for his 16th goal of the season.

The Lightning, though, regained the lead with 6:31 left in the opening stanza as Ryan Craig used a defender to set up a screen and snapped a wrist shot between the pads of Kolzig for a 2-1 advantage.

Tampa made it a 3-1 game with just 1:56 left in the second when Boyle scored a power-play goal, his 19th marker of the season.

Holmqvist needed to make just five saves in the middle frame to keep Washington off the board.

The Lightning took a 4-1 advantage 7:35 into the third period as St. Louis skated in on a 2-on-1, slid a pass from the top of the right circle to Lecavalier, who immediately fed the puck back to St. Louis for a one-timer past Kolzig for his 43rd goal of the season.

Washington got a goal back with 53.5 seconds to play as Bradley snapped a loose puck into the right corner of the net.

Jason Ward, though, sealed the win for Tampa with an empty-net goal in the final seconds of the contest.

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