Saturday, February 9, 2008

Game 56 - Tampa Bay at Atlanta

Well, the hockey game had its good news and bad news. The bad news is that the Lightning lost. The good news is that they lost in overtime, which still gives them a point in the standings bumping them back up to being only 6 points out of first for the Southeast Division again. Atlanta is now tied for first in the division with Carolina, for the time being at least.

It was a smart, well-played game by Tampa Bay. The goal against them in overtime was a lucky one for Atlanta, with Kuba having broken his stick just before the puck came into the Lightning's defensive end. It was definitely a lucky break for the Thrashers. (Hey, I made a funny!)

No one line and no one individual - other than Holmqvist - stood out in this game. I think that's a very good thing, really. Sure, you want your top players to run the game and be outstanding. But on the other hand, a solid total-team effort is what gets you into playoffs. Your team is only as good as your weakest player, after all. Most people don't really realize that, if they even think about it at all.

I think Holmqvist was outstanding tonight. For all of those people who think that the Lightning need top-notch goaltending, well, they have it. It's easy to make a goalie the scapegoat since they're the ones who let the pucks get past them. But it's not only unfair to do that, it's just sloppy thinking.

Let's be honest, while Brodeur is an excellent goaltender, a big part of the reason his stats were so outstanding for so many years was because he had the likes of Scott Stevens and Scott Niedermayer playing in front of him. That's the real reason why New Jersey hasn't been as good the last couple of years - lack of high-caliber defensemen in front of Brodeur. And, obviously, Brodeur hasn't been used to that.

Brodeur is, like I said, a great goalie - probably one of the best ever - but not even he can do it all alone. And it's the same for Holmqvist & Ramo, as well as every other goaltender that plays hockey at any level. Not to throw stones at the Lightning defensemen or anything; they're just not all that experienced is all, and that's not their fault. You've got to remember that this is a young group of defensemen on this team, and that makes a big difference.

It was a solid team effort by Tampa Bay for most of the game - just what they needed. The first five minutes or so was a little slow, but that's the way it's been most of the season. They also needed two points, but at least they managed to not walk away empty handed. So they're still headed in the right direction. You can't ask for any more from them than that.

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