Saturday, October 4, 2008

Game 1: Tampa Bay vs. the NY Rangers at Prague, CZ

The Tampa Bay Lightning had a great first 10 minutes. And then, well, the adrenaline wore off and they started getting into penalty troubles. I'm wondering if this is how it's just going to be this season, of if they'll settle down after a few games. The New York Rangers won 2-1.

I was expecting a bit more scoring by both teams, but in front of a new crowd and on an unfamiliar rink they both played pretty conservatively.

So, first impressions. One, I think that Lecavalier's shoulder is bothering him more than he would like to admit. He had a great first half of the first period - again with that disgustingly talented thing of passing the puck to himself between his legs and shooting - and then he sort of disappeared after that for most of the rest of the game.

Stamkos is about on par with Crosby when Crosby first broke into the league, I think. Perhaps even a bit better since he doesn't have the entire weight of the NHL on his shoulders from the very beginning. Stamkos will flourish because of that lack of exaggerated expectation and responsibility - and because he's got Lecavalier there to help ease the shocks for him, too.

The defense played about as I expected it would. They really aren't bad - they're just inexperienced. They made mistakes, and that was to be expected. Luckily they have Smith there to back them up. He was just fantastic. I don't know why the Lightning goaltenders aren't getting a lot of credit from the general hockey media. That baffles me.

I was a little disappointed in the forwards, tho. I expected better from them. But it is only the first game of the season, and half the team is new with a new coaching staff. They're still getting used to the system that Melrose has put in place - that much was obvious. There was a lot of miscommunication going on, particularly in the third period. Once they get that all figured out, then they should be fine.

St. Louis and Malone were probably the best guys on the ice for Tampa Bay - other than Smith and Stamkos, of course. Malone, despite his two penalties on the night (Meszaros had two penalties as well), played a good game. He and St. Louis seemed like the only ones out there who not only had it together, but really wanted to win. And Recchi played a pretty solid game as well.

I guess we'll see if the Lightning do a better job as the away team tomorrow.

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