Friday, February 29, 2008

Game 64 - Toronto at Tampa Bay

Please bear with me as I try to get back into the swing of things. My life is in a momentary state of transition at the moment. It's been rather a long moment, tho, at almost two months, but that's life. The end is in sight, however, so that's something.

To be brief, I'm still trying to fix my computer up the way I like it since I got it back yesterday - and fix the random stuff that wasn't dealt with, the weasels. And I'm also trying to pack up my life since I'll be moving to Virginia next weekend for a new job - unless something completely unexpected happens in the meantime. Sometimes, as experience has taught me, you just never know. I could get a better offer elsewhere, after all.

Despite that, I will continue to keep up with the Tampa Bay Lightning as best I can, although my blogs might be a little spotty, particularly right after I move. I've adopted these guys as my Eastern Conference team, and I won't abandon them even tho I'm leaving. Previous to the Lightning, I was following players and not teams, so I don't feel as if I've turned against Philly or anything. I still like them, after all, but that's completely different. Besides, I refuse to be converted to a Washington Capitals fan, no matter what - even tho they'll be the closest NHL rink to me. Nothing personal against the Caps or anything, but that's just how it goes.

On to tonight's overtime win against the Toronto Maple Leafs....

It's like a whole different team now, isn't it? I'm glad that they got a win tonight since I think it bodes well for the remainder of the season. It's great that Ouellet has stepped up the last couple of games. He's had a goal in both tonight's and in the last game.

So far, the new guys have made positive impacts with the team. And, really, that's the best you can hope for when people are traded into a team. I realize that they're professionals and all, but being traded is obviously a very emotional experience and that can just as obviously affect how they do their jobs. You've just got to hope that it continues to improve the better everyone gets to know each other.

Tonight's game was up and down with good streaks of play and not such good streaks of play. They'd been doing well with that previous to the trade deadline, but I guess it's understandable with almost half of that team either having been traded away or currently out injured that they'd lose that consistency. It seems a shame, really, since they'd worked so hard on that to get to that point only to have to start all over again.

But a win in overtime, that's good. Hopefully, it's the beginning of more good things to come for the Lightning. Game tomorrow, so I'll be back then.

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Gratton Out for Season

Chris Gratton will be out for the rest of the season to have surgery to repair a torn labrum. This is why he was not dealt at the trade deadline.

“Chris Gratton has been the ultimate team player in trying to soldier on and battle through the pain of this injury,” Feaster said. “Our training and medical staffs have been amazed at how Chris has handled the pain and continued to contribute to the team during the past four months. After meeting with Chris and the medical and training staffs last evening I recommended - and Chris agreed - that we should get this taken care of now rather than prolonging not only his pain, but ultimately, his recovery time. As an organization we are indebted to Grats for his commitment to putting the team first throughout this injury’’

Junior Lessard, acquired earlier in the season in a trade with Dallas, was called up from Norfolk to replace Gratton.

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Thursday, February 28, 2008

Game Recap: TB 2 - MIN 3


(AP)

Michel Ouellet and Jeff Halpern scored for the Lightning, who are last in the Eastern Conference and have lost five straight.

Mike Smith, who made his Lightning debut after being obtained from Dallas on Tuesday, stopped Marian Gaborik on a short-handed breakaway moments after Minnesota took its two-goal lead. He also kept Gaborik from scoring later in the period on another breakaway attempt.

“Probably one of the harder games I’ve ever played mentally,” said Smith, who made 24 saves. “Everything that has gone on the last couple days. Fighting the nerves a little bit. For the most part, it felt pretty good. Disappointed in the outcome.”

Ouellet pulled the Lightning within 2-1 during a power play with 7:38 left in the second. Backstrom made an in-close save on Andre Roy to preserve the one-goal advantage four minutes later.

Tampa Bay coach John Tortorella was pleased with the play of the newcomers— but not so much with the holdovers.

“I have no problems with the guys that were traded for,” Tortorella said. “How many breakaways did our top two defensemen give up?”

After that, Tortorella ended a brief postgame news conference.


The Newbie Numbers:

Halpern: 1G, 1A, +1, 4 SOG
Jokinen: 0G, 0A, -1, 4 SOG
Picard: 0G, 0A, 0, 1 SOG
Smith: 30 Saves on 33 shots

Overall grade: B+

Game Highlights:

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Wednesday, February 27, 2008

All the Newbies will play

From the trib:


All three players acquired in Tuesday’s trade with Dallas are expected to play against Minnesota: Goaltender Mike Smith will start and wing Jussi Jokinen will play on the top line with Vinny Lecavalier and Marty St. Louis, while center Jeff Halpern’s role is less certain.

Smith will wear jersey No. 41, Jokinen No. 11 and Halpern No. 10.

Also, defenseman Filip Kuba is out with a knee injury; his status is day to day. The team recalled recently acquired defenseman Alexandre Picard, who will wear jersey No. 2.

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Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hlavac Traded

Jan Hlavac has been traded to Nashville for a 7th round pick.

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Meet Your New Bolts: Pt. 1 - Mike Smith (G)


As the dust from today's trades settles, everyone will want to know just who the guys are that are coming in. This is the first installment of "Meet Your New Bolts."

Goalie Mike Smith has been said to be a #1 in waiting. He was a 5th round pick by the Stars in 2001. He is a young 25 year old native of Kingston, On who stands 6'3" and weighs in at 211 lbs. In the past two seasons with Dallas, he has 44 wins to 24 losses. He has about a 2.3 GAA and a .908 save percentage. Word is that the guy is a great puck handler. He has a great ability to clear the puck, which as we all know, the Bolts could use. Last season he was named to the NHL's All-Rookie team.

Smith has experienced some good success with the Stars. Early in February, Smith got the start against the Anaheim Ducks and registered 32 saves, and earned a shutout as Dallas went on to win the game 1-0. Since that game, the Stars used a two goalie system and Smith's stock rose.

He will be asked to step into the Bolts #1 spot and lead the way in net for the Lightning.

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Richards Deal Done

Per Sports Net Canada, the Richrads to Dallas deal is done. Apparently the deal also includes Holmqvist going to Dallas.

Coming to the Lightning will be Goalie Mike Smith, Jeff Halpern, and Jussi Jokinen

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Richards Headding to Dallas? Updated 11:25

Not confirmed, but looks solid. Here's the low down:

By Ross McKeon on Yahoo Sports:

The Dallas Stars will acquire Tampa Bay Lightning center Brad Richards in a multi-player trade and Atlanta Thrashers right wing Marian Hossa is heading to the Montreal Canadiens before the NHL trade deadline, an executive within the league said Monday night.
The Stars have looked to make a splash since Les Jackson and Brett Hull took over in the co-general manager role for the fired Doug Armstrong earlier this season. The source said Dallas is expected to package veteran checking center Jeff Halpern, backup goalie Mike Smith and young defenseman Mark Fistric to the Lightning, who needed to move Richards after signing defenseman Dan Boyle to a six-year, $40 million contract extension late Monday.
The Stars have surprised most with their success, too, especially with Sergei Zubov missing so much time lately because of injury. But they're undersized at the center position and probably won't match up favorably in the Western Conference playoff picture without an upgrade.
By landing the 6-foot, 198-pound Richards, the Stars are set to receive a player who can handle loads of ice time, has a Stanley Cup on his resumé and is a centerpiece to build around as Mike Modano and Zubov look to pass the torch.
Richards has 18 goals and 51 points in 62 games, 228 shots and has averaged 24:17 of ice time. He's durable as well. Richards has appeared in 552 of a possible 554 games since breaking into the league in 2000-01. The pivot is signed for $7.8 million each of the next three seasons.


UPDATE:

According to Richards' agent, a deal is done. He revealed this in an interview with ckac. He didn't reveal the team, although it is believed to be Dallas. Formal announcement to come around 1pm

11:25:

Richards excused from practice. Deal with Dallas to be announced very soon. Details to follow as they come available.

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Boyler-Man Rap of Hockey Joy

For Dan Boyle, #22, from your #1 soccer mom fan
(cross-posted at Southeast Shootout)

He’s my backpedal faster,
my slapshot blaster,
my skate-it-in-smooth guy,
my like-the-way-you-move guy.

This ain’t bunny love, my female fan-crush,
tougher love than any man-crush.


He’s my offensive defenseman,
my hybrid hockey-sense man,
my better puck mover,
my Nickelback groover.

This ain’t bunny love, my female fan-crush,
tougher love than any man-crush.


He’s my playoff beard guy,
my get-the-puck-cleared guy,
my jokester on Sun Sports guy,
my minutes-man-for-Torts guy.

This ain’t bunny love, it’s a female fan-crush,
tougher love than any man-crush.


He’s my play-the-point guy,
my don’t-need-no-thumb-joint guy,
my autograph signer,
My 6-year re-signer.

6.6 per puts more bling on that ring for Amber.
You go, Boyler man.
Happy honeymoon, and happy 6 more years.

This ain’t bunny love, it’s a female fan-crush,
tougher love than any man-crush.


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Monday, February 25, 2008

Boyle Locked Up - Prospal Traded

[Cross-Posted at Southeast Shootout by RJ]





Dan Boyle has re-signed a 6 year $40 million extension.

Vinny Prospal has been traded to Philly for defenseman Alexadre Picard and a conditional draft pick in 2009. Picard has only appeared in 4 games with Philly this year. He is regarded as a possible top 6 defenseman.

From TBL.com:

“Alexander Picard is a young prospect with good size and excellent hockey sense who has played in the NHL,” said Feaster. "We believe he has a significant amount of upside in his future. In moving Vaclav Prospal we wanted to add to our organizational depth, and by acquiring both a young defenseman and a future draft pick we were able to achieve that goal."

A native of Gatineau, Quebec, Picard has played in 53 games with the Philadelphia Phantoms of the American Hockey League this season and ranks second on the team, first among defensemen, in points with 38. His eight goals and five power-play goals also lead all Phantom defensemen. Picard represented Philadelphia at the 2008 AHL All-Star Game and recorded one assist. He has established AHL career highs this season in goals, assists and points.


So now it comes down to...where is Richie going to end up? I'm glad as hell a deal got done with Boyle. The difference between the team with and without him is like night and day.

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Some Love from the NY Times


The NY Times Blog "Slap Shot" is doing a local blogger write up called "Hockey Night in Blogdom". Your's truly was asked to contribute to the Southeast Division section. Head on over there and check it out!

Hockey Night in Blogdom: Southeast Edition

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Richards Update

According to the Hockey Central crew on Versus, Richards has agreed to wave his NTC. The list of agreeable teams given were Dallas, Vancouver and Columbus.

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The Columbus Offer

From the Columbus Dispatch:

The Blue Jackets, according to multiple NHL sources, have offered forwards Gilbert Brule and Dan Fritsche, and defenseman Ole-Kristian Tollefsen to the Lightning for the 27-year-old Richards, a former Conn Smythe Trophy winner as the playoffs MVP.

Howson and Tampa Bay general manager Jay Feaster were planning to talk this afternoon.
The Lightning are also weighing offers for Richards from Chicago, Vancouver and Dallas, source say.

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Golfing, Waiting, Trading?

There was/is supposed to be a meeting between the Lightning management and potential new owner Oren Koules today. Supposedly it is to discuss the direction of the team, the fate of Brad and Boyle, and from what has been reported, how much salary will be dumped this year. It looks like Koules could have a huge firesale in mind.

Here's a bit from the Trib's Erlandsson who spoke to Boyle and Richards this morning at the charity golf tournament they are playing in:

Before the event got started, though, Richards and Boyle did take a moment to talk about the uncertainty that surrounds the team as the trade deadline tomorrow at 3 p.m. looms ever closer and as the ownership situation comes to an apparent head.

Both players possess no-trade clauses in their contracts, and both said they had not been asked as of this afternoon to waive those no-trade clauses. Boyle, a pending free agent, also didn’t shed much light on his contract negotiation, other than to reiterate that he wants to be with the Lightning for the foreseeable future.

Here’s a sampling of their comments this morning:

Boyle on whether he believes the new ownership group wants to keep him after this season (or even beyond the trade deadline):
““There’s no secret I love to be here, and from what I’ve heard, everyone would like me to be here. But with the ownership situation, it makes it a little bit more difficult. ... Who’s to know? If you’re not on the same page, then I don’t know where you go from there. It’s unfortunate the season has gone the way it has, because it looks like we’re one of the last-place teams in the league. But I certainly wouldn’t want to stay here if I didn’t think that we could turn this thing around quickly, and I think we can.”

Richards on the uncertainty of a potential transfer of ownership from Palace Sports & Entertainment to Koules’ OK Hockey Group:
“They’ve kept this very professional under the circumstances. Unfortunately, the right people built this organization the way it should’ve been, and it’s getting torn apart. And it’s not all by their doing. A lot of outside influences. So, it’s unfortunate to see that happening, but we’ll see. You never know.”

Richards on whether he had been asked to waive his no-trade clause (tsn.ca reported that the team would bring him a list of teams he might approve on Sunday night, which apparently did not happen):
“To be honest with you, it wasn’t a fun week since last weekend. It still isn’t fun. A lot of sleepless nights, and we still don’t have a decision. As of yet, I haven’t been asked to go anywhere. I guess that’s the frustrating part, is sitting and waiting. Jay [Feaster has] been really good with me. He’s kept me in the loop and has been really good and supportive. We’ll see. I still don’t know what my decision’s going to be. I’m in control of it, so we’ll see what happens.”

Richards on how important it is for him to have that no-trade clause:
“If I didn’t have it, this would be a real messy situation for myself, personally. But it’s in their hands to bring something to me if it’s going to happen. If they don’t, then we’ll move on.”

We’ll have more as the day progresses.

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Sunday, February 24, 2008

Richards Trade Appears Imminent


From TSN:

Sources tell TSN the Tampa Bay Lightning have reached out to star forward Brad Richards and have alerted him to their interest in trading him.

It's believed the Vancouver Canucks, Dallas Stars and Columbus Blue Jackets are the most active in the hunt, although according to source, Richards isn't expected to be given the list until later Sunday night.

Vancouver, Columbus and Dallas have all submitted offers for the Conn Smythe trophy winner.

Tampa Bay's incoming owner Oren Koules is said to be heavily involved.

Richards' decision on whether to clear the way for trade is expected either Sunday night or Monday, at which point Lightning general manager Jay Feaster will take his offers to ownership for a final decision.

Richards, who signed a five-year, $39 million contract in 2006, has 18 goals and 50 points in 61 games this season.

In 551 career NHL games, the 27-year-old centre has 150 goals and is the Lightning's career assists leader with 338. He had a career-high 91 points in 2005-06. Richards, considered one of the premier playmakers in the NHL, will earn $7.8 million in each of the next three seasons.

During the first intermission of today's Sharks-Penguins game, Darren Dreger and John Ferguson Jr reported the following:
The Vancouver Canucks and Dallas Stars have reportedly made their offers to Tampa Bay for Brad Richards, while the Columbus Blue Jackets offer could be coming soon. Dreger suggested the Stars might offer goalie Mike Smith, and suggested the Jackets offer might include "Brule and Fritsche"


From SportsNet Canada:

Sportsnet.ca -- Brad Richards may be on the move.

Sources say the Tampa Bay forward, who has a no-trade clause, has given Lightning management permission to bring him offers as early as Sunday night.

It’s believed he does not want to be dealt to a team that isn’t in solid playoff contention.

Recent rumours have suggested a number of teams -- including Vancouver, Montreal and Edmonton -- are interested in the services of Richards, who is in the midst of the five-year, $39 million contract he signed in 2006.

General manager Jay Feaster’s is in a tough spot as the mandate of the team’s new ownership could mean a salary cap in the US$39-to-40-million range.

If that is the case it would affect the futures of both Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis with the club.

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Game Recap: TB 3 - BOS 5

(AP)—The Boston Bruins have put themselves back in the playoff hunt, while the sliding Tampa Bay Lightning increasingly look like sellers before Tuesday’s trade deadline.

Glen Murray had two goals to lead the Bruins past the Lightning, 5-3 on Saturday night.

Milan Lucic, Mark Stuart and P.J. Axelsson also scored for the Bruins, who remain sixth in the Eastern Conference. Boston finished a five-game road trip with a 4-0-1 mark.

“We did what we wanted to do, and we’re going home having got some big points,” Bruins goalie Alex Auld said. “Sometimes coming home off a good road trip can be a little bit of a trap. You’ve got to make sure you’re not too satisfied and make sure we don’t let up at all.”

Murray put the Bruins ahead 3-2 with a backhanded shot off a rebound during a 5-on-3 power play with 1:35 left in the second. The right wing made it 4-2 on a fluke goal 17 seconds into the third. Murray’s shot from the slot was stopped by Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist, but Tampa Bay defenseman Paul Ranger accidentally kicked the loose puck into the net.

Auld stopped Martin St. Louis twice on breakaways in the second.

“He kind of put it in my glove on both of them,” Auld said. “I didn’t have to move a whole lot, but I’ll take them. Obviously, those are big times in the game.”

Tampa Bay, which has lost four in a row and are last in the Eastern Conference, got goals from Mathieu Darche, Michel Ouellet and Vinny Prospal. Several Lightning players, including Brad Richards, Prospal and Dan Boyle, might be dealt by Tampa Bay.

“There’s a lot of stuff going on,” Lightning coach John Tortorella said. “A deadline is a deadline. How it’s been conducted, there’s so much information being put out there, it’s unfair to the players. Deadlines are always tough for players, and I understand that.”

Richards was the playoff MVP when Tampa Bay won the Stanley Cup in 2004.

“I really don’t want to talk about that question, but obviously you never know,” Richards said about a potential trade. “It’s in the back of your mind. It’s definitely hard to take another loss.”

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Friday, February 22, 2008

Game Recap: TB 0 - NYI 1


The Lightning dropped their second in a row last night on the island in New York. For the Isles, Rick DiPietro was stellar and a bit lucky. He stopped all 32 of the Lightning's shots, and got some help from the post on a rocket of a shot from Lecavalier, and dashed the Bolts hopes of making up ground in the Southeast Division. On the opposite side of the rink, Karri Ramo was nearly as good, stopping 27 of 28 shots.

“It could have hit something and gone in. What can you do?” Lecavalier lamented. “The chances are there, they’re just not going in.”

The Bolts made up one of their games in hand, but failed to convert it to points in the standings. Fortunately, both Florida and Atlanta lost as well. The bad new is that even though they still have 3 games in hand on Carolina, the Lightning now sit 10 points back of the Southeast leaders. With only 1 game remaining before the trade deadline, it looks as though the Lightning may have indeed played themselves into sellers.

“We just have to keep fighting and keep trying,” Boyle said. “A loss is frustrating, no matter which way it happens. It’s a crucial two points lost.”

"We enter a third period tied 0-0 on the road, and still in position to win the game, and I think we played a pretty good third, but we can't give up that type of chance," center Brad Richards said. "But you have to score a goal in order to win a game."

"We hold them to eight or nine scoring chances, then we make a huge mistake on a read by our defensemen and it ends up in our net," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "Then we don't score. You knew how that game was going to be played as we went through, it was who makes the mistake and we made a pretty big one off a pretty easy rush coverage."

Game Highlights:

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Thursday, February 21, 2008

Trade Stuff from the Times/TSN/NY Post

BUFFALO, N.Y. - Jay Feaster said he spent far too much time over the past three days at the general managers meetings in Naples dodging cameras and reporters hungry for trade talk.

"It was like the locusts had descended," Feaster said.

Regardless, the Lightning GM said he conducted meaningful discussions, enough that he believes Tampa Bay will make a trade before Tuesday's 3 p.m. deadline.

"I would think there's going to be activity on our end," Feaster said Wednesday, shortly after meetings ended.

Feaster wouldn't talk specifics, but rumors circulated around Canadian media outlets. The one with the most legs has Tampa Bay trading Brad Richards and his annual $7.8-million over the next three seasons to free up space to sign puck-moving defenseman Dan Boyle to an extension. Feaster is trying to work out a deal with Boyle, who could command between $6-million and $7-million.

Richards, however, has a no-trade clause.

Potential unrestricted free agents Vinny Prospal, Chris Gratton and Jan Hlavac also could be dealt.

Meanwhile, Stars co-general manager Les Jackson and director of player personnel Dave Taylor attended Wednesday's Lightning game in Buffalo.

By Eduardo A. Encina, Times Staff Writer
Published February 21, 2008



This is from TSN:

An intriguing story continues to develop in Tampa Bay based on acknowledgment from league sources that the Lightning are discussing outside interest in Brad Richards.

Richards has a no-movement clause included in a contract that will pay him 7.8 million per season in each of the next 3 years.

While the salary is far more than some teams are willing to consider, there is a belief Richards wouldn't block a trade if asked, and the fit is right.

Wednesday night on Sportscentre and the NHL on TSN I suggested the Columbus Blue Jackets as the team considered to be the frontrunner.

Columbus has tons of cap space and a pressing need for a centreman. Adding Richards to the equation would help boost the Blue Jackets to the next level.

It's not known if offers have been tabled, but sources confirm teams have discussed the potential of Richards availability with Lightning management.

Although in the preliminary stages, if a deal gets worked out for Richards, its believed Tampa's asking price will include a defenseman.

Columbus may have an issue with that as next to a strong need for help at centre ice, the Blue Jackets are also in the market for a some help on their backend.

Columbus isn't the only team showing interest. As stated last night, the same group awaiting word out of Toronto on Mats Sundin have added Richards name to their list of options.

The Vancouver Canucks have the defensive assets to create an attractive package and should be considered among those teams keenly interested.

However, at the moment, with all of the uncertainty still hovering over the future of veteran defenseman Dan Boyle, it doesn't appear the Lightning are ready to make the move....yet.


From the NY Post:

By LARRY BROOKS

February 21, 2008 -- A week ago, the Rangers and every other interested party seemed to be out of the running for Dan Boyle, who at the time appeared poised to sign a long-term deal with Tampa Bay.
Now, however, the impending free-agent defenseman may be available, for The Post has learned that despite the Lightning's desire to lock up Boyle, little if any progress has been made toward that end.
Indeed, it is unclear whether Tampa Bay's incoming ownership will allow GM Jay Feaster to commit the $6-7 million per season Boyle is all but certain to command if the team can't first move Brad Richards and the final three seasons of his $7.8M per contract.
That's why Richards - who has a no-trade clause but seems amenable to waiving it under the right conditions - was dangled so aggressively at this week's GM meetings in Florida
Sources report Tampa Bay will seek to move Boyle if he is unsigned into Tuesday's trade deadline rather than allow him to bolt as a free agent while getting nothing in return. If that is the case, the Blueshirts will be first in line to acquire the multi-dimensional power-play quarterback who will turn 32 this summer.
The Post has learned that in addition to the Rangers, the Flyers and Sharks have been closely monitoring the situation, with the Penguins and Senators recently joining the queue. And while the Blueshirts may not offer the best package in terms of quality - their Type A kids are under quarantine - they do have a large quantity of Type Bs to offer a Tampa Bay organization whose cupboard is bereft of prospects.
The Blueshirts have one other thing going for them as well, and that's the no-trade clause that Boyle holds. Though nothing is set in stone, it is believed New York is Boyle's preferred destination if he doesn't remain in Tampa. Thus, Boyle has as much ability to drive the trade as does Feaster.
Again, Tampa Bay's strong preference is to keep Boyle, If, however, that is not possible, he may well be a Ranger in five days.

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Game Recap: TB 2 - BUF 3 (OT)


Opportunity lost. Heading into the final 3 minutes of the game the Bolts were up 3-1. Then Thomas Vanek took over and scored the next 2 goals to tie it and send it to overtime. In OT, it was Vanek again, scoring the game winner on the PP to give the Sabres the win.

What to take away from this one:

1. Holmer was awesome in net. He stopped 42 of 46.
2.The Bolts have got to stay out of the box. THe game winner was the Sabres only PP goal, but the Lightning gave them multiple chances.
3. On the same note, the Penalty Kill was very good.
4. Prospal continued to play like a man possessed, scoring 1 of the Lightning goals.


So as you can imagine, Torts was pissed after the game. He actually went of on the team in the locker room with reporters present.

"You better get it figured out, because I’m not going to be around it,” Tortorella yelled.

A little later, and a bit calmer Torts summed it up for reporters, “We got paralyzed, and to me it’s mental toughness. And it’s coming from our top people,” he said.

As for Holmer, he had nothing but praise for the netminder, "We didn’t play for the guy,” he said. “He kept us in there, gave us a chance, and we got squat from main people. It’s inexcusable. And that’s why we sit where we sit.”

Sounds to me like the frustration with this team is finally getting to Torts. We all know his antics and knack for speaking off the cuff are legendary, but this seems a bit different. I'm beginning to think this whole season of losing streaks, an unsettled team sale and injuries has finally beat the guy down. Now when the team is relatively heathy and looking to be within striking distance, they drop their 2nd in a row, this game being one that should have finished with the addition of 2 points to the standings.

"This is why we are in this situation in the standings, because this has been a weakness of ours all year long, other than for the last little bit," he said. "We don't have that mental toughness to handle the situations. You can see our game change, and we've lost major points."

The Bolts will face off tonight against the Islanders in the second of back-to-back games.

Game Highlights:

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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Lukowich on IR

From TSN:

Tampa Bay Lightning defenseman Brad Lukowich will undergo surgery on Friday to repair a sports hernia, the team announced on Wednesday.

The team placed Lukowich on injured reserve, retroactive to February 9.

Lukowich will travel to Munich, Germany, where the surgery will be performed by Dr. Ulrike Muschaweck. He is expected to miss the next three to four weeks.

Muschaweck is world-renowned for operating on Premier League soccer players and her minimal repair technique is expected to cut the recovery time in half.

The 31-year-old Lukowich has appeared in 54 games this season and has a goal with six assists. Also, he leads the team with 147 hits and 101 blocked shots.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Lightning Rumour Roundup 2/18-UPDATED!


Tick Tick Tick....

That is the sound of time running out on a Dan Boyle deal. Feaster, Wilson and Koules apparently have met and decided what they are willing to pay for Boyle. Now Feaster is in Naples at the GM meetings for the next 3 days, shopping around to see if what he can get for Boyle is better than what he will have to pay to retain his services. With 3 games left before the February trading deadline, the Bolts play will likely determine whether they are signers or sellers. If I were a betting man, I would say the chances are pretty high that Boyle will be dealt. Nearly every team in the playoff hunt needs a top line puck moving defenseman. Feaster will be able to all but name his price for Boyle. His price...maybe Price? Montreal is about to have to dump one of their netminders Price, Huet or Halak this offseason. Feaster has said his #1 priority is a #1 netminder....

Also, on the block is the second most needed player for playoff teams, a top 6 forward. Vinny Prospal fits that bill to a "T". When I heard Detroit's Dan Cleary had gone down to injury, I instantly thought they would be players for Prospal. Apparently I was on target as it has now been reported on by one of the rumour sites. Don't be surprised to see Dallas or Anaheim make a run at him either.

That's all that's out there for now. Stay tuned, I will update the happenings as new info come up.


UPDATE:

Was listening to Bill Clement on XM last night and he reported that Feaster is shopping Brad Richards at the GM meetings. Perhaps trying to clear space to be able to re-sign Boyle. Not sure who would be interested in taking on Richie's $7.8 mil. Apparently the team feels the "Big 3" are Vinny, Marty and Boyle.

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Sunday, February 17, 2008

Game Recap: TB 2 - WSH 3


AP:

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) -- Olie Kolzig was right. Leaving a Washington Capitals game early can be a mistake.

Alexander Semin scored the go-ahead goal with 3 minutes left in a wild third period, Kolzig made 39 saves, and Washington beat the Tampa Bay Lightning 3-2 on Saturday night.

Semin gave Washington a 3-2 lead, scoring on a rebound, after the Capitals blew a two-goal lead with just over 4 minutes to play.

"It seems like we say it after every game," Kolzig said. "Don't leave our games early. The resolve to get the winning goal says a lot about our team."

Tomas Fleischmann and David Steckel also scored for the Capitals. The victory kept Washington two points behind Southeast Division-leading Carolina.

"It's going to be a big race," Fleischmann said. "Everyday game is a like a playoff game right now."

Goals by Vinny Prospal with 4:11 left and Jan Hlavac 33 seconds later pulled Tampa Bay even at 2. The Lightning, fifth in the Southeast, dropped eight points behind the Hurricanes.

"A tough one," Tampa Bay right wing Martin St. Louis said. "We're not going to quit. We're still in the hunt."

Lightning goalie Johan Holmqvist made 32 saves.

Washington converted one of three power plays during the first when Fleischmann scored on a backhander to give the Capitals a 1-0 lead 16:12 into the game. The Capitals nearly scored on the other two opportunities, but Semin hit the post and Alexander Ovechkin had a shot from the blue line go just wide.

Fans were entertained by end-to-end action during a stretch of uninterrupted play that lasted just under 10 minutes in the second. Kolzig and Holmqvist exchanged several big saves during the run.

"That was the fastest second period I've ever experienced," Kolzig said.

The Lightning continued to apply pressure as the second continued, but Kolzig stopped an in-close try by Brad Richards and Hlavac's shot during a partial breakaway.

"Kolzig gets credit the whole game," Lightning coach John Tortorella said. "He's the difference."

The Lightning outshot Washington 24-12 during the second, including 18-2 over the final 11 1/2 minutes.

Tampa Bay got its first power play at 18:17 of the second, but were unable to score despite taking seven shots.

"We played hard, but we didn't get it done," Tampa Bay center Vincent Lecavalier said.

Steckel made it 2-0 at 13:52 of the third. Four of Steckel's five career goals have come against the Lightning.


GAME HIGHLIGHTS:

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Thursday, February 14, 2008

Game Recap: TB 5 - PHI 3


Gettin lazy again. Valentines day and all.

From TSN:

PHILADELPHIA - Martin St. Louis had a goal and two assists to lead the Tampa Bay Lightning to a 5-3 win over Philadelphia on Thursday night, the Flyers' fifth straight loss.

Steve Downie, Joffrey Lupul and Jeff Carter each scored for the Flyers, who are on their longest losing streak since a six-game skid in late December.

Vaclav Prospal scored his 26th goal and Dan Boyle, Jan Hlavac and Jason Ward also scored for the Lightning, who had to look good to their new management.

Tampa Bay, which started the night in last place in the Eastern Conference, has won four of five overall. The Lightning also won their eighth straight game in Philadelphia going back to the 2002-03 season and have not lost a road game in regulation since Jan. 3.

Trailing 2-1 entering the second period, the Lightning touched Biron for three goals in the period that allowed them to take over the game.

Boyle, who missed 36 games this season after wrist surgery, tied the score with a power-play goal early in the period.

Hlavac's eighth goal of the season midway through the second put Tampa Bay ahead for good, 3-2.

Boyle tried for his second goal of the game later in the period, but his slapshot bounced off St. Louis' stick and the puck popped over Biron's shoulder for a 4-2 lead.


Game Hightlights:

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Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Sold!?

So apparently you can disregard the post about the sale of the team being in trouble and taking a long time to get done. Here's the press release from the Lightning:

AUBURN HILLS, MICHIGAN and LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA, February 13, 2008 –
Palace Sports & Entertainment and OK Hockey LLC, an entity controlled by Oren Koules, announced today that they have entered into a definitive purchase agreement whereby OK Hockey LLC would acquire the Tampa Bay Lightning, the leasehold rights to the St. Pete Times Forum and approximately 5.5 acres of land in Tampa’s Channelside District from Palace Sports & Entertainment. Completion of the transaction, which is expected to close within the next 105 days, is contingent on customary closing conditions and final approval from the National Hockey League.

“We are pleased to move forward with Oren Koules and OK Hockey LLC as the next owner of the Tampa Bay Lightning, “ said Tom Wilson, President and CEO of Palace Sports & Entertainment. “Oren is a passionate hockey man who cares deeply about the franchise and the Tampa Bay community. We look forward to a smooth transition and a terrific future as he assumes control of the Lightning.”

Oren Koules, Manager of OK Hockey LLC stated, “We are happy that we are able to take this next significant step towards ownership of the Lightning. We are very excited about today’s announcement and look forward to the day when we can make a difference for the Lightning and its fans.”

Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP acted as legal adviser to OK Hockey LLC. Galatioto Sports Partners LLC acted as Palace Sports & Entertainment’s financial adviser, and Dykema Gossett PLLC acted as its legal adviser.



Sooooo.....Koules had a back up plan, and got the deal done. Next up is approval by the NHL Board of Governors.

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Game Recap: TB 3 - MTL 2


Don't look now, but the Bolts have quietly begun to sneak back into the race for the Southeast Division. Last night's 3-2 win over Montreal was the Lightning's 3rd in 4 games, a stretch that has seen the Bolts earn 7 of a possible 8 points, and pull within 6 of Southeast Leader Carolina.

The "Canadien Convicts", defenseman Ryan O'Byrne was in the lineup, while right wing Tom Kostopoulos didn't play the day after the two were arrested outside Whiskey Park. O'Byrne, was accused of stealing a woman's purse. Kostopoulos was charged with resisting an officer.

Vinny Prospal was the star of the show last night. He had 2 of the Lightning's goals, including the game winner, both off feeds from Lecavalier. Prospal had been returned to the top line after spending a few games playing with the second unit. The other Lightning goal came from Michel Ouellet.

Apparently Prospal wasn't too thrilled with having been moved off the top line, and after the game had a closed door meeting with Torts.

"He's ticked," Tortorella said. "I love it when players are ticked at me. I'm not here to be the happy man and make everybody happy, I'm making calls as far as the game is concerned. Athletes who are mad, to me, are good athletes."

"I really do enjoy scoring goals for this team, it feels incredible," Prospal said. "I said it from the beginning of the year, when I go out there with those two guys, it's like the best line in hockey right now. It's incredible, Marty and Vinny, they found me all night long tonight, and I was able to score two goals.

"We came back for a huge win against a very good hockey team."

Game Highlights:

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

On Again, Off Again...Team Sale is in Trouble


Remember that story of the guy who worked for a Paris bank that lost $7 billion in unauthorized fraudulent deals a couple of weeks ago? Well it is indeed a small world. That bank was the one Koules was getting about $110 million in financing from to buy the team. Key word...WAS. The bank, Societe Generale, has shut down it sports lending division. That means, although not completely dead, the deal to buy the team isn't happening anytime soon. Koules will now have to seek financing from other sources, and if you have ever applied for a mortgage, multiply the time and complexity of that by a trillion, and that's what and how long it will take to get new funding.

"Based on our understandings here in Tampa, despite the hardships in the financial markets today, the process is still moving forward, just not at the pace that any of us desired,'' Lightning President Ron Campbell said in a statement. "Nevertheless, we will continue to work together to get something consummated in as safe and as timely a manner as possible.''

This is mess that was not needed 2 weeks before the trade deadline, and with Boyle's pending free agency sitting out there.

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Monday, February 11, 2008

The Zednik Injury

Sometimes people forget that hockey players wear knives on their feet. And then something like this happens. Frankly, I'm a little surprised that it doesn't happen more often than it does. The last time something like this happened in the NHL was almost 20 years ago when Clint Malarchuk, a goalie, got his throat sliced and almost bled to death on the ice.

There's going to be a lot of talk in the next couple of weeks about padding and protection. And I'm sure referees are going to be making more calls as well. But, in the end, nothing will really change. An event that happens so rarely, no matter how graphic and gruesome, won't make people feel like they have to do anything differently.

Let's be honest, eye, mouth, and facial laceration injuries happen all the time. But does the NHL mandate full-face protection? Nope. There are various reasons for it, but what it comes down to is that the league has decided that it's a personal choice.

However, in women's hockey at all levels, they're required to wear neck guards and full-face protection. Checking isn't allowed, either, but they get around that. Women don't get a choice, and it's been that way since at least the early 90s. Men have decided that it's supposedly for their own protection.

The irony of it all is that woman are far more vicious than men are in their respective sports, and typically have a higher pain threshold as well. If you don't believe me, watch a woman's college basketball game, then watch a men's college basketball game, and pay attention to what's going on under the basket in both. It's the same with hockey. If women had the choice, they'd play like the men - with as little protection as possible.

Yes, a neck guard would probably have prevented Zednik's life-threatening neck injury. But then, a full face shield would've prevented Aaron Gavey from the 200+ stitches needed to put his face back on when a skate caught him there. And extra padding at the ankle might've prevented Dean McAmmond from getting his achilles tendon sliced thru, too.

But that's what happens when you play a hard hitting sport on a slick surface with a pair of knives strapped to the bottom of your feet with a stick in your hands. Maybe guys need to be reminded of that more often, instead of when nearly tragic things like this happen. No one wants to see anyone else get injured, and particularly not that way, but obviously it does happen and you need to be aware of your equipment, as well as others' equipment, at all times.

The speed, the hitting, and the implicit danger is part of the fun - I understand that since I used to play. It's the best game there is. But you not only have to respect your opponent, but you have to also respect the equipment, the boards, and the playing surface as well.

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Go Habs Go...To Jail!!!


From the Trib:

Two professional hockey players and a man who may have played professional basketball were arrested outside a South Tampa nightclub early this morning, police say.

The hockey players, who identified themselves as members of the Montreal Canadiens, were arrested about 3 a.m. outside Whiskey Park, 720 S. Howard Ave.

Police say defenseman Ryan O'Bryne stole a woman's purse and teammate Thomas Kostopoulos resisted an officer.


Complete Story

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Sunday, February 10, 2008

2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, BC

The next Winter Olympics are two years from now, in 2010, in Vancouver/Whistler, British Columbia, Canada. Already, there's talk about both Canada & the United States hockey teams - and probably others, frankly. It looks as if these Olympics will probably be the last one for NHL players to participate in before it reverts back to amateurs only. That's the rumor going around right now, tho.

On the US side of things, it's speculated that Brian Burke (Anaheim's GM) will run things, and most likely John Tortorella (Tampa Bay's head coach), will coach the team. I think that's a good combination, especially if they can respect each other and do what needs to be done with as little friction as possible. Interestingly enough, it's also being speculated that Vinny Lecavalier of the Lightning will probably be the captain for Team Canada.

The problem USA Hockey has had with international competition - has almost always had, to be honest about it - is that they lack team cohesion. Basically, they're just a bunch of guys thrown together, and that's how they play. There's no team pride, and not a lot of national pride, so there's not a lot of team chemistry. That's why the Canadians, Russians, Swedes, & Czechs have a leg up on any American squad - they're proud to be playing for their country, and they work hard to create that team feeling.

I'm not sure how they can fix that with the current way of doing things. I mean, at this point, it seems to me that American hockey teams foster an individual first sort of mentality. That doesn't really work well in team sports, which explains why US medals usually come from individual events such as figure skating and skiing. The talent is certainly there, but the rest really isn't. I don't envy Tortorella trying to make that happen in such a short time.

On a travel note, from someone who used to live in that area - if you plan on attending these Olympics, don't bother looking for a place to stay in the US. The border crossings will be absolutely awful. In the summer, without anything in particular going on, you can sit in line for up to 3½ hours just to get into Canada, and it's worse trying to get into the US. It's not so bad in the winter, but then the Olympics aren't going on, either. So here's a little advice - stay in Canada if at all possible. There are plenty of suburbs to choose from, believe me. Traffic in the Greater Vancouver area is bad enough normally without adding the border crossing to it. (I hate driving in Vancouver.)

And don't leave the country unless you have to. I know Seattle's only a 2+ hour drive or so south of Vancouver (when the border is clear), but seriously, it's not worth it. Unless you have a good idea of the busiest times of day at the border, and you know you can avoid those, don't bother. Fly into and out of SeaTac if you must see Seattle. Really, that's the easiest way. I went to college half an hour from the US-Canada border (Stateside Bellingham, WA), so I know how it goes.

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Game Recap: TB 1- ATL 2 (OT)


Another well played game by the Bolts, too bad a broken stick cost them the 2 points. Gonna be lazy with the recap, here's a bit from the fish wrap:


ATLANTA (AP)—Alexei Zhitnik had only one goal in his first 56 games this season, but the Atlanta Thrashers defenseman knew what to do with the puck when he saw Tampa Bay’s Flip Kuba without a stick.

Zhitnik easily maneuvered past Kuba with a fake and beat goaltender Johan Holmqvist with a shot 1:26 into overtime to give the Thrashers a 2-1 win over the Lightning on Saturday night in a key Southeast Division game.

Zhitnik seized the opening after Kuba broke his stick on a shot at the other end of the ice.

The Thrashers ended Tampa Bay’s six-game winning streak on the road. The Lightning are still last in the Southeast, but haven’t lost hope.

“We’ll be right there,” Lightning forward Martin St. Louis said. “Everybody is beating everybody.

“They wouldn’t have gotten that scoring chance if (Kuba) hadn’t broken his stick. We played very resilient. … We played a good game. We had our chances.”

Vincent Lecavalier, second in the NHL with 72 points, gave Tampa Bay a 1-0 lead with a second-period goal. He lifted a backhand shot over Lehtonen at 12:48.

The Thrashers were held without a shot on their only power play of the second period and managed just four shots in the period.

Atlanta finally answered with a tying slap shot by Marian Hossa 4:18 into the third period.

The Thrashers’ best scoring chance in the first two periods came with 3:38 left in the opening frame. Hossa passed from the right circle to Slava Kozlov, who appeared to beat Holmqvist with a shot that set off the red light behind the net. A video review showed the puck bounced up and away from the net without crossing the line.

Kozlov delivered a third-period assist on Hossa’s tying goal. Eric Perrin, stationed between Hossa and the net, screened Holmqvist’s view of the shot.

After the goal by Hossa, the best chance of avoiding overtime came when Tampa Bay’s Craig MacDonald hit the post on a shot with about 4 minutes left in the third period.


Game Highlights:

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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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Friday, February 8, 2008

Game Recap: TB 2 - NSH 1 (OT)


So the Bolts seem to have turned it around on the road eh! They have now won 6 straight on the road, and pulled within 6 points of division leading Washington.

The game started out slow with Nashville getting on the board first. At 12:37 of the first, Alexander Radulov grabbed a turnover in the Bolts defensive zone, and fired the puck by Johan Holmqvist. The Lightning had trouble in the period controlling the puck, and committed quite a few turnovers in their defensive zone. Fortunately, Nashville only came away with the one goal.

The second period was all Tampa Bay. The Bolts came out physical, taking the body and forechecking strong. The agressive style seemed to throw Nashville off its game. At 13:09, the Lightning were able to get one by Nashville net minder Dan Ellis. The top line now featuring Brad Richards with Vinny Lecavalier and St. Louis tallied the goal when a Lecavalier shot and St. Louis follow were both stopped by Ellis, but Richards was at the side of the net to finally get the rebound past the Nashville netminder.

The Third period saw the Lightning continue the physical play. But after the 20 minute period ended, the score was still tied at 1.

In OT, Vinny Prospal scored at :58 sec to give the Bolts the win. The game-winner came when Brad Richards fired a slap shot from the right faceoff circle that was stopped by Ellis. Prospal was standing just to the right of Ellis, and was able to send the rebound between the goaltender's pads for his 23rd goal of the season.

"We turned the puck over, got it back, and got a shot on the net," Prospal said. "We were able to get the rebound because we were hungrier than they were, and we were luckier than they were."

"We are still in it, there is a lot of hockey left," Richards said. "We have to get it in our heads that we haven't accomplished anything yet. The road has been good. We have to put some more together."

"We know where we are at," Tortorella said. "We've won a couple of road games here, and with our division the way it is, it gives us a chance to stay in the hunt."


Full AP Recap

Game Highlights:

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Thursday, February 7, 2008

Game 55 - Tampa Bay at Nashville

The Lightning finally won a game in overtime. Good for them. Especially, if you haven't been scoreboard watching, since both Atlanta & Florida lost tonight. This win puts Tampa Bay 6 points out of first in the division for now. And, the Lightning also have 6 straight wins on the road. That's quite a turnaround from before Christmas when they couldn't buy a win on the road.

Again, the first period wasn't the best. I guess since the Lightning have dabbled with the third period being their worst in some games, and the second period being their worst period in other games, they're trying to be fair and give the first period some poor-play time as well? Again, they lucked out that Nashville didn't take advantage of it. They really need to work on that.

Tampa Bay has also been lucky to have the MacDonald-Gratton-Tarnasky line playing so well recently. I would've liked to have seen Gratton on the top powerplay unit again, since I think he's a good addition. But with only three total penalties called in the game, and only one powerplay for the Lighting, it's better to play it safe and stick with what you know best.

As a side note, I've noticed that ever since the All-Star Game, Lecavalier isn't taking many slap shots as he typically does. And when he is, it seems to me as if he's holding up on them a little. I guess he didn't know how hard his shot was before the skills competition, huh? And now that he does, he doesn't want to hurt anybody with it? That's rather sweet of him, but no one's been hurt so far this season because of it. He's got a good shot, so he should use it. And, now that everyone else knows how hard he shoots, people just might get out of the way when he does. You never know.

So, 6 points out is good, not to mention they've now won 6 games out of their last 10. Here's to hoping that the climb continues upwards. If they do manage to scrap their way into winning the division, they'll probably be better prepared for the first round than most other teams, which will be a very good thing.

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Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Rumour Update


Not that there's much to tell.

The usual suspects are still on the board; Boyle, Prospal, Gratton and Holmer. Boyle is an interesting case to watch. It is being reported that the Lightning are working with his agent to get a new deal done.

Apparently the soon to be new owners, OK Hockey, want to keep Boyle along with the Big 3. Not sure what that will mean. Have they given the "OK" to sign him at what is expected to be around $6.5 to 7 million. It is expected the cap will to rise between $52-55 million. That would put your top 4 players at about $27 million. leaving about the same amount to round out the team. Add a #1 goalie at about $5-#6 million, and the financial squeeze is on again.

Soooo will they actually sign him or is this just going to buy time over the next two weeks to see just what the Lightning can get for Boyle. Stay tuned...

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

Game 54 - Tampa Bay at Saint Louis

Tampa Bay was so lucky to have won tonight's game. It's great that they won and all, but St. Louis really should've had this one. I guess the good thing to come of it is that the Lightning have finally found a bit of luck this season - and they desperately have needed that.

The first period was pretty dismal for the Lightning. It almost looked like a preseason game, it was so sloppy. The only line to have shown up and played all game long was the 3rd line, Gratton-MacDonald-Tarnasky. They were the only ones to have a good first period, although I thought that the second line, Prospal-Hlavac-Oullet, didn't do too badly in the first either.

There isn't a lot to say about the second period. But then, the second period tends to drag for me, and always has. It seemed to take forever to play when I skated, too. It's sort of like the stretch between the All-Star Game and the end of March - that just seems like it never ends. I love hockey, but an 82-game season really is just too long to watch. Oh well - what can you do?

For the middle part of the third, Tampa was playing like it should've been playing the entire game. And then came the breakdowns at the end of the game. I don't know what it is about this team, but they usually get scored on either right at the beginning or right at the end of a period. There's some kind of mental thing going on with that, I think.

The thing that I've noticed happening more as the season goes along is that the players - forwards and defensemen both - are passing the puck more right in front of their own net. That makes me very nervous. You just never know how much your goaltender is paying attention, and I've seen guys pass the puck thru the crease, too. I'm just waiting for it to be accidentally tipped in without a single player from the opposite team even in the zone. How embarrassing would that be, huh?

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Saturday, February 2, 2008

Game 53 - Florida at Tampa Bay

The Lightning played a really good game - the second really good game in a row. The put in a full 60-minute effort, again, had great energy, and had plenty of shots on goal. However, they did lose to the Florida Panthers late in the third period.

Their one nagging inconsistent problem for the night was playing in their own end. For the first half of the first period, and for much of the third period, they had problems containing the Panthers defensively. And not just the Lightning defensemen, but the forwards as well. Particularly at the end of the game, they would all bunch up together leaving one side of the net completely open to attack. That's how Florida scored the last goal of the game, in fact. They should've been spread out around the zone, but that's easy for me to say, right?

Goaltending was very good at both ends. Ramo did a great job, I thought. The goaltenders get a lot of unnecessary crap on this team, and I don't think that's very fair to them. I mean, there are only a handful of premier goaltenders in the league, so not everyone can be Martin Brodeur, you know.

Penalties were also a problem. Six on the game seems a little high to me. Although, I realize that the last one on Boyle was sort of necessary to prevent the empty net goal at the end of the game. But the rest of the team needs to play a little smarter than that, I think.

Overall, I still liked what I saw. It's a huge improvement over how they were playing before the All-Star break. It sucks that you can't win them all, but at least you can look back and know you've at least tried your best to get there. So that's something.

Still plenty of season left, tho. I'm not one to give up easily - I'm kind of stubborn that way - so I'm still feeling pretty positive about this team making playoffs. If other people want to get down on this team, they can do it on their own time since I won't put up with that kind of crazy talk. It's not over until it's mathematically over.

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Friday, February 1, 2008

Game 52 - Vancouver at Tampa Bay

...Now that was a hockey game.

I went into this game believing that I'd stay neutral - like I've done at many games before. I like both teams, so typically I'll just sit back and enjoy the game when that happens. But I couldn't help it. I was cheering on Tampa Bay for all I was worth. (Sorry Vancouver!)

I was worried that Tampa Bay would sit back and let Vancouver set the tone of the game after the Canucks scored the first goal. And then Lecavalier fell on Burrows like a ton of bricks. Hard to say what that was about, but it was clear to me that Lecavalier was not happy at all tonight. And he set the tone for the rest of the Lightning who were scrapping and hitting for the rest of the game.

For the first time this season, the Lightning dictated the play in both ends of the ice. And it was a beautiful thing to watch, let me tell you. Vancouver had some serious problems getting shots on goal for at least the first half of the game. The last half of the second period, Tampa Bay was playing with the puck more than passing or shooting it, but thankfully they got over that in time for the third.

In the third period, the penalty filled at one point. I can't remember the last time I'd seen an NHL game where both penalty boxes were full, and everyone on the ice had not paired up to fight. I've been to major junior (WHL) games where it was standing room only in the penalty boxes and 4 guys left on the bench after ejections as the game went on, but that was junior hockey and not the NHL.

Maybe they can lay off a little on the hitting, but that's the way Tampa Bay needs to play in order to get into playoffs. It was like a switch has been flipped, and this team not only has an identity, but now also a purpose. They didn't really have that before. Whatever has been changed, it was definitely a good idea and they should keep it up.

Vancouver looked as if they didn't quite expect such a dominating team. I don't think they were sure how to play it. They also looked a little dazed to me, but that was probably from the travel.

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