Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Game 36: Montréal at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in a shootout with the Montréal Canadiens by a score of 2-1.

Here's a trend that I've noticed. The Lightning have been in a few shootouts this season, and haven't done as well as people would think. The problem is that everyone shoots low on the goalies. The attempts that go in are usually a foot above the ice or higher. Frankly, for most goalies, from what I've seen 4-6 inches over their stick-side shoulder usually works, regardless of the move beforehand. Something to think about next time there's a shootout, anyways.

The teams seemed pretty evenly matched to me. There was some end to end stuff, but there was also a lot more neutral zone play going on. I haven't seen that much this season.

Passing was really sloppy, tho. Pucks were going behind guys, too far in front of guys, and bouncing off of sticks and skates. I'm not sure if that was because of the Canadiens' positioning or bad ice or what.

Artykhin continued on his tear. And Smith had a good game. But you have to feel for St. Louis, tho. His face has become a magnet for all kinds of things - skates, sticks, puck, you name it. It might just be safer for him if he wore a cage for the rest of the season, the way things have been going for him.

Speaking of St. Louis, congratulations on his 300th career assist last night.

And what's up with the third jerseys? Have they become their new home uniforms? When was the last time they used their regular home black ones, anyways? November?

They might've broken their 3-game winning streak, but they still was a good effort. It was a good game, and there were fewer mistakes than before - and you can't complain about that. (Okay, you can always complain, but you know what I mean.) Hopefully they'll manage to get back to their winning ways next game.

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Saturday, December 27, 2008

Game 35: Florida at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers for the second night in a row by the score of 6-4.

You know, I've always thought that going after rebounds was a very underrated thing in hockey. Nobody stresses any kind of importance on it, nobody does it, and nobody talks about it. I've always sort of thought that was a mistake. I mean, look at tonight's game - at least the last three Lightning goals (that I can remember) came off of staying with rebounds. You have to know the scouting report on the opposing goalie to have an idea of the kind of rebounds he gives, but still.

Lecavalier's second goal was amazing. That took some serious focus to do. I think St. Louis had the initial shot, which bounced high off of Vokoun. Then Lecavalier stopped it in midair, dropped it down to his own stick, and then shot it in. Oh, and that was in the middle of six, seven, or eight players shoving each other around the net for position, too.

The look on Malone's face after his goal was priceless. Obviously he didn't expect that to go in. He stuck with the rebound and then blindly backhanded the puck towards Lecavalier, who was standing in front of the net to one side. But it never got to Lecavalier since it just went in. Vokoun didn't expect that one to go in, either, since he was at the other side of the net.

Artyukhin had another strong game. I would guess that he's one of those players who does his best when he plays with an edge. Which means he's prone to taking some stupid penalties. That's burned the Lightning a couple of times, but he's doing a lot better about that as he's also playing better, too.

Speaking of penalties, that was still a problem. Of the eight power plays allowed by Tampa Bay, five of those came from penalties on defensemen. And the two power play goals allowed came also on penalties taken by defensemen. Now, the officiating was rather questionable tonight, as well as last night, but the fact is that the defensemen need to start playing a bit smarter so they don't get even those questionable calls.

I suppose that I probably could've just written this whole blog in one sentence: The Lightning were all over the Panthers like a bad date. Statistically, puck possession-wise, physically, and, most importantly, on the scoreboard they led by leaps and bounds. This is the team that we all have suspected that they could be with the right kind of encouragement. And, obviously, the team leaders are doing something right with the encouragement bit of things.

They won their third game in a row. Now the danger is letting themselves think that they're finally past all of their troubles. They need to keep thinking that while they're doing better, any little slip will land them back in the losing column. Confidence is definitely a good thing, but getting cocky isn't. It's a fine line to walk, especially when you've been sitting at the bottom for a while.

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Friday, December 26, 2008

Game 34: Tampa Bay at Florida

The Tampa Bay Lightning won their second game in a row against the Florida Panthers by a score of 4-3 in a shoot out.

Ah yes - the dreaded shoot out. Well, at least it worked in Tampa Bay's favor tonight. They went four guys apiece, and Malone got the game winner. Hall & Artyukhin were the first two for the Lightning, and that actually worked for them since Hall scored one of the shoot out goals.

The Lightning has been ahead going into the third 3-1, but a string of unfortunate penalties did them in. Stillman for the Panthers scored while Eminger was in the box, which was the fourth penalty in a row that Tampa Bay had taken in the period. That shifted the momentum to Florida's favor.

I thought that they came out with a lot of jump, and played pretty consistently for most of the game. There was a bit during the second where they couldn't break into the offensive zone if their lives had depended upon it, Smith was having troubles handling the puck, and then came the string of penalties the first half of the third. So there was about 20 minutes where nothing really went right for them, although they still did fairly well despite that in terms of effort.

They need to figure out how to play with a lead. But I kind of got the impression that they were a little surprised themselves that they were ahead in the game. Still, they hung in there and won it in the end. I think that's a very encouraging and a good sign. That doesn't mean that they won't still have their troubles - every team does, occasionally, regardless of where they are in the standings - but I think they're finally on their way out of the woods.

Statistically, they weren't all that good with faceoffs the first couple of periods. That might've been part of their holding onto a lead problem. The pulled themselves together in the third on that, tho.

And as much as I hate to admit it - mostly because I hate admitting that management/ownership got at least one thing right defensively this season - Eminger has been a great addition to the team. Nothing against Eminger at all, just that all of their other moves in regards to the defense haven't exactly been steller. I guess with all of the moves they've made this season, chances are, not all of them could've been bad. I've been thinking that for a while now, just haven't been quite sure as to how to come out and say it without insulting Eminger.

It's back-to-back games with the Panthers, so tomorrow we get to do this all over again - this time in Tampa. Hopefully, it'll end up with a similar winning result. But one game at a time, right?

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Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Game 33: Tampa Bay at Pittsburgh

Tampa Bay beat the Pittsburgh Penguins 2-0.

Now that was a nice little Christmas present for all of us Lightning fans, wasn’t it? That was thoughtful of them. But one win is just never enough – we’re all going to want more. Sorry.

This was a well-played game for the Lightning. It didn’t start off so well – the first couple of shifts were a little shaky. But it ended well, and that’s what really counts. I was really hoping that Smith could swing a goal out of it, and he did give it a try, but unfortunately it didn’t happen.

There was a head scratching moment at the end of the first, tho. Lecavalier tried jumping Cooke, apparently for no good reason. Well, I think I know the reason since I was there to watch it. It was Cooke that dislocated Lecavalier’s shoulder at the end of last season. I saw the hit live at the arena, saw the replays later, and I said at the time (and I still stick by this) that it wasn’t intentional on Cooke’s part. Apparently, Lecavalier thought otherwise – or something was said about it on the ice.

Frankly, Lecavalier strikes me as the kind of person who probably holds grudges, so I’m sure it was supposed to be some kind of payback. Regardless of the motivation behind it, it wasn’t the best move at the time. Luckily, the Lightning killed off the penalty so nothing came of it.

Statistically, Tampa Bay was better than Pittsburgh. The beat them out in most every category. And, they just played better over all than the Penguins – who did play last night in Buffalo.

Congratulations to Recchi for getting his 1400th & 1401st career assists, by the way. (I think I remembered that right….)

Everyone have a safe and happy holiday! (Christmas & Hanukkah, and Kwanzaa starts tomorrow, too.) Catch you all again on Friday.

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Sunday, December 21, 2008

Game 32: Tampa Bay at Atlanta

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Atlanta Thrashers 4-3.

The team was starting to break out of their pattern of falling behind and then playing catch up, but they slid right back into that again. Frankly, I'm not too surprised. That seems to happen whenever a guy either gets traded or put on waivers. The team starts to get better and then management/ownership sabotages them by tinkering with the roster.

St. Louis was just outstanding. He was everywhere. He had 7 shots on goal, which led all shooters for the game off of both teams, and of course his two goals. This is a guy who's definitely doing all he can to win games, and has been particularly ramping up his play over the last couple of weeks. Which isn't to say that Lecavalier and Prospal (or Malone or Recchi) haven't been working really hard as well on that top line - they have. But St. Louis has just taken it up another notch is all.

Smith didn't look particularly sharp in the first period, letting in three goals, but he was a lot better as the game went on. And the defense didn't exactly have their best night, either. Three of the four penalties (before the chippiness at the end) were taken by defensemen.

They're shooting a lot more - and have been able to prevent more shots. So that's definitely been an improvement. Letting the other team pepper your goalie for 40+ shots a game was not a good thing. Although, team-wide faceoffs haven't as good as before. But maybe it's one thing at a time, I guess.

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Game 31: Colorado at Tampa Bay - The shoot out video

As per request, last night's infamous shootout call....

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Game 31: Colorado at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in a shoot out on a controversial call to the Colorado Avalanche 2-1.

First, the controversy. Smith was called for throwing his stick in the shoot out on a shot by Hejduk. If you see the replay, it's clear that Smith didn't have a great grip on his stick and accidentally dropped it as he was moving. Because he was already moving when he dropped the stick, and it is ice, the stick didn't exactly drop straight down but flew out of his hand a little and slid with Smith's momentum.

The problem wasn't the call, however, it was the fact that the officials couldn't review the play. Seen from the ice in real time, I'm sure it did look like he threw the stick. If the officials could've seen even just the exact same view a second time, they probably wouldn't have made that call. However, it's like the umpire during a baseball game - they're apparently not supposed to have the benefit of instant replay for the shoot out and get stuck with making a judgment call on something they've seen just once.

That makes absolutely no sense to me, but I guess with four pairs of eyes on the ice it's assumed that replay isn't need. Well, you know the saying about what happens when you assume. So the Avalanche won the game on the controversial decision.

Anyways, on to the game. Halpern got his first game in this season, and he looked like he's been there all along. He even got the lone Lightning goal, obviously his first of the season, so good for him. Malone made his return from injury, too, and looked good as well.

It wasn't the best game for the Lightning. The play looked a bit cleaner and better organized, tho, and there was some good energy. But I kept thinking that they really didn't look all that confident. And that's to be expected, I suppose, with how things have gone so far for them. Especially in the third period - they really looked like they were afraid to make a mistake after all of the penalties they'd taken in the second, and power plays they gave to Colorado.

They're collapsing too far into their defensive zone again. No one's standing up the incoming forwards off the other team at the blue line, which makes it difficult for them to break out of their own zone. Faceoffs weren't the best, but shots were pretty good.

Smith was, again, fantastic. Recchi was great, as was St. Louis and Halpern. Prospal and Lecavalier were good, although Lecavalier sort of faded into the woodwork during the second. Stamkos was completely invisible all game. And the defense, in general, were pretty solid.

What I want to know, tho, is this: Can the Lightning always play 4-on-4? At least until they build up their confidence? That's when they played their best - both during the game when guys were in the penalty box, and during overtime. If they'd played all game like they did in overtime, then they would've won in regulation - probably by a lot.

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Saturday, December 13, 2008

Tampa Bay at Ottawa

Tampa Bay lost to Ottawa 2-0.

I'm going to keep this short since I missed half of the game due to my own injury. I accidentally cut the top of my wrist this afternoon, and ended up going to the emergency room about half way thru the game since it wouldn't stop bleeding. A tetanus shot and two stitches later - yes, two! shows you just how serious it really was - I'm finally back.

The first half of the game wasn't very impressive. And, judging by the score, I would guess that that didn't really change much. And the eight power plays they gave Ottawa, as well as their poor faceoff performance, didn't help much, either. Looks like they had about a good a night as I did.

That's too bad since Smith was having a pretty good game.

Hopefully, this gap between games will be helpful. They're not a bad team and can play well - we saw that against Montréal - they just need to figure out how to do that consistently. Maybe they'll be able to sort out the things they need to sort out and get their heads together in the next few days. Their next game is Thursday, so they have some time.

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Friday, December 12, 2008

For my fellow hockey fans....

The Funeral Burgers: Blackhawks' story a holiday gift to hockey

Hockey is the best sport there is. We fans all know that. That's why we live, breathe, and die for our teams.

But, you know, there are other sports that have elements of hockey in them. Football has its hitting, basketball its speed, and baseball it's skill. So it's not necessarily the sport itself that's so great.

What makes hockey great are the players, and this story is a classic example of that.

It has nothing to do with humility, or lack of ego. I mean, there are some hockey players out there with enormous egos. And, for some, the humility thing is just an act. And we all know who those guys are. Sure, there are fewer of those guys in the NHL than in any other team sport, but they're still out there.

No, what makes hockey players the best athletes anywhere is the fact that they're fans, too - and they haven't forgotten that.

They don't just go to games to play, but they also go to watch the hockey - and they get the best seats in the house to do that. They admire a teammate's skill, or an opponent's shot, just like the rest of us. They love the hitting and the fights. They cheer their favorite teams and players. They ask each other for autographs for their kids and nieces and nephews. And they treat their fans like fellow fans.

Hockey players aren't the down to earth good guys that we know because they're taught to be that way. They're like that because they are us - they're hockey fans, too. And that's why we love and respect them - and the sport - so much. We're all a part of one big team.

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Thursday, December 11, 2008

Game 29: Tampa Bay at Montréal

Tampa Bay beat the Montréal Canadiens 3-1.

The Lightning finally won one. Now, was that so hard? I mean, really.

This was a very good game. St. Louis was just outstanding. I was really hoping he'd get himself a hat trick. Kolzig was so solid - he really needed a good game to get him back on track. And Lecavalier was very feisty (and way to set the example with communicating on the ice more, too). It was seriously a whole team effort for all 60 minutes against a very good Canadiens' team at home in Montréal.

Can we see more of that, please? No, really - I insist. As I'm sure most Tampa Bay fans do, too.

Okay, while it was a great consistent effort - hooray for the great consistent effort! - there were a couple of weak spots. I feel like I'm nagging here, but shots and penalties weren't the best. I think I say that for just about every game, but it's true for just about every game.

There was also a lot of time being spent in their own defensive zone. At least it seemed that way. They were good with getting the puck out of their zone, but not so good in following that up with taking it into the offensive zone. Still, they were challenging Montréal's offense, and that was much better than the last game in Buffalo.

But, one game at a time. Let's enjoy this one and then let the next one come as it will. Hopefully building on the win, but I think a better way to think about it is to build on what they did right in order to get the win. Focus less on the results, and more on the process.

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Game 28: Tampa Bay at Buffalo

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their ninth game straight to the Buffalo Sabres 4-2.

As the saying goes, the first step to recovery is admitting that you have a problem. After losing nine games in a row, I’d say they have a problem. But I think that instead of being in denial, they’re misdiagnosing it.

There is a coaching problem. I don’t say that to knock Tocchet or any of his staff. And I certainly don’t think that he ought to be replaced. However, he’s making the exact same mistake the Melrose did with this team.

The problem starts with management/ownership for putting together one kind of team, and then hiring a coach incompatible with that type of team. They put together a finesse team, and have had two grinding kind of coaches. That’s just not going to work – and it hasn’t. Obviously.

The coaches want a group that’s hard hitting and emotional. The team has guys like that, but, for the most part, they’re fast skating and analytical. Yelling at them isn’t going to motivate them. They’re not like that. You have to lay out your reasons in a logical manner for them to understand, then let them think it over, and that should do it.

So, really, the only fault of the coaches is that they’re failing to recognize that and trying to force the team into being something that they’re not. The team can’t adapt to the style of play that the coaches want, so maybe it’s time for the coaches to adapt to the type of team they have. It’d be far easier than to keep trying to force a round peg into a square hole.

It’s not that they can’t do the drills, or that the coaches are asking too much of the players. It’s that the fundamental approach doesn’t work. The mechanics are alright, it’s the delivery that’s not. It’s like trying to cheer up someone who’s clinically depressed by saying happily how wonderful life is. You have to tailor your message to your audience.

(By the way, if anyone off the Lightning – front office, players, or otherwise – is reading this, please print this off and send it along to Tocchet and the rest of the coaches. Thanks.)

The first period was great. Whatever they did right before the game, they need to keep doing that – and between periods, too. The second period, they fell back into that pattern of chasing the puck too much and collapsing too far into the defensive zone.

The third was better than the second, but they really need to work on communicating. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen players get all mixed up positionally because they weren’t talking on the ice. And I don’t see anyone talking on the bench when the camera pans that way, either. Then there were the penalties that finally sunk them in the end.

When you’re in the middle of a losing streak, you tend to micromanage the game – but usually in an unconstructive way. You start picking apart what you’re doing wrong in order to try to fix it. It’s good to be aware of what you’re doing wrong, but you also have to be aware of what you’re doing right as well. Finding that balance is key.

At this point, they really have nothing to lose. Everything that could happen to this team has pretty much already happened. Trading away key players? Check. Fired coach? Check. Waiving veterans? Check. Injuries? Check. Toxic locker room environment? Check. Players asking to leave? Check. Meddling owners? Check. Incompetent management? Check. Bottom of the league? Check. Declining attendance? Check. It's essentially rock bottom at this point.

There are only two ways this team can go. They can either maintain, or they can go up. They really have nothing to lose at this point, so taking some chances can't be a bad thing. I mean, they've already lost nine straight, so what's a couple of more if it goes that way? At least they'll have tried, and that's something. So I vote for taking some chances and going up.

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Monday, December 8, 2008

Game 27: Tampa Bay at Boston

Tampa Bay lost to Boston 5-3.

I was trying to decide, as I watched this game, what I should write. So, instead of writing about the game, let me say something about why they lost. And, why they've been losing.

Vrbata requested to leave the Lightning and go play in Europe. He is the first player to actively request leaving this team. And I doubt that he'll be the last, especially now that someone's actually done it. Gratton was also placed on waivers today as well.

Here's an interesting list of transactions that was posted up on Kukla's Korner by Mike Chen today [Names in bold are by Mike Chen].

  • June 3 Fired John Tortorella
  • June 24 Named Barry Melrose head coach
  • June 30 Gary Roberts Signed as free agent
  • June 30 Ryan Malone Signed as free agent
  • June 30 Vaclav Prospal Signed as free agent
  • July 1 Radim Vrbata Signed as free agent
  • July 4 Matt Carle Traded from San Jose for Dan Boyle, Brad Lukowich
  • July 8 Mark Recchi Signed to one-year deal
  • July 11 Chris Gratton Signed to one-year deal
  • July 11 Resignation of GM Jay Feaster
  • August 29 Andrej Meszaros Traded from Ottawa for Filip Kuba
  • Oct 2 Michel Ouellet Sent to minors
  • Oct 6 Lukas Krajicek Traded from Vancouver for Michel Ouellet
  • Oct 21 Matt Pettinger Claimed off waivers
  • Oct 23 Marek Malik Signed as Free Agent
  • Nov 7 Matt Carle Traded to Philadelphia for Steve Eminger, Steve Downie
  • Nov 14 Fired Barry Melrose
  • Dec 8 Radim Vrbata Placed on waivers
  • Dec 8 Chris Gratton Placed on waivers
So when do you suppose the management/ownership of the Tampa Bay Lightning will accept responsibility for the record of the team instead of blaming it on the players? That is why they keep trading and waiving guys, isn't it? After they fire another coach? Perhaps after they drive off Lecavalier?

If you want to know why the Lightning are now 6-13-8 after tonight's game, just take a good, hard look at that list.

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Saturday, December 6, 2008

Game 26: Buffalo at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost their seventh game in a row to Buffalo by 4-3.

I've been sitting here trying to figure out why they didn't win this game, and it's hard to put your finger on anything in particular. Shots weren't bad, they were actually scoring, penalties didn't really hurt them, face offs were outstanding, and it was a hard hitting game. Nothing too obvious stands out at first.

The power play wasn't great, but they were at least getting shots on net with that. And while it certainly would've helped to have scored on the power play, there was something missing from the even the even strength play. And I think that was puck possession.

Things were a little scrambly for Tampa Bay off and on throughout the night. It was particularly bad after Buffalo's fourth goal. Passing was alright, but guys were trying to force the play and ended up turning the puck over doing that. Sometimes, it'd be nice to have a time of possession stat like football does, but that'd be hard to keep track of during a free-flowing game like hockey.

Smith wasn't at his best, but he was still pretty good. And, really, a team shouldn't completely rely upon their goaltender for everything anyways. Even with Smith being merely pretty good instead of fantastic, they should still be able to win.

Prospal's goal was amazing, tho. It was almost unbelievable, in fact. He wouldn't have been able to get that in if he'd thought it out and then tried doing it. That backhand shot that was done completely with peripheral vision that just happened to bank off the back of Miller and into the net was just shear craziness. Talk about luck.

And while I did notice that Lecavalier looked rather cranky tonight, I didn't expect him to get into a fight. That caught me completely off guard. Of course, it doesn't help that there's almost never any build-up to these things with him and he just starts pounding on someone out of the blue. In a way, I wasn't totally surprised because the team's been having a tough time of it, and I've been half-waiting for it to happen, anyway. I get the impression that most guys off other teams don't want to fight Lecavalier, tho. I think that he intimidates a lot of them.

St. Louis had a great game, too. He never seems to panic when he's on the ice in any situation, which is unusual for most of this team. He's such a steady guy, and the team needs more of that calm, determined, and no-nonsense sort of presence. I'm not saying that he's the only one that does that on the team, I'm just saying that he's the most consistent about it.

Well, they're getting closer to that ever elusive win. Again, they lost by one goal, but even minor improvements are still improvements. Baby steps can be frustrating, but it's better than stagnating.

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Friday, December 5, 2008

"Misogyny," & other nonsense

So now that the League's Avery verdict has been announced, the last thing we're waiting on is whether Dallas will take him back or not. I'm guess that they probably will, but with many conditions attached to it - mostly because they won't be able to trade him and they won't have the courage to buy him out. We'll see how that goes, tho.

Now, there's still one offensive issue that hasn't been addressed by all of this media blitz. I'm a little surprised that no one else has brought this up yet. And that's the rampant overuse of the word "misogyny."

Did anyone really knew what that meant before this Avery fiasco? Does any know now? Seriously, out of all the words you could use, why bring up some SAT word like that? And why use it all the frickin' time?!

I have a pretty extensive vocabulary myself, and I wasn't sure what the word meant. (It means "woman hating," in case you weren't sure. I had to look it up myself.) I mean, that's like saying something like "that discriminating shot was chronologically correct" instead of "that was a nicely done one-timer."

Seriously, if you're going to go there, then go there. Don't say things like "his misogynistic words were disrespectful." Instead of "disrespectful" go ahead and use "crass," "vulgar," "unrefined," or even "churlish." Instead of saying "his words are digusting," why not say they're "foul," "crude," "debasing," or "repugnant." If you've got to grab the dictionary, anyways, you might as well grab the thesaurus as well.

Can we finally get over the word "misogyny" and all of its derivatives? Please? Because I don't want to have to saddle up my vocabulary while writing hockey blogs. No one would enjoy reading it - although writing it might be fun at first. It'd get old quick, tho. Life is hard enough as it is without having to drag out the dictionary every other sentence. I can read scientific journals if I want to do that, thanks.

...And now back to your regularly scheduled blogging....

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Game 25: Boston at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Boston Bruins 3-1.

I thought that this was a really good game.The goal by Tampa Bay - the set up - was beautiful by Lecavalier to St. Louis. And the finishing shot by St. Louis was just a fantastic. The score was just not indicative of how they played. Boston got the lucky breaks and won the game.

They weren't quite as steady as they were the game before. There were times when that frantic mentality came back, but for the most part they held their own. They need to learn not to panic but to assert control of the situation when defensive lapses and breakaways by the other team happen.

There's also a tendency to give up partway thru a play when they feel that it won't get them anywhere. I think that's more from not winning than anything else, tho. Following thru and finishing what they're supposed to do will help with getting wins. There's a big difference mentally between giving up on getting the puck because you don't think you can get it versus making the other team give you a reason why you should give up on getting the puck.

The first one is self-imposed while the second one externally imposed. It's the difference between stopping yourself or forcing someone else to stop you. You don't give up unless you absolutely have to, and the Lightning have been giving up just a little bit. Less so than before, tho.

Faceoffs were good, shots were good, penalties were good, Smith was outstanding - overall, it was a good game. They just didn't win. And that's just sometimes the way it goes. But if they keep it up, then they will win - no doubt about that.

After reading the papers this morning, there's some question as to why they're not winning - they just dropped their 5th game in a row. Working hard isn't the only thing that gets a team wins. If you don't work hard, then you'll probably lose, but luck and talent do figure into things even if you do work hard. Sometimes, one team is just better than the other no matter how hard a team works, and there's not a lot anyone can do about that. It's just a fact of life.

That being said, I think that the Lightning can still scratch their way back into the playoff picture. Maybe I'm being overly optimistic, but the last couple of games they've played have really been so much better than before. I think that corner has been turned.

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Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The NHL & Avery

I’ve been glancing thru articles and blogs on this all morning, and most of the people fall into two camps – one camp thinks that the NHL made the wrong call, and the other that thinks that they did.

Obviously, Avery was wrong in saying what he did – whether it was on camera or not, or in front of reporters or not. It was completely disrespectful and crass. The fact that he’s airing personal matters to the public for the shock value just shows how much of a publicity hound he really is.

And, quite frankly, both Rachel Hunter and Elisha Cuthbert I’m sure are patting themselves on the back for being well rid of him. As, I’m sure, most – if not all – of the rest of his girlfriends are as well. It doesn’t matter if you’re a hockey player or not. The fact is, if you’re a bad boyfriend – or a bad husband, no self-respecting woman is going to want to stay with you. Period. And the ones that put up with it and do, well, those aren’t the kinds of girls any self-respecting guy wants to be with, anyway.

However, the way the NHL handled the situation – that’s a topic that’s certainly up for discussion. Frankly, the fact that nothing was done internally by the Dallas Stars immediately tells me that they didn’t consider it to be a big deal. It was just Avery being Avery, and they’d deal with the consequences later. Which is probably why the NHL decided to step in, because Dallas wasn’t going to any time soon – or soon enough, really.

I think a stiff fine would’ve been in order, but I don’t think a suspension was warranted by the NHL. I think the team should’ve sat Avery out for at least the game, certainly, but any other action should’ve been left up to them. If they decided to suspend him or to cut him loose – that should’ve been a team decision and not a league decision. I think the NHL overstepped its bounds with this knee-jerk reaction.

The reality is that nothing is going to stop Avery from doing ridiculous stuff to get attention. No fine, no penalty, no suspension, not even being kicked out of the NHL is going to stop him. He enjoys it too much, and he gets the notoriety he craves.

Can you imagine a sports news company not wanting to snatch him up if he’s kicked out of the league? Of course not. Look at Don Cherry – he makes a living making outrageous and controversial comments on CBC. TSN got John Tortorella specifically because he’s not afraid to speak his mind. ESPN initially picked up Barry Melrose for the exact same reason. Brett Hull, Jeremy Roenick, and Matthew Barnaby have all been recruited as color analysts at one time or another particularly because they are so outspoken. Trust me, Avery will have no problems finding work after he’s done playing hockey.

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Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Game 24: Tampa Bay at Philadelphia

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in OT (and not a shootout) in Philadelphia 4-3.

Tampa Bay was very lucky most of this game. The second and third goals were total luck goals. And the opportunity for the penalty shot in a tie game with 16 seconds left was also very lucky. I don't blame Malone for not getting a goal out of it, since getting one of those to go in is pretty much a 50-50 deal. I'm just glad he got the chance to begin with. They weren't quite lucky enough since they lost, obviously.

However, a lot of good things happened in this game. For the first time all season, they were steady and in control on the ice - particularly for the last two periods. Everybody was. The only one who's been consistent about that has been Smith, which is why he's performed so well. So far, games have swung between the extremes of frantic to disinterested. This is how they've needed to play to get some wins.

The stats prove it. They outshot the Flyers and managed to keep shots down on their own goaltender - which I'm sure Smith appreciates. Converting on two power plays was definitely a good thing. Penalties were a little out of control again, but then, so were Philly's. So I chalk that up to the officiating more than anything else.

There were some weird things that happened in this game, tho. Hartnell throwing his glove? I realize that he didn't have a stick, but seriously. Actually throwing your glove? What the heck was he thinking?

And then the penalty against Malone at the end? That was a little questionable, if you ask me. Yeah, he hit Biron - with help, but he didn't have a lot of time to react or get out of the way. Technically, maybe it was legit. Maybe.

Unfortunately, Lecavalier's point streak was snapped. I was hoping he'd be able to eke that out for a little longer. Still, it was a good run - 7 games, 5 goals, and 5 assists. That's not too shabby, you know?

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