Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Game 77: Tampa Bay at Boston

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

I thought that the Lightning came out with some good energy. Of course, they only had four shots on goal in the first, but they had a good second period with 14 shots. The third was a bit middling with only seven shots on goal.

They couldn't covert on a 5-on-3 power play. Well, they couldn't convert on any of their five power plays. And they allowed Boston to convert two of their six. I'd really like to know what happened to their special teams play.

Even though the number of power plays seemed pretty a little more than average - comparatively, anyways - this was something of a chippy game. There were three fights, but none of them were by the Lightning regulars. Artyukhin actually got into one fight, which was a little surprising. The stunner was Melichar. I didn't think he had it in him, however he didn't look all that enthusiastic to be involved. And I don't know enough about Petiot to know if he gets into the occasional fight or not.

Recchi looked good. It's good to see him fit in with Boston. And it's good to know that he's on a very good team that will probably go pretty far into playoffs. I wish him the best.

Stamkos got his 20th goal of the season, so good for him. McKenna stopped 36 out of 39 shots, so good for him as well. And St. Louis had four shots on goal, but no points. Still a good effort, tho.

Lecavalier can't buy himself a goal right now. He had two pipes and broke a stick on a shot (or was that a pass...?) on a power play. He seems to be a bit tentative about taking shots these days, and I'm not sure if that's a lack of confidence or a nagging injury - or both. He just needs one more goal for 30, and hopefully he can pull that off here in the next five games. St. Louis, too. And Prospal for 20.

Does it sound like I'm repeating myelf? It's because I am. But I've been repeating myself all season, tho, so this shouldn't surprise anybody. All you'd need to do is throw together the phrases "shoot more," "good goaltending," and a few others and that'd be just about every blog I've written this season. I'm really not a nag, though - I promise. No more so than the Lightning coaches, anyways.

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Sunday, March 29, 2009

Game 76: Ottawa at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Ottawa Senators 3-0.

This game started out promising enough. The Lightning had some energy, and it looked like they picked up where they'd left off from their last game. And then, things just sort of fizzled out in the second period.

It didn't help that goals were being called off or reviewed. That interrupted the flow of the game. Especially since there were a few of them. Luckily, they were mostly on the Senators, but still.

Shots were way down in the second and third periods. Faceoffs weren't that great either. And being O-fer on the power play didn't help. Their special teams, which had been so good, aren't that great right now. And, of course, with yet another injury they used their 49th player this season.

With six games to go in this miserable season, you've got to wonder if they're just done playing. Not because they're trying to get a better position in the draft, but because they're mentally and emotionally worn out and they just want it all to be over. You can't really blame them for it, if that's the case, but you do hope for better.

You want the team to go out on a good note - a winning note. I think everyone, including the players and coaches, want that. Something that gives everyone hope for next season. And I think that we'd all like to see St. Louis and Lecavalier hit 30 goals, as well as Prospal and Stamkos hit 20, this season.The idea of them packing it in with six games left just doesn't sit well.

So dig down deep and put on a good show these last six games, boys. Pull it together, have a little fun, and remember why you're on the ice instead of sitting at a desk 9-5 Monday thru Friday. Sure, missing playoffs is a drag and you might be on a different team next season, but you're still playing hockey for a living. Try to enjoy it a little bit more.

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Saturday, March 28, 2009

Being blue in a sea of red

The away game experience - there's nothing quite like it. You walk into an arena where your team is the visiting team, and everyone around you wants them to lose. It's so much fun. I think everyone should try it at least once.

I've seen NHL games in Atlanta, Hartford (before they moved to Raleigh), Nashville, East Rutherford (NJ), Philadelphia, Tampa, Vancouver, and Washington. I've gone to AHL games in Albany, Binghamton, New Haven, Syracuse, and Worcester. And I've gone to junior hockey games in Chiliwack (BC), Portland (OR), Seattle, Spokane, Tacoma (before they moved to Kelowna, BC), and Tri-Cities (Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, WA). And then I've seen the random exhibition game in Kamloops (BC), as well as some of the places I've already mentioned.

So I've watched hockey in a variety of places. I enjoy going on road trips, and I love sports, and the two naturally go together. I hope to visit a some other NHL arenas in the next year or two as well. Pittsburgh and Raleigh are on my list, and I've been meaning to see a game at Madison Square Garden for years now.

Of the NHL arenas that I've been in, Washington is pretty good. The Verizon Center has struck me as being a touch utilitarian in appearance, but I guess you're there to see things other than the building. Still, it doesn't really have a lot of personality. But I guess Philips Arena in Atlanta more than makes up for what it lacks.

I walked into the arena last night, and ran right into a couple of women brave enough to be wearing Tampa Bay Lightning jerseys. So I stopped by to talk to them briefly. They were a little wary of me at first, since some Caps fans had said some rather uncomplimentary things about the team earlier, so that was understandable. Going to an away game isn't for the faint of heart, after all. I'd found out that they'd flown up from Tampa to watch the boys play. Considering the kind of season they've had, those are some truly dedicated fans.

As is my custom, I watched warmups. You can usually get a pretty good feel for how a game's going to go if you do that. And, as a woman, you kinda want to see what these guys look like without helmets - and a few of them do skate around bareheaded. No one was really close enough or interested in talking to me, tho. Well, a couple of guys that I was in sitting in one of their seats did, but that's almost not even worth mentioning.

So I went to my seat. I like to sit in the corner or the end when I'm at a hockey game. You can see all of the ice that way. But too low, and you can't see plays develop. I was sitting a bit lower than I like - I was ten rows up from the glass - but it wasn't a bad seat.

I'm still relatively new up here in Virginia, so I went to the game by myself. I've done that for a few years now. It's not bad, really. I started chatting with the strangers around me to make friends and to get some idea of the Caps fan experience. I'm not always so chatty when I'm alone at games, but I went into this game with the idea that I should be talking to people.

The guy sitting in front of me, while a very nice gentleman before the game and during the intermissions, was a first class heckler. He did warn me before the game started, tho. So he'd heckle, and I'd make comments back. He never did confront me directly, though. Funny how he heckled less and less as the game went on. He happened to be a big fan of Martin St. Louis, interestingly enough, and was asking me if I thought the Lightning would trade him - hoping that the Caps would pick him up, of course.

Caps fans are very, very vocal and very, very opinionated. I learned that early on with my friend Sean in Richmond. And they feel the need to try to get people to root for their team. There was an older gentleman and his son sitting next to me, and the son kept trying to persuade me to switch sides now that I live in Virginia. I told him that I wasn't a bandwagon jumper. He respected that, but it didn't stop him from trying.

Still, when the game was on the line, and it was looking like the Caps were going to win, no one was disrespectful of me. I heard no taunts, no one called the Lightning any names, and nothing was directed my way. And it's not like I was being shy about cheering for the Lightning, either. I wasn't wearing a jersey - I actually don't own any Lightning stuff at all - but I was definitely rooting them on.

So while the standard Caps fan is intensely passionate about their team, they're not jerks about it. Not even to the visitors. And really, that's the way it should be.

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Game 75: Tampa Bay at Washington

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Washington Capitals 5-3.

Well, the good news is that no one got seriously injured - unlike the last two games that I've gone to with the Lightning at the Verizon Center in DC. (Lecavalier's shoulder a year ago, and Heward's concussion - and being carted off the ice on a stretcher - this season.) So I may not have to ban going to that arena after all.

First off, I'd just like to say that I enjoyed the game. It was a good game with an almost playoff vibe to it. The Lightning played really well, tho they did have a couple of lapses that cost them.

I was stunned by the number of shots on goal that Tampa Bay took. Especially after seeing how they did with that the previous two games. It was great to see, but I couldn't help but wonder why they can't do that all the time.

The problem with going to games is that you don't have any statistics available to you. And while I realize that statistics never tell the whole story - and in fact, you can spin statistics to tell whatever story you want them to - I find them to be helpful. You can only catch so much when you're watching a game, after all.

For instance, while I saw that St. Louis was having a good game, I had no idea that he was credited with nine shots on goal for the night. Yes - nine of the total 36 shots on goal came off of Marty St. Louis' stick. So it adds to what I saw.

Speaking of sticks, they were breaking left and right last night. I really think that those carbon composite and aluminum shaft sticks ought to be banned. It should be like baseball and use only wood. But I know that's not a popular opinion. Still, think of how much money teams could save by not dropping $200 or more on those composite sticks that break ever couple of games or so.

By the way, speaking of St. Louis, those stitches looked pretty ugly. Did they have to use black thread for those? And I know that it's going to look worse today and tomorrow when that shiner really kicks in, too.

Penalties were an issue, though not necessarily the way I usually mean. I've noticed that officials tend to give more breaks to winning teams - as well as to star players. A star player can get away with a lot more than a third or fourth line guy. That holds true for just about any sport, and last night was no exception. The Capitals definitely got more breaks than the Lightning did. I saw some things that the Caps had done that the Lightning were getting called for but they weren't.

Officiating has been so inconsistent this season! And not just with the Lightning, but for everyone in the NHL. They were so consistent right after the lockout, and now they're not that great. I wonder what's up with that?

It was a good game, tho, and I'm glad I went. Even if it didn't exactly go the way I'd wanted it to. Still, it's not a bad deal when a team like the Lightning can keep up and be competitive for almost the entire game with one of the best squads in the NHL right now.

No one targeted Ovechkin - despite the media buildup around that whole silly 50th goal celebration. In fact, Ovechkin was pretty low-key all game. I'm not sure if that was in response to what had happened the previous time these two teams met or not. Yes, he did score two goals and get two assists, but he seemed subdued to me - as did most of the Capitals, really. So that was interesting as well.

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Thursday, March 26, 2009

Game 74: Tampa Bay at Montréal

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Montréal Canadiens 3-2 in overtime.

This was the Lightning's fourth overtime in their last five games. And their 22nd overtime this season. And, as with most of the others, they wouldn't have made it that far had they not had spectacular goaltending.

Without such great goaltending, the Lightning would be sitting at the bottom of the league. And they'd be losing games by far more than just one goal. It's the goalies that have really kept this team in a position to at least have a shot at winning games. Despite all that's gone on this season, goaltending has really been the only consistent bright spot for Tampa Bay.

Honestly, I just can't even say enough about Ramo. The Lightning had eight total shots to Montréal's 24 through the first two periods. They finished with 19-36, respectively. And the Canadiens also had eight power plays, which they only converted one of. Without Ramo, this game would've been a huge blowout favoring the Canadiens.

Faceoffs, which had been something of a highlight this season, have dropped sharply in the last week or so. The penalty kill is still looking good, though. But the penalties taken...well, let's just say that I've often wondered about the state of officiating in the league for most of the season - and not just with the Lightning, either.

Other than Ramo, no one really comes to mind as having had a good game. Lecavalier seemed a bit more involved, as did Malone. But Stamkos wasn't so much, and neither was St. Louis. However, St. Louis did take a puck off the face - and some stitches - so I'm sure that left him with a blinding headache. I believe that's like the third time this season that Marty has had something hit his face that he needed stitches for, poor guy.

I will be attending the Tampa Bay game tomorrow night in Washington, DC. If anyone else will be at the game, I'll be sitting in section 115 about 10 rows up from the ice. I'll be one of the only people not wearing red in the arena. Stop by, say hi, and we'll chat about hockey.

So, just in case you missed it, my game recap will probably be posted on Saturday. With maybe a regular blog to follow. Sleep is a good thing, you know?

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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Game 73: Columbus at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Columbus Blue Jackets in overtime 2-1.

Let's let that sink in for a second. The Lightning. Won. In overtime. Wait - it'll come to me.

I have to say that the first two period were were sad. Columbus played like they were trying not to get injured, and the Lightning played like they didn't care. Everyone just floated along going thru the motions.

And then they woke up for the third period and decided to make a game of it. When it mattered, I guess. Would've been nice had everyone - on both teams - put in that effort for the entire game.

The Lightning had all of seven shots in the first two period. And then seven more in the third. Maybe their strategy was to lull the Blue Jackets' goaltender to sleep?

They managed to pull this one out in overtime, thanks to St. Louis. McKenna was great. He faced 34 total shots for the game and only let one in.

So, shots were awful. Faceoffs were okay, being even with Columbus. And the power play was great. They converted one of one - 100% on the night.

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Saturday, March 21, 2009

Game 72: Atlanta at Tampa Bay

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

For the second time this week, a Lightning game went to a shootout. The difference, however, is that they managed to stay in the game in the third period. No third period collapse this time, thankfully.

That line of Malone-Stamkos-St. Louis has really been their best and most consistent line in a long, long time. Stamkos getting those two goals - what's he up to now...18 goals on the season, I guess? Not bad considering the slow start he had this season. He might actually get himself a 20-goal season. And St. Louis is just fantastic, especially with those six shots he had. Sure, he didn't score, but he's making a huge effort and that's inspiring.

What was up with all of the hooking penalties? I mean the calls, not the actual hooking. Some of those seemed pretty questionable to me. And the fact that most of the calls during the game were of a hooking-variety, that seems a little shady.

Ramo, again, had a great game. I really think that the goaltending for the Lightning is pretty solid from Smith on down to McKenna. At least there's one position that Tampa Bay doesn't have to worry about. Assuming they're left alone, of course.

It was a slow start, but they kept it together. And really, that's what matters. I mean, winning would be nice, but trying to iron out the wrinkles now will help in six months when training camp comes back around.

If you hadn't heard, former Lightning player Brad Richards came back from his right wrist injury today with Dallas a week or two early. During the third period of the game with San Jose, though, he broke a bone in his left hand - a spiral facture, apparently, which most likely will require a cast - and is out indefinitely. Dallas hasn't released how or when his hand was broken.

Poor guy. If it isn't one thing, it's another. Hopefully he'll make it back sometime during playoffs. If Dallas makes it in, that is. They're still in the hunt for a spot, if only barely.

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Friday, March 20, 2009

Lightning, Bolt, Flash, Thunder?

Hey guys.

First of all I need to apologize that it took me so long to write something for this blog. I joined almost two weeks ago and didn't do or write anything. I'm sorry for that. Anyway... This is my first post here so I really hope you'll like it. I'm gonna show you my favorite Tampa Bay Lightning players and give you some reasons why I admire and love them so much. Don't worry... it's gonna be short and brief. I'll try to cover only the main points. So here we go...

Martin St. Louis #26

He's been a Bolt ever since I've became a Lightning fan. I've never seen him playing in any other colors but blue, black, white and silver. I love his speed. I love his great passing. I love his backward skating in the shootout. He's wonderful "alternate" and I will never forget what he showed in the '04 playoffs (and in many other games of course). He's small and big at the same time.

Mike Smith #41

I've always liked goalies. I usually have a kind of a bound to the goalie of my fav team. As much as I hated seeing Brad Richards leaving I loved seeing Smitty coming to Tampa. He's definitely great goalie and he'll be becoming better and better (as soon as he's healthy). I love how he can handle his stick. I saw him make lots of tremendous saves which blew me away. Marty St. Louis said that "he's a competitor... he always has to be the best out there" and I loved it.

Vaclav Prospal #20

Vaclav "Vinny" Prospal has always been my favorite player. I saw him in the Czech national team first and I really liked his passion and dedication to the team and game. And he became a Bolt the same season as I did - 2001/2002. It's a real shame that the season he played for the Ducks was the 2003/2004 season. I'd love to see him hoisting the Cup as a Lightning guy. He's great and I love seeing him after scoring a goal. I love seing him that happy.

Ryan Malone #12

Oh, Ryan. To be honest, I didn't know much about him before he became a Bolt. Well... I've never had much interest in the Pittsburgh, you know? Anyway, Ryan's got under my skin. I don't know how or why but it happened. He's my favorite. I think he's a kind of a tough guy who takes some stupid penalties sometimes but on the other hand he's amazing in front of the net waiting for rebounds or deflections. And he can make some good hits when it's needed. That's what I really like about him.

Steven Stamkos #91

My lovely rookie. I was really excited about him when he was drafted by the Lightning and I couldn't have wait to see him playing. I've always had trust in him even though so many people around were saying he's not good enough to be in the NHL. I don't think so. I think Stammer is very skilled and talented guy. I love how hard he tries to become a better hockey player. I love his shootout goals from behind his legs (he's been doing it in OHL). I'm looking forward to see him grow.

Vincent Lecavalier #4

How can I write something about Vinny and make it short, without too many emotions and words like "love", "passion", "best", "sweet", "cute"... Ok, ok I'm little bit carried away. Again. Some people might think that I became a Lightning fan because of him and his beautiful eyes. That's not true. I didn't know Vinny before I started to cheer for the Lightning. But then I started to pay attention to him and I was like: "Who's that guy with number four?" (you need to know that I didn't know much about the NHL yet, I was a rookie NHL fan, you could say). I was blown away. Not by his cute childish face but by his skills and his game. I had only few chances to watch him though (not that I have much more of them now). So it took a while to become as huge admirer as I am now.
I think, oh wait... I KNOW that I am the biggest and the most dedicated Vinny's fan in the Czech Republic. If you say "Lecavalier" aloud in front of me it gives me goose bumps. If I see a picture of him it makes me smile. If I see him smiling (or even laughing) in some video, it makes my day. I've got two Vinny's jerseys and I could stare at them all day long. Yes, I am definitely that crazy about him.
But don't get me wrong... it's absolutely not only about his physical aspects. It's mainly about him as a hockey player. Player, who gives everything to the game - his strength, his skills, his heart, his mind and his soul. I love watching him play (even though it's not as often as I wish). When Vinny's on his game it seems to me that he's flying. His game is so light. His passing is so intelligent. And his shots are pretty amazing. I love him as a captain. I think he's the right one. He stands up for his teammates anytime the situation asks for it. Yes, he's not definitely a great fighter but when the gloves are dropped he'll go for it with 100%.

I'm so sorry for making this so long... I could carry on writing about Vinny actually but I don't want you to get bored. Enough is enough.

So, to close all of this... Vinny is my #1. That's obvious. And he always will be.

What would make me the most happiest person in the world? Try to guess... :)

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Thursday, March 19, 2009

Game 71: Washington at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Washington Capital 5-2.

Again, the first two period of this game were great for the Lightning. The last one, not so much. From how the players did, it was better then the last game they collapsed in the third. From the score, it was probably worse.

Three things that killed them in the third. One, shots, as usual. Although, six shots isn't bad for them, relatively speaking. Two, faceoffs. They were doing great the first two periods and then it just fell apart in the third. Not sure what the story was there since the Lightning have been pretty strong in the faceoff circle all season. It's one of the few statistical highlights for them.

And three, they started bunching up again on the ice. It reminded me of how small animals congregate when they feel threatened. You know, how chicks (as in, baby chickens) all run for the same corner when you reach into their box to try to pick one up? Okay, maybe you don't know that. But they do. (Yes, my family had farm animals - satisfied?)

Anyways, my point is that they weren't playing on the ice where they were supposed to, and as they had for the first and second periods. Positioning was awful. On the Caps third goal, all of the Tampa Bay players were within a stick length of McKenna. All of them - including the forwards. That's not where most of them should've been.

They got lucky with the reviewed goal, though. That should've been a Washington goal. On tv, that puck clearly crossed the line by like six inches (15 cm).

At the end of the second, the Lightning were out shooting the Capitals 22-19. They were also ahead in the faceoffs, they had a power play goal and Washington didn't, and they were tied 2-2. They were playing just as well as the Caps, keeping up with them or surpassing them in most statistical categories, and doing all that with a young and untried defense that's in flux. It's not that the Lightning are a bad team, it's just that they can't play well consistently for all 60 minutes.

Congratulations to Ovechkin on his 50th goal, by the way. I hope him and his stick are very happy. The should be proud.

On a non-hockey related side-note, I'd just like to complain. Illinois ruined my perfect NCAA bracket today by losing. The weasels. Oh well - at least I'm still 15 of 16 so far. Not bad considering that I've paid almost no attention to college men's basketball this year and did zero research before filling out my bracket (office pool). Yep, totally impulsive picks all the way. Took me all of 10 minutes to fill the bracket out. And no, I didn't pick schools by the nicest names, prettiest colors, or cutest mascots. Sorry.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Game 70: Toronto at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in a shoot out to the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-3.

Where, oh where, to begin...? Let's start with being up 3-0 towards the end of the second. And then losing in the shoot out.

I don't know what was said during the second period intermission - or what not was said, frankly - but whatever it was (or wasn't), it was entirely the wrong thing. The team that came out of the dressing room at the beginning of the third was not the same team that went into the dressing room at the end of the second. In the second period, they were confident. For most of the third, they were shaky and couldn't get the puck out of their own zone.

The only things that saved during that awful third period were special teams and Ramo. Again, their power play was good, and their penalty killing even better. The Lightning didn't allow a Toronto power play goal in five tries. Converting two of their six power plays wasn't too shabby, either.

And Ramo was fantastic. Sure, the score isn't really indicative of that, but it rarely has been this season for the Lightning. I mean, they suited up their 20th defenseman this season. What does that tell you? (If you don't know, then maybe you ought to ask someone.)

It tells me that they weren't that great at limiting shots. Also a season-long problem. Almost 40 - again. I thought they'd gotten past all that. Although, to be fair, there was overtime involved.

One of the highlights for this game - for me, anyways - was a perfectly executed hip check by Stralman on Lecavalier. Lecavalier didn't like it much, and I'm sure I wouldn't, either, had I been in his skates. But it was a legal and very nicely done hip check, and that was a thing of beauty. I've often wondered why that's disappeared from the game.

So this one went into a shoot out, as previously mentioned. And it was a long one, too, going six rounds. It was more of a goaltending clinic then anything else. St. Louis' shot hitting the post, instead of going into a wide open net after spinning around to his backhand, was a bit of a heartbreaker, though.

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Monday, March 16, 2009

The Lightning in yet another state of limbo?

Does Bill Davidson's Death Affect the Lightning?

Now here's something that didn't even occur to me. I'm sure it didn't occur to most people. Makes you wonder, tho, doesn't it?

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Basketball (and hockey) tournament picks

One Who Did It Best Tells How to Pick ’Em

This might be for NCAA men's basketball tournament, but I think that this also works for hockey. Basketball and hockey are very similar positionally. What makes a successful basketball team also makes a successful hockey team.

If you disregard the goalie in hockey, the center is still doing what centers do - playing in front of (or under in basketball) the net at either end. The hockey wingers are the basketball forwards - down low in the offensive zone and up higher in the defensive zone. And the defensemen are the guards - up high in the offensive zone and down low in the defensive zone.

This might help: Basketball Positions (positions on court in offensive zone - picture)

Basketball is a little bit slower game than hockey, since it's not played on ice skates, but the idea is the same. So this not only helps you with your March Madness bracket, but also with the NHL playoffs. I think the advice is pretty much valid for both.

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Saturday, March 14, 2009

Game 69: Tampa Bay at Florida

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Florida Panthers 4-3 in a shootout.

I'm sure the question that Tocchet would like answered is how to get the Lightning to play like they do when they're down by a couple of goals in the third period all game long.

It really has been the best that the Lightning has played. They go in spurts of good and mediocre, and then when they're down by two or more goals in the third, they kick things up a notch and start playing consistently and well to try to win the game. They've been doing that all season. If they played like that all game long for every game from November on, they'd be in playoffs right now.

Now, the question that I would like answered is, why is the coaching staff playing with a short bench? They're running their best players into the ground for absolutely no reason. And worse, they're not giving ice time to the young players to give them some experience for next season when the games are actually going to be on the line. I can understand wanting to win and wanting to make the team feel better about themselves, but this isn't just about this season. How are the young guys - other than Stamkos, that is - going to get any experience for next season if they're playing around 10 minutes a game?

Okay, I lied. I really have two questions. My other question is, why don't they play all game long like they do during the power play or penalty kills? They have pretty good special teams, considering. You'd think that they'd play just as well even strength, but they don't. Not consistently, anyways.

Despite winning the game, they were outshot pretty badly - particularly during the first period. And they were playing a lot in their own zone for the first half of the game. Then things started at the end of the second period after the Panthers went up 2-1. When Florida made it 3-1 at the beginning of the third, that's when the Lightning predictably started playing a lot better. And,
oddly, faceoffs weren't the best.

The St. Louis-Stamkos-Malone line were again the best on the ice for the Lightning. Although, I did really like Halpern playing with the Vinnys (Lecavalier & Prospal). I thought that was a good line as well. And Ramo was great - but I did notice that he held on to the puck more instead of letting out rebounds. I think that was a good move on his part.

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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Game 68: Tampa Bay at Toronto

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Toronto Maple Leafs 4-1.

I think I'm going to keep this short and stick to the facts because apparently, I'm not all here right now. I watched this game, and I have to say that there wasn't a lot going on, neither team looked all that motivated, and the game itself really didn't move me. Then I looked at the stats and was wondering how I missed something like the Lightning getting 16 shots in the second period.

In my defense, I will say that the yo-yoing temperatures here in Virginia are dragging me down. It was 80ºF (27ºC) yesterday, and it's supposed to snow tonight. I'm physically (and probably mentally) exhausted from it. I'd consider moving - again - but I suppose I really can't. This is normal here for this time of year. Yuck.

Anywho, like I'd said, the Lightning had a 16-shot second period. They actually out shot the Leafs 30-21. Is that the first time I've typed something like that all season? That the Lightning have actually out shot a team? If I have, it's been few and far between this season.

They were great, as usual, with faceoffs. The power play was alright, converting one of four. And goaltending was great. However, Ramo is still giving up some big rebounds.

The interesting part of the game was at the end. When was the last time a coach was ejected from an NHL game? Ron Wilson, coach of the Leafs, was told to leave the game with a minute or two left on the clock after complaining to the officials about the calls they made. Now, I've seen coaches get pretty heated over calls, and Wilson didn't seem to be that upset. So you've got to wonder what was said for Wilson to earn that.

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Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Game 67: Tampa Bay at Ottawa

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Ottawa Senators in overtime 3-2.

Despite losing, this was a really good game. Although, I have to admit, my initial impression of seeing the Lightning in the first was that they were very tired. I wasn't sure that they'd be able to shake that off for the rest of the game or not. But they seemed to get more energy as the game went along.

The calls were definitely going Tampa Bay's way. There were some things that were called on Ottawa that were pretty questionable. That no-goal call on Spezza probably should've been a goal, for instance.

Special teams were where they played best. They played pretty well on the power play - and particularly well with the first couple of penalties called against the Senators. But they were great on the penalty kill. Especially with the number of shorthanded rushes they were able to generate.

They had a lot of problems getting out of their own zone for the first half of the game, tho. They could break thru the neutral zone shorthanded, but had troubles getting thru even strength. They weren't staggered enough coming out of their own zone, so they couldn't go very far. They got better with that as the game went along.

They were fantastic with the faceoffs. They also did well holding Ottawa below 30 shots. The Lightning pretty much kept up with the shooting, for the most part, but didn't break 25 shots for the game.

Lecavalier had a great game. Sure, he didn't score, but he dominated everywhere else. And that behind-the-back-thru-the-legs pass to himself was disgusting. He's such a dog for being able to do things like that during games. I'm so jealous - I wish I could've done stuff like that when I played. But then, I was a defenseman, too.

St. Louis-Stamkos-Malone line was the best one out there. They had six shots on goal. Of course, Stamkos had five of those shots all on his own. Strange that St. Louis didn't have any shots on goal. I wonder if that's right.

Ramo was great too. He was so on. Too bad they weren't able to pull out the win for him.

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Saturday, March 7, 2009

Game 66: Tampa Bay vs Carolina

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Carolina Hurricanes 9-3.

Many turnings of the seasons ago, I watched major junior hockey. The WHL, to be a little more specific. Anywho, there'd be blowout games, of course. There usually are a couple during the course of a 72-game season.

During those blowouts, my friends and I would try to encourage whichever team happened to be losing hugely by cheering them on. And it wouldn't matter if it was the visiting team or not. We'd switch allegiance during the game once a team got up by five goals or so. We'd even applaud shots on goal. Not to be obnoxious, but in all seriousness because we felt they needed it.

Yep. It was one of those games for the Lightning. By the end of the second period, but before the ninth goal was scored against them, I was half-wondering if there was a mercy rule in the NHL. I know that there's not, but you've almost got to wonder why there isn't.

I kept with the game until the bitter end, tho, of course. I say, "of course," because I almost always do. If football has taught me one thing, it's that you just never know what might happen at the end of the game. Sometimes, more stuff happens after the fourth quarter two-minute warning in a football game than happens in the previous 58 game minutes. So it's just a habit I've gotten into, and I do it for most of the sports that I watch - even if the game isn't very pretty or very nice.

Football is my first love, but hockey is my true love. I feel like I know the game of football much better than I do hockey. I almost went into coaching football, but work got in the way of two-a-days when I was in college, so I couldn't. Oh well, such is life.

Why am I babbling about football instead of hockey? Look at the score. I think that pretty much tells you everything you need to know. So do you really want me to go on about that game? Seriously?

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Friday, March 6, 2009

Game 65: St. Louis at Tampa Bay

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost in overtime to the St. Louis Blues 4-3.

I didn't get to watch this, unfortunately, but I did listen to it. It sounded like they came out and played hard for most of the game. And it also sounded like Welch had a good first game as a Lightning, too.

I had a hard time trying to track down a box score. I'm not sure what the story is with that. Seems like the hockey gods are trying to make my life more difficult than it needs to be with this blog thing tonight. But, I persevered and found a box score, despite my troubles - as incomplete as it may be. (There aren't any power play statistics, the weasels.)

The shots were still a little high, but not too bad. The Lightning still need to shoot the puck more, tho. What else is new, right?

Stamkos seemed to have had another good night. And St. Louis seemed to have picked things up during the last half of the game. Each of them had a goal, and Pettinger had one as well. And Ramo obviously played well - well enough to get the team into overtime, anyways.

There are back-to-back home games, so more tomorrow.

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Worst trade of the year?

The Worst Trade This Year

I'd say that this is a pretty fair assessment. A little on the pessimistic side, perhaps. But fair.

I mean, I'm not at all happy with the way things have gone with the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the current management/ownership have learned. Unfortunately, they're the types that have to learn things the hard way, and trial by fire is usually a pretty messy way to go. Still, they did figure out to leave the team alone. It might've taken them half a season, but they did get there.

Well, up until the trade deadline, of course. Then they went back to their previous ways. I haven't decided if any of that was actually Lawton's fault or not, tho. I'm thinking it was all Barrie, but that might just be because I don't think very highly of him. It seems right to me, tho, that he'd step in when things got interesting so he could play GM, and then let Lawton do all the grunt work the rest of the time.

I think it might take another two to four years of trial and error, but this administrative group should be alright. Eventually. Unless the GM gets replaced a time or two before then - since that would indicate that the owners aren't taking any responsibility for the problems they've created and are instead blaming others. And that could set things back. Way back.

No - the real question is whether or not the fans will wait around that long. One season of wackiness is one thing. Making it seemingly a lifestyle choice is entirely another. Sports fans are a fickle lot (I should know), and not a group known for their patience. Another season like this one, and the Lightning may not have any fans left. At least, not ones going to games.

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Thursday, March 5, 2009


We interupt this blog for a very important announcement....

We have a new blogger joining us. Her name is Katchis, and she's a dedicated Lightning fan. Secretly, she's a closet Flyers fan as well. But you didn't hear that from me, and please don't hold that against her.

She's joining us all the way from the Zlin in the Czech Republic. Don't worry - she can hold her own in both English & Czech. She'll be posting her thoughts and ideas about Lightning hockey periodically for all of us to enjoy. And hopefully we'll learn a little about the Czech Republic - the country, the language, and their hockey - along the way.

Thanks for joining us, Katchis! Welcome, and we look forward to reading your posts.

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

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Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Lightning at the Trade Deadline

Today was the NHL Trade Deadline, and the Tampa Bay Lightning didn't disappoint. As expected, they made some really bad moves and traded away some more veteran defense. But that's par for the course with these guys, right?

In all honesty, the only thing that I can come up with to explain all of today's Lightning trades is that they're making cap room for Lecavalier's contract extension, which starts in July, as well as anticipating the continued decline in attendance due to the economy. (Well, really it's because of moves like today's, and we'll let them keep their little delusions - but only because they refuse to acknowledge reality.) The only other alternative that I come up with to that scenario is that they're just completely insane.

Say it with me, guys. "Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn't go away." (That's a quote from Philip K. Dick, by the way.) Tattoo that on your body somewhere where you can see it.

I don't blame Lecavalier at all for this - if it is the contract thing, that is. Personally, I'm leaning towards insanity, myself. Maybe someone needs to do an intervention with these guys. Or perhap an exorcism instead? Anyone know any priests?

Frankly, it doesn't matter who put the numbers on the table for Lecavalier's contract. The fact of the matter is that the owners were more than happy to pay it - at least at the time. They could've offered (counter-offered? somehow I doubt that) something less. And anyone - anyone - in Vinny's position would've done the exact same thing and taken it.

No, it's poor management, plain and simple. It makes me wonder if they did any kind of assessment before buying this team. Did they know what they were getting themselves into? Was there some kind of business plan? Probably not. Judging by how they've mismanaged the players and the coaches, I'd say they've been winging it from the very beginning. And still are.

There have been conspiracy theories suggesting that they've been out to destroy the team from the beginning so they could move it. But I don't think so. Everything they've done has been too haphazard. There's no overall pattern to suggest it's been deliberate - other than to continually gut the defense.

Speaking of which, you know how I was saying that any organization would have to gut their team to make a trade for Lecavalier? Well, it looks like the Lightning are gutting their own team to keep him. And they have to keep him or else they'll risk alienating their entire fan base - including corporate sponsors. (Though I still think he could ask for a trade and none of the fans would blame him for it.)

Like I've said, it's not Vinny's fault. But he is the face of the franchise - he is the Lightning - and that's just how it is. So he's going to have to take the bad with the good. He could always ask for a trade in the offseason, though.

So gone are Eminger, Heward, Kolzig, & Recchi. Stuck is Roberts. That whole waiver thing had to have been pretty humiliating for him. And in return, they got a three minor league defensemen, a minor league forward, and a couple of draft picks.

Think the defense was young this season? This coming season will it'll probably be worse. It seems that they think that the defense is the only truly expendable part of the team.

What gets me about the whole situation is that Lawton has come out and said that they need to get better on defense. Personnel wise, I mean. So they are aware of the problem. My guess is that Barrie had something to do with it. I had thought it was all Lawton's show until I'd read on TSN today that Recchi hadn't been told anything during the process, and was finally told he was traded by Barrie - not by Lawton. So who's really the GM on this team, anyways?

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Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Game 64: Tampa Bay vs. Pittsburgh

The Tampa Bay Lighting lost to the Pittsburgh Penguins 3-1.

I guess there's always a bit of a letdown after coming home from a road trip, huh? Especially one that goes from coast to coast. Of course, the trade deadline tomorrow doesn't really help matters much, either.

Despite that, tho, I thought that the Lightning had a good game. They had jump, they were hitting, they were winning faceoffs, and taking plenty of shots. They just couldn't get anything past Fleury is all.

Even still, I thought that they played a similar game to the one in Calgary. The team really did look good out there on the ice. Their energy was great, which was probably the hardest part, considering all of the travel they just did.

They started out a little slow, but it picked up after that goal by Prospal. The setup by Lecavalier was pretty sweet. I think everyone was convinced that he was going to shoot the puck, particularly since he held on to it for so long, but then he passed it to Prospal who popped it in.

Stamkos had another good game. I think that stability found in the second half of this season has done him a lot of good. Ramo And had a very good game as well.

Sometimes you run into a hot goaltender, and sometimes you don't get the bounces. You can play the best game in the world and still lose because the other team was just luckier. And that's just the way it goes sometimes.

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Monday, March 2, 2009

NHL Trade Deadline 2009

The Trade Bait: 30 players that could stay or go at the [NHL trade] deadline

Greg Wyshynski says it best - "Read it now, before reality ruins everything ... "

I have no comments on this. You know how I feel about rumors. Other than I found it interesting that there are four Lightning players listed on this. And I'm not sure if any of them will actually go. Still, it's interesting.

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Sunday, March 1, 2009

Game 63: Tampa Bay at Calgary

The Tampa Bay Lightning beat the Calgary Flames 8-6.

Yes, you read that right - the Lightning won 8-6.

You might think that it was left over grudge match from the Stanley Cup Finals from almost five years ago. And a little of it might've been. But with the Lightning only having two players from that 2004 squad, and the Flames having just five, I think that might be stretching things a little.

I would also like to add that they just beat the third best team in the Western Conference, and sixth best overall in the NHL. They beat Boston just a week ago, and they were the best team in the Eastern Conference and the second best overall in the NHL. I think they're finally getting it together.

Not only did the Lightning look just as good as Calgary, but even better than the Flames for stretches of the game. They had a great power play, were much better with taking shots, and had were skating really well. The flip side is that they weren't that great with faceoffs, they still allowed almost 40 shots, and their penalty kill wasn't that nice. Which just goes to show that you can play a great game and still need to improved in some areas. You don't have to be perfect, or have the perfect situation, to win, after all.

What was nice was that their scoring came from all over. Sure, the bulk of it came from their top two lines, but isn't that what they're supposed to be doing? It was good to see that it didn't just come from one or two guys is all. Although, I suppose any one of them would've liked to have scored five or six goals all by themselves.

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