Game 38….let that sink in for a moment…..we are nearly midway through the NHL season. The Tampa Bay Lightning sit at 18-15-4 (40 points) and they are currently on the outside looking in regarding the playoff picture behind New Jersey as both teams battle to get into the playoffs. Have the Lightning played up to your expectations so far this season? Comment below and let us know where you thought the Lightning would be at the midway point.
The Lightning’s six game home stand is coming to an end now while they have earned three points so far with two games to go the Bolts have only won 2 games, but have been getting their scoring touch back lately. The Lightning have scored at least five goals three times in the last six games. Also during the regular season, the Lightning have won six of their last 7 against the Rangers.
The Rangers didn’t wait too awfully long to score as not even two minutes into the game following a faceoff Dan Boyle would slip a shot past Ben Bishop glove side. Through the first six minutes of the period The New York Rangers only managed two shots on net, but one of those shots gave them a 1-0 lead. While on the power play the Rangers would get a nice flurry of shots on goalie Ben Bishop, none would make it past the Bolts netminder. The Lightning would get second power play, but unfortunately the pass first mentality continues on the Tampa Bay special teams. Two power plays and nearly 13 minutes gone in the 1st and the Bolts had ONE shot on net!!! This team seriously lacks continuity and until they get something more than a solid goalie effort night in and night out there will be NO hope for a return to the Stanley Cup Finals let alone even getting into the playoffs. For a team that returned EVERY SINGLE PLAYER except one and they upgraded at the one position, this is a team who has come out at times extremely flat. It’s extremely disappointing due to the fact the fans, the media hell even the casual watcher knows this team can score at will, but something is seriously missing and I can’t seem to put my finger on it. One bright spot for this team has been the play of Jonathan Marchessault who would take advantage of a Rick Nash high sticking penalty and deflect an Anton Stralman slap shot past Henrik Lundqvist. As the final seconds would tick off the clock in the 1st the score would be tied, but I felt that period easily went to the Rangers.
The second period would start….well almost the exact same way the 1st period did. Not even a minute into the 2nd period Mats Zuccarello would notch his 16th goal of the season to give the Rangers a 2-1 lead. If this team doesn’t start becoming more consistent a few of these players with bigger contracts or lack of contract at the end of the season could be heading to other team at the trade deadline. I can fix the Lighting though…I feel if they would stop with the dilly dally passing and spins moves and go back to what made this team great last season we will see success again. This was some less than exciting hockey if you ask me.. 22 total shots between the two teams with about five minutes left in the 2nd period (NY Rangers had 12 of the 22). Out of the 38 games, including this one tonight I feel the Lightning have played a full 60 minutes….maybe five times out of 38 to me that’s a recipe for failure. Please stop blaming injuries for why we can’t win. Injuries are always the easiest scape goat in sports. Once again as the final moments would tick away on the second period Anton Stralman would crash the net and push a puck barely past a sprawled out Henrik Lundqvist to tie the game 2-2 with 8.2 seconds left in the second.
The biggest issue with this team has been NO ONE is taking this team on their back with all the injuries that have plagued this team so far. When Stamkos went down two years ago Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat stepped up and became Caldar Finalists in the process paving the way for the day Stamkos would return. I have yet to see that drive from anyone this season. Stamkos has tried at times to take this team on his shoulders, but that forces him not to be able to play his type of hockey. The only grit on this team night in and night out is Ryan Callahan, but we aren’t paying him solely to run into people and be a leader… He has to scores at least 15-20 goals a season and so far this season he only has five. Tyler Johnson who got off to a slow start due to injuries only has four goals on the season.
Once again the Rangers were able to notch an early period goal as Dominic Moore would get his 4th goal of the season giving the Rangers the lead once again. I’m afraid if this team can’t get something going in their favor on a consistent basis this will be a team that won’t make the playoffs. Rick Nash and Viktor Stralberg added empty net goals putting the game out of reach for the Bolts. They would drop this one 5-2 as time ticked off the clock.
Three Stars of the Game
3rd Star – Dan Boyle: Scored the opening goal less than two minutes into the game while adding a assist on Zuccarello’s 2nd period goal.
2nd Star – Henrik Lundqvist: Didn’t face a ton of shots but absolutely stopped them when he needed to. 20 saves on 22 shots.
1st Star – Dominic Moore: Scored the game winner while assisting on Boyle’s 1st period goal.
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