It’s been a rough go of late.
Despite the mini-revival of a two-game win streak, the month of March has been a tough one for the Tampa Bay Lightning. Before Saturday’s win in Raleigh and Tuesday’s at home over the Hurricanes and Senators, respectively, the Bolts had managed just two wins since February, the offense had dried up and injuries put several key contributors on the shelf. March has seen the Lightning slip from second in the conference and the top spot in the Southeast Division to fifth in the East and a divisional also-ran to the Washington Capitals.
But with two points tonight, Tampa Bay can secure its first playoff berth in four years and, though any lingering effects of that torturous time period have been all but washed away by this season’s overall success and a rejuvenated sense of organizational pride, by comparison, maybe the recent skid hasn’t been all that bad after all.
So much has happened to this franchise and its fan base since its last postseason appearance – a first-round exit at the hands of the New Jersey Devils, four games to two in the 2007 Stanley Cup playoffs.
There’s no sense in rehashing any or all of that here. Block out what you can, Lightning fans, but you remember…
My initial plans for last night/this morning called for a Tampa Bay Lightning playoff-clinching column but, while the Bolts held up their end of the bargain, those pesky Carolina Hurricanes didn’t cooperate, toppling the Washington Capitals in a shootout.
Instead, I’ll toss out some quick food for thought today, stemming from a press box discussion last night as we sifted through every possible combination and computation related to clinching scenarios and tiebreakers and so on and so forth.
I’ve moaned about three-point games already this season but, as we subtracted a point from Tampa Bay’s magic number when Carolina and Washington were knotted after regulation, carried the one when the ‘Canes prevailed in the shootout, multiplied by six when the Lightning one and determined the square root of the product thereof (or, um, something), another angle of the ridiculousness of the loser point struck me.
This is just far too complicated.
“Once the playoffs come, those third periods are important. They’re all 2-1, 1-0 games, so we have to get better at them.” - Tampa Bay Lightning captain, Vincent Lecavalier, to the St. Pete Times after Saturday’s 3-2 overtime loss to the Senators in Ottawa.
A telling quote, really, for a team 2-4-4 in their last 10 games, with just one win in their last nine contests that were decided by a single goal.
Lecavalier’s right, the playoffs are coming. The fifth-place Bolts are 13 points up on ninth-place Carolina, meaning it would take a monumental (almost New York Mets-like) collapse for them to miss out on the postseason.
But he’s also right about the team needing to get better in tight games. They simply haven’t been able to close teams out. What’s more concerning, perhaps, is that three of their last four losses have come to teams well out of playoff contention – Ottawa twice and the Florida Panthers. That’s not always a truthful indicator, as these teams often play much looser once they have little left to shoot for, but it isn’t exactly a glowing endorsement of the Lightning as a contender at this late stage of the game either.
A happy St. Patrick’s Day to the readers out there from yours truly! May you all be blessed with a plentiful helping of corned beef and cabbage, a pint or three of Guinness and, hell, a nip of Jameson for those of you feeling a wee bit adventurous! And, for the love of your favorite Irishman (or woman), please do avoid green beer at all costs. Dye the local pond, river or stream, if you must, but beer, my friends, should never be green!
A smorgasbord of news items and thoughts on each, in turn, for this fine Thursday afoot:
Farewell, Young Mr. Fadden
The troubling tenure of forward Mitch Fadden as a Tampa Bay Lightning prospect ends today upon his clearing unconditional release waivers and the termination of his contract. According to a report in the Salmon Arm Observer, Fadden, 22, was arrested in Salmon Arm earlier this month on charges of impaired driving, failing to provide a breath sample, dangerous operation of a motor vehicle and obstructing a peace officer. All of this, according to the report, after police observed Fadden to be “grossly intoxicated” at – wait for it – 12:57 PM and that he became “violent with officers” upon apprehension.
Yikes. Hope it was a good party.
Filed in: Buffalo Sabres, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, Montreal Canadiens, New York Islanders, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Toronto Maple Leafs, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink
All five Southeast clubs are in action tonight, with four games on the docket, including a division matchup between the Panthers and Thrashers. All Southeasterners, save for Washington, have been busy already in the trade market and I don’t expect that will cease any time before it has to on Monday afternoon.
Now then, to tonight’s schedule…
Pittsburgh at Carolina
They’re gettin’ the band back together in Raleigh (again), as GM Jim Rutherford hooked up with his Florida Panthers counterpart, Dale Tallon, to bring Cory Stillman back to Carolina. Heading Florida-way is forward Ryan Carter and a fifth round draft pick for the Panthers, who most expect are only getting started on the trade front.
Stillman managed seven goals and 23 points in 44 games for Florida this year and the Hurricane hope is that he’ll give a lift to the power play and provide an overall spark to the offense.
The thinking here is that the addition of Stillman also gives Carolina a little more flexibility, in terms of moving any one (or more) of his forwards on expiring contracts for a little help on the blueline, if they so choose (or, perhaps, something bigger?) Rutherford told the Raleigh News & Observer he may not be done indeed but that he was not planning on peddling any of his top prospects.
Filed in: Atlanta Thrashers, Carolina Hurricanes, Florida Panthers, New Jersey Devils, New York Rangers, Pittsburgh Penguins, Tampa Bay Lightning, Washington Capitals, | Beasts of the Southeast | Permalink