Kukla's Korner Hockey
by Jon Jordan on 12/04/10 at 04:22 PM ET
I’ve made a slight change to my slowly-evolving routine here lately, scrapping JJ’s Three Cheers as a regular feature and committing to keeping a heavy emphasis on the local club, the Tampa Bay Lightning. We’ll still be keeping close tabs on the Southeast Division as a whole but, in keeping with dance-with-the-girl-that-brung-ya tradition, won’t be straying from the day-to-day happenings with the Bolts in favor of opining elsewhere. If it’s timely and relevant, and I actually have an opinion on some other Southeast matter, I’ll touch on it, as expected. But I won’t even attempt to do so if that means sacrificing Lightning material.
I just think that makes sense.
I’ll have thoughts on leaguewide matters, as usual, and I do later today, in fact but, regarding Three Cheers, I’m getting away from that – despite the ease with which it was thrown together each day – mostly because juuuuuuust about everyone else out there does something very similar on a regular basis. And, hell, I’m an original – or at least that’s my claim.
So that’s that. Moving on…
ESPN.com’s Pierre LeBrun put out a blog early this week stating that, for all of the positive things happening in Tampa Bay this season, the Lightning could really use more in the way of key saves from their goaltending duo of Dan Ellis and Mike Smith. I can’t say that I disagree here at all and this shouldn’t exactly be news to anyone. After all, goaltending was generally looked at as a potential weak spot for this club before the first puck was ever dropped on the season.
But while, as LeBrun notes, neither Bolts goaltender has been terrible, the fact that neither man has been able to establish himself as the number one in Tampa is at least somewhat disconcerting. Ellis seemed to be moving ahead of Smith in that regard earlier on in the year before coming back to Earth and Smith took his turn, rolling off four straight wins before getting pasted, 6-0, in Washington last week. Ellis beat Toronto on Tuesday but then Smith got the call on Thursday night in Boston, continuing the goalie-go-round that has spun all year to this point. Of course, Smith was lit up for five goals (including that were just about as awful as bad goals get) on 22 Bruin shots. Hrrmph.
Eventually, one of these two will have to be the man and the smart money, if there is any, is on Ellis. No disrespect to Smith but, save for a spurt here or there, he still hasn’t regained the fine form he showed when first arriving from Dallas late in the 2007-08 season, despite ample opportunity. For him to do so now would be at least moderately surprising.
But what if neither man jumps significantly out in front of the other? Would the Lightning, assuming they stay in playoff position, be a team in the market for a goaltending upgrade? Hard to say this early, especially in trying to forecast a particular target.
In a nutshell, no matter what, the goaltending does need to be more consistent.
It’s a small concern… But a concern nonetheless…
And 8-1 decisions in favor of the other guys don’t exactly do much in the way of easing anxiety.
Obviously, a rebound tonight (regardless of which goaltender gets the nod) against Colorado, is just what this team needs.
On Monday’s episode of The Bolts Beat, just in time for Tuesday night’s Lightning visit to Calgary, former Tampa Bay general manager and current Flames AGM, Jay Feaster, will join us on the show. We’ll talk all things Lightning and Flames with Jay so, please, be sure to give that a listen.
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About Kukla's Korner Hockey
Paul Kukla founded Kukla’s Korner in 2005 and the site has since become the must-read site on the ‘net for all the latest happenings around the NHL.
From breaking news to in-depth stories around the league, KK Hockey is updated with fresh stories all day long and will bring you the latest news as quickly as possible.
Email Paul anytime at firstname.lastname@example.org