I’m not sure if anyone would look at the score of the Bolts game from last night and think that we are headed in a direction any different from last year, but I must tell you, we certainly are. Losing 6-3 was, to say the least, disheartening, but if you look deeper at the stats, or if you watched the game, you know this is a different team.
First off, we shot 39 shots. Ondrej Pavelec, the young netminder for the Thrashers was superb. We had 23 scoring chances in the game, compared to 17 for the Thrashers. Line 2 (Marty, Stammer, Malone) had 3 points, and just as I predicted is going to be a dominant line in the NHL in 2009-2010. The offense for the Lightning looks much different than in 2008-2009, just because of some stylistic changes that Rick Tochett has implemented, mainly blueliners shooting much more from the point.
The real bright spot of the day though was rookie Victor Hedman, who had 1 assist in his first NHL game. This guy is going to be an absolute monster. His skating skills and passing skills are already upper echelon, and he has only played one NHL game. He led the Lightning in ice time last night, and I don’t see any reason why he and Mattias Ohlund won’t lead the Lightning in ice time every night. In fact, if Hedman plays like he did last night, he could be a league leader in ATOI.
The real sour spots for the Bolts last night was the play of my long hated, Paul Ranger. I don’t actually hate Ranger, I just don’t see what the Lightning and a lot of his fans see in this guy. He is clumsy, and makes mistakes at the most inopportune times. The first goal of the game for the Thrashers was actually scored by Ranger off a deflection from Mike Smith. It wasn’t one of those unfortunate bump ins, it looked like a shot. Then when the Lightning had closed the gap to 4-3 with about 17 minutes left in the third period, and really had the momentum in their favor, Ranger took a dumb ass penalty, which led to a Thrashers goal, and ultimately a Thrashers win.
Although Smitty let 6 goals in, 3 of them were flukey or scored by Paul Ranger. He made some real nice saves, and has the full confidence of the fan base, even after a dissapointing start.
If the Bolts play a mirror image game from last night on Tuesday, I gaurantee a victory, just make sure Paul Ranger is in the pressbox and Matt Smaby is on the ice instead.