As we all move into the fresh start that begins today, the first day of 2012, the Tampa Bay Lightning look to bring the positive outcomes of their recent wins on the road with them as they head into the brand new year. The Bolts armed themselves with 3 home wins to round out 2011, ending last year with a 5-2 win over the Carolina Hurricanes, a Steven Stamkos hat trick, yet another milestone in the astonishing career of Martin St. Louis who reached his 500th assist last night, the honoring of Lightning co-founder Phil Esposito with a bronze statue in the plaza outside of the newly re-named Tampa Bay Times Forum and the good memories of a full, 60 minute effort in front of the “thunderous” home crowd. To add to this impressive list of positives, indicative of a team building its character as the season marches on, goalie Mathieu Garon has risen to the challenges faced as a result of the early season struggles of net minder Dwayne Roloson, a rash of injured players that began with Mattias Ohlund even before the start of the season and deserved wins that were not granted due to a variety of factors I’ll simply refer to as the “Mysteries of the Hockey Gods”.
As is normally the case, the “good”, the “bad” and the “ugly” typically accompany each other in life, and the Lightning are not proving acceptions to this idea. The “ugly” can be seen in their game against the San Jose Sharks in the “Shark Tank” on December 21st in which the battle that we all know and love in our boys was lacking from the start of the game and no amount of effort could bring that particular game back to “good” despite a progressively, yet slow, attempt at recovery in the 2nd, then 3rd periods. The “bad” is peppered throughout the season in several forms, most recently in the shape of a concussion to the recently signed young, swedish, defenseman, Victor Hedman. This latest dent in an already drained and over-worked D-corp puts further responsibility on all aspects of the team structure from goaltending, to offenseman stepping in to bolster defensive commitment, to putting the full pressure of performing at the NHL level on AHL call-ups from Norfolk. Not to mention the ever-increasing toll taken on the remaining defensemen as each game unfolds.
The “good” is the balancing factor that lends itself to equalizing the rest of the adverity encountered by the Bolts this season and the indicators of positive thinking from within the organization have been present from the start. With every progressing day, the general attitude of the guys who play and the coaching staff has been one of realistic, mindful, team spirit. The characteristics needed to make forward progress toward capturing a playoff spot are, by all outward appearances, fully ensconsed in the mind set of the Tampa Bay Lightning. That in itself should give the fans hope as we look forward in 2012. There’s no guarantee the “bad” and “ugly” will dissipate in the second half of the season for the Tampa Bay Lightning, but the positives are palpable. I, for one, gladly take the “good” from the frist half of the Bolt’s season and feel positive heading into the future as a fan of Lightning hockey.
From the Bolts by the Bay family to you and yours, all the best in 2012. Here’s to a happy, healthy and safe year for us all, including our favorite team, the Tampa Bay Lightning. Go Bolts!
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