And Now Back To The Regularly Scheduled Lightning Season; Appreciating The "Boucher Way"

Now that the NHL All Star weekend has shown us that Zedeno Chara might have to register his shot as a deadly weapon and that the Lightning’s own Steven “Elimination Shout Out King” Stamkos “just went with it” by giving fans and players alike a good reason for wearing a backwards baseball hat, we can enjoy one more night away from the 82-game regular season grind. Tomorrow, however, will be another day and the Bolts collective will gather together again getting back to work with a late afternoon practice in Brandon, FL.

The next scheduled regular season game on Tuesday, January 31, 2012 at the Tampa Bay Times Forum at 7:30 p.m. (eastern) will be against division rivals who are also in need of precious points, the Washington Capitals. The Lightning have met the Capitals twice this season, both times at the Verizon Center in Washington D. C. collecting one OT point in the first two out of four regular season games against the Caps.

 Often, games played against teams in your own division are often considered “four-point games.” The winner (in regulation) receives two points, but also essentially “takes” two points from the divisional rival total in the hunt for a play-off spot. Frankly, I tend to see all regular season games, starting with those played within the division, extending to the other divisions within the same Conference (Eastern in this case) and then all games against the other Conference (Western in this case) as being “ONE point” games, every game, all season. That single point is:  Did the team compete in unity to battle for the win through three periods? If the answer is “yes”, that’s THE point. If the answer is “no”, they missed THE point.

 My typical view does not include numbers on any given day in study of NHL hockey and the game in general no matter the level. Numbers are very useful and I look at them, digest them, process them and find them extremely informative, but not in the traditional manner expressed by the vast majority in today’s NHL. Having that in mind, let me put my there is only “ONE point” per game perspective in terms of the Bolt’s upcoming tilt versus the Caps.

Most folks have become more and more familiar with how Coach Guy Boucher handle’s his team and how he differs from most, if not all, of the head coaches still employed by an NHL team. There are so many parallels and similarities in how Guy Boucher thinks, his life experiences and his “new style” vision of NHL hockey to my own thinking, view and life experiences, I often wonder if somehow we are twins from the same egg separated at birth. If both of our birthdays are truly as they are known, there are slightly more than seven months difference in our ages, so the “twin” thing seems not to be the reason for such “uncanny” similarities. Regardless, I do “think” particularly “in tune” with Coach Boucher (spend some time on my personal blogs and follow me on twitter-those things will give you insight on this subject, I have no doubt) and as such, believe that the Lightning have only “ONE point” on which to focus when they play Washington on Tuesday.

If you aren’t aware, the Capitals will be sans Ovechkin due to a three-game suspension he received after a hit he delivered during a game against the Pittsburgh Penguins. This was also the case when the Caps played Boston before the All Star break and the “ONE point” taken from that game should be:  The Capitals can beat one of the top teams in the NHL and defending Stanley Cup Champions without Ovechkin. Every game won in regulation is always worth two points, so it seems ineffient to even consider this fact when approaching any game, let alone adding the idea of “four point game” to the equation. The focus should simply be on winning, in regulation, in preparation of every NHL game shouldn’t it?

How will the Tampa Bay Lightning win their next scheduled match-up, by getting the “ONE point” and competing against the Capitals for three periods from the beginning face-off knowing full well that any Washington player may have a stellar game, even if their Captain is not on the ice? If our boys enjoyed feeling better about their game after a four-game win streak, I’d hope they either recall on their own (or are perhaps reminded) of what got them those wins and how they can apply that to a win over the team that bested the Boston Bruins when they last played.

Coach Boucher and his staff are likely to have a player or two slightly out of focus tomorrow, but I get the feeling Boucher is already on it. Stammer’s activities in Ottawa may be a consideration in terms of a player being less rested than the others, but he is very young (compared to some others anyway) which aids in his ability to bounce back into typical Stamkos “flow-fashion” rather speedily.

I’m all for a nice “four-point game” on Tuesday from a fan perspective, but would much rather see true Lightning hockey working in smart relentlessness for all 60 minutes, because the more consistently that happens, the more solid chances the team has for many futures wins to come. As Coach Boucher reiterates often, the team is always “building”. I can’t speak for any of you out in Bolts Nation, but personally, I will always and forever prefer anything “built” that has a strong, permanent foundation, knowing with great assurance that anything “built” with a weak foundation in any particular area is destined to fall long before the “zenith” has been reached.

My final thought is related to the last time the Tampa Bay Lightning played the Capitals, but has little to do with the play of the team. If the media feels it necessary to “hear and report selectively”, when giving those not privy to Head Coach Guy Boucher’s press responses post-game, I will make a very concerted effort to do what is necessary to point out that those media NOT on the Capital’s payroll should make some minimal effort to understand the actual point Coach Boucher was making post-game. For example, I only needed to listen to Boucher’s January 13, 2012 Bolts-Caps post-game presser to clearly grasp the coach’s point. He was NOT complaining about the back-to-back games and/or the Lightning’s schedule at all. He was pointing out the fact that the officials called TWO VERY RARELY called penalties in the 1st period. In terms of those two penalties being called against the team that got less sleep, played the night before and could have had a better game had the officials NOT chosen to call those VERY questionable penalties (St. Louis’ penalty being the most “WTF” to me, of the two Boucher mentioned), Boucher was being honest with his thoughts and assessment. Who can’t respect and appreciate that? Go Bolts!

Follow and contact me on Twitter @creasesinger and be sure to follow @BoltsByTheBay to keep up with all the Tampa Bay Lightning fan thoughts. Visit my personal blog Singing From the Crease too!

Tags: Alexander Ovechkin Guy Boucher NHL Coaches Steven Stamkos Tampa Bay Lightning Washington Capitals Zedeno Chara

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