The Tampa Bay Lightning was the big talk yesterday on local sports circuits because of the rumor of head coach Guy Boucher being fired. Well, that and Danica Patrick, of course. In my opinion, he is doing his job and he’s doing it well. I am so relieved that it was just a rumor because of one paragraph in a blog. Thank you Stu Heckal and thank you WDAE’s Steve Deumig for over reacting and announcing a press conference to confirm the rumor as a joke.
Whenever a hockey team is losing, the goaltender is always blamed. It doesn’t matter how the offense is or is not scoring, it doesn’t matter how the defense is doing at protecting the net. It’s always the goaltender’s fault. I could swear that Dwayne Roloson is STILL being blamed for the recent losses and Roli’s not even playing!
Many thought that Anders Lindback was our answer to all of the problems. They expected him to be in net and stop every puck and solely hold the team on his shoulders. Perhaps his superhero cape is broken. That is not the issue! Yes, the goaltending has been spotty. It seems to be the same story, year after year, goalie after goalie. When they are hot they are hot. When they are not they are definitely not. I think that Lindback does have the ability to be a great net minder. He has proven his ability to us. As has Mathieu Garon. However, I don’t feel that he’s ready to be our number one yet. He has the big body size that helps. Most men who are that big can’t move quite as fast or aren’t that flexible. He is all three! He seems to do ok until the other team gets one past him. Then as he recuperates, the team nets another two goals. It’s like they score, and I know automatically that he will let in two more. He sits stunned for three goals. Then he gets himself together and finishes the game. (Unless Coach Boucher pulls him and puts Garon in his place like he did in Pittsburgh.) There is not really a good option for getting rid of Garon or Lindback for another goaltender right now. They just acquired Lindback. Give him a chance. With time he will get better. Remember, they are in for a long term answer, not a short term quick fix.
If we talk about a goal tending and coaching change, then it’s only fair to take a look at Frantz Jean, the goalie coach. The Lightning’s goal tending has not been consistent for years. He works hard, but you still have to question him. He has had three years to turn the goal tending problems around, but he hasn’t. I’m not saying that he is a bad coach. Perhaps he just isn’t the right coach for this system.
What about the forwards? Steven Stamkos didn’t seem to be himself for the first few weeks of this shortened season. He is on a point streak and was named the league’s number two star of the week. He continues to mature and play with speed and accuracy that is rarely seen. Martin St. Louis has been off of his game. Too many times in recent games we’ve watched the puck glide towards his stick for a pass and slip under it to keep on going. Then a player from the opposing team grabs it and takes off. There have been way too many turn overs. Vincent Lecavalier has been playing better this year, but is he playing up to his contract’s worth? I honestly don’t think so. Cory Conacher has stolen the show and is proving his worth all of the way around. B.J. Crombeen has not impressed me much at all. He’s good for … well, he fills a space on the ice. He gives the other players a break while he skates? I’m trying to be positive. He is a liability with his hot head. He is no Steve Downie, that’s for sure. Crombeen is quick to drop the gloves, and lose the fight. He needs to cool it and focus on his playing.
The defense can always use fine tuning. Last year I would complain about Eric Brewer and how he seemed to just hang out on the blue line and not make a rash attempt to keep the puck in. This year, however, he is hustling to keep it in. He is blocking shots. He is taking shots himself, beautiful slap shot attempts. Victor Hedman isn’t seeming to be that aggressive this year. Matt Carle has really been an asset to the line up. He is not afraid take a hit, and he’s not afraid to get one. He battles for the puck and defends the net.
There are too many turn overs, like I mentioned earlier. When the other team shoots the puck at our net, it’s the goaltender’s job to stop the puck. It’s the defense’s job to push the puck up under the goalie’s pads to stop the play or grab the rebound and get it the heck out of there. When they are near the opposing team’s net, the forwards’ job is to get the puck into the net. They take shots, and the defense is to keep the puck inside of the blue line and battle opposing players to keep them from getting the rebounds. They have a passing problem. Watching a Lightning game is like this:
pass pass pass -hand the puck over -get it back -pass pass -get in the zone -line change!! -chase puck -pass pass pass
It is so frustrating to watch. I’m sure it feels frustrating on the ice, too. There are turn overs happening on missed passes. So basically they need to quit the passing and chase the puck cat and mouse game. They need to take more shots. They need to skate with confidence and fight, speed and hustle. Some games they come out like there is a fire lit underneath their pads. Others they appear to have a lack of hustle.
When Steve Yzerman took over the team he said that he was building a long term plan for the team. Guy Boucher said that he expected it would take three to four years to build. They just had a good run in 2011. No quick fixes, they are making permanent solutions. With all of this said, unless you’re the Chicago Blackhawks, you can’t win them all. The Bolts have a decent record so far. They are tied for first place in the division. They are good and will only get better. If they keep it consistent and they hustle. Keep in mind that these are things that I have observed and this is only my opinion. (I feel like I need to make that clear from now on!)