Good afternoon and welcome to a new feature on Bolts By The Bay that we are calling, The Face-Off Circle. In this feature, one of our Bolts will face off against an opposing player of the team the Lightning face next. We will see how the two match up against each other, their respective teams, and against the rest of the league.
In today’s edition of The Face-Off Circle, we have a veteran match-up of left wingers. The Tampa Bay Lightning are facing off with the Boston Bruins to open their season tonight, so this will be an interesting analysis to say the least. For the home team Bruins, we have Milan Lucic going up against the Bolts’ Ryan Malone.
Milan Lucic is a 25-year old stud of a player and is already a six-year veteran in the league. Now, I know I’m not supposed to think so highly of Lucic but to be honest, the kid has loads of talent. He has played in twenty games against the Lightning and has six goals in those games. However, our Lightning defense and goaltending has done an amazing job of shutting Lucic down recently. In the 2013 season, The Lightning and Bruins played each other three times and Lucic did not record a single point (no goals or assists) in any of those games. In fact, he hasn’t recorded a point against the Bolts in the regular season since March 3rd, 2011 when he scored a goal to help give Boston a 2-1 victory over the Lightning. He also scored a goal against the Lightning in the playoffs of 2011, the year Boston defeated the Bolts in seven games to advance to the Stanley Cup Finals where they beat the Vancouver Canucks. Lucic had two goals in that series.
Now on to the player that really matters, Ryan Malone. Malone may not be the best player statistically, but the man is absolutely talented.
He has come a long way from being the little twenty year old kid out of St. Cloud State University. Malone was drafted in the fourth round of the 1999 draft by the Pittsburgh Penguins but didn’t get to play for them until the 2003-04 season.
In four seasons with Pittsburgh, Malone scored only six goals against the Bruins and has scored just once against them since joining the Lightning in 2008. He has been a consistent twenty-goal scorer since coming up in 2003, with only two seasons where he scored 16 and 14 respectively. In a lockout shortened, injury-plagued year last year, Ryan managed to score six goals in 24 games for the Lightning.
In fact, last season was was very similar, statistically, for these two men. Production wise, Malone had a better season that Lucic did.
Yes I am looking at the same statistics as everybody else but I’m also looking at what could have been for Malone. He had his season shortened because of a lower-body injury, yet still managed to score just one less goal than Lucic did.
Now, obviously we know that Lucic and the Bruins went on to the playoffs and eventually Stanley Cup finals where they lost to the Chicago Blackhawks. In the 22 games the Bruins played in the playoffs, Lucic matched his season total of seven goals. So when you really look at it, Lucic scored 14 goals in the 68 games he played in last year while Malone scored 6 in playing only 24 games.
Had Malone been able to stay healthy, he was projected to finish the season with 18 goals in 48 games, better than Lucic’s small amount of seven.
Don’t get me wrong, I think Lucic is an extremely talented young player who has a huge future ahead of him in the NHL. Heck, the kid was drafted in the second round of the 2006 draft at the age of 18 and started playing in the NHL in the 2007-08 season. Ironically, that ’07-08 season that Lucic started his NHL career, Malone was a part of the Pittsburgh Penguins team that won the Stanley Cup. However, Lucic got his opportunity to win a Stanley Cup just three years later in the 2010-11 season when Boston defeated Vancouver in seven games. So both of these players has a Stanley Cup ring, years of experience on talented teams, and high expectations for this upcoming season. But which of the two is the better player? I can honestly say that right now, Malone is the better player. At full strength, he plays on a line with Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos where all three players can score from any spot on the ice. Not taking anything away from Lucic but Malone just has the better knowledge of the game at this point in his career and still has the ability to make game changing plays.
Tonight’s game is an away game for the Bolts, so the tests start early this season. Boston is always a hostile environment to play in for Tampa and tonight will be no different. Look for Lucic to use that home-ice to his advantage in tonight’s game. Reports are coming out that Malone is healthy and will be playing in the game tonight so watch to see how he bounces back from his injuries to start the year. Tonight’s game will be a great one, as all Lightning-Bruins games are, so look forward to a great game and a great start to the season for the Lightning.
Come back to Bolts By The Bay on Saturday for another look inside The Face-Off Circle. Go Bolts!