Dec 12, 2013; Tampa, FL, USA; Tampa Bay Lightning right wing Martin St. Louis (26) shoots on goal against the Detroit Red Wings during the second period at Tampa Bay Times Forum. Mandatory Credit: Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Dot: The Warm Feeling of a Lightning Victory before Bed

Off the Dot is an ongoing column of opinions, feelings and thoughts on all things Tampa Bay Lightning.  This is a knee-jerk reaction column for the many things that a fan maybe feels or thinks throughout a hockey season.

This is NOT a stat by stat analysis of the Bolts, but rather a theater of words concerning the Lightning and the many emotions tangled up in supporting your favorite NHL team; a theater for all fans to come to for a more personal take on Tampa Bay hockey.

That’s why I call it “off the dot”.  Because if we were “on the dot”, as in face-off mode, well, things would be decidedly more on-point and specific.  While off the dot, while we’re still just milling around the face-off circle, as I am now, waiting for the whistle to blow, then we’re just being conversational.  We’re just talking about our thoughts on strategy maybe or whatever random concept happens to come to mind, needing to be expressed.  The fun off-key banter of fans before someone (whoever) decides to hunker down, spread out their skates, and get nose-deep over the dot for the real face-off, and maybe say, statistically speaking, what happened in a win or loss in their more researched opinion.  And we have those articles all over Bolts by the Bay, and I very much encourage you to check out those articles too.

These are just my opinions, my feelings, and my thoughts – while we’re off the dot.

 

Nothing really tucks me in, snug into the bed spread, like a Tampa Bay Lightning win before lights out.  In all honesty, nothing quite tops it.

And that’s primarily how the Lightning looked against the Detroit Red Wings last night:  lights out.

The Bolts bested the Wings for the second straight time this season in front of a packed Tampa Bay Times Forum crowd.  A packed arena full of a fair share (and maybe slightly unfair to hear some fans tell it) of Red Wings fans.

Their effect was minimal at best as the Lightning won their first game since Dec. 5 against the Ottawa Senators.

Losing streaks can sometimes strike a team not unlike a cold can hit the human body:  taking way longer than you ever thought possible to shake off the symptoms; meanwhile the losses keep piling up with the Kleenex.

But that’s over with, at least for now.  A sense of climbing out of the dark, tunnel of struggle feels palpable in these last three games, despite two of them being losses, with the way the Lightning has played them.

Now we, the Bolts Nation, with win (and two points) in hand, can collectively slumber, warm and cozy in our beds tonight (and I hope you, like me, did last night as well); situated and content as a crackling fire in the hearth, until Saturday’s match-up against the New Jersey Devils.

We didn’t fare too well in the first meeting with the Devils earlier in the year, so the goal on Saturday is to rewrite the ending of sorts in that 2-1 loss in Jersey on Oct. 29.

And maybe even answer some more of those questions I asked in my last Off the Dot column.

It was a low-scoring game against the Red Wings, which is impressive.  It suggests strong defense, which is even more impressive considering the injuries the D-Line has taken over the past few weeks.

Regardless, the Lightning looked great ON the puck, and they looked great WITH the puck.

It wasn’t even too messy with penalties in comparison to other games; so all around, top-notch effort by the Lightning.

Something is different in this team, or at least still evolving, sans Steven Stamkos.

A form of better chemistry between lines is evident, I believe, and you can see sparks that this reaction emits from time to time between the lines, with extended moments of excellent puck possession, movement and passing, along with increased shots on goal.

I saw a few moments of being too “cute” on the power play and on a few scoring opportunities during the game, but for the most part, it appears that the Bolts are getting away from that stuff and just putting pucks on net.

All the while, the goaltending remains as rock-solid as we in Tampa Bay are starting to grow accustomed to.  And then there’s Radko Gudas, whose presence is irreplaceable on the blue line, and always a factor in every game he plays.

My only wish is that this new intangible element, whatever it may be, is sustainable for the next few months.  These next several weeks of games are very important for the Lightning if they have any hope at all of staying in the play-off picture.

But for now, I will bask in the warmth of this latest victory, as it has been a long time coming (and feels even longer than that).

As I was saying, we can rest assured, at least for now.

Ben Bishop (29 saves), Nikita Kucherov (one goal), and Captain Martin St. Louis (game S/O winning goal) have personally seen to that with their efforts in the game.

So for now, after several weeks of goal droughts and “close, but no cigar” overtime and shoot out losses, the Bolts Nation can sleep warmer than most fan bases (and not because we’re in Tampa Bay).

In fact, I think Florida must have just gotten a degree or two warmer from all the contented Lightning fans populating it (much to the chagrin of the rest of North America).

You’re welcome, Snowbirds.

Things can be quite toasty here off the dot, at least when the Lightning are winning games, especially in such nail-biting ways as a one-goal shootout.

And when that happens I’m as snug as a Thunder Bug – nothing quite tops it.

I’m in no hurry to relinquish the heat while it’s there to be had.  So keep it coming, Bolts, get the fan base through the winter with wins, wins galore, like logs on a fire, and we’ll stay warm.

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