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Off The Dot: Tampa Bay Lightning Lose The Game And Maybe Ben Bishop In Edmonton

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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.

 

Still waiting to hear word on goaltender Ben Bishop‘s status after suffering what appeared to be an upper-body injury to his right (stick) hand during an early save against the Edmonton Oilers last night.

And it is really aggravating.

I probably don’t need to say that it’s a pretty big deal whether or not Bishop can play for the Lightning, if not for the rest of this current road trip, certainly his presence on the roster and in net for the rest of the season (and a possible playoff berth) is integral.

The Tampa Bay Lightning would be nowhere near their current place in the standings, in my opinion, if not for Bishop’s stalwart efforts in goal, and as much as I like Anders Lindback this year (he has improved a lot), Lindback just doesn’t have the same “it” factor as Bishop, and cannot, I believe, shoulder the franchise for long stretches of time. He sort of proved that last year in the 2012-13 shortened season. Lindback’s best fit in Tampa Bay, once again in my opinion, is right where he is: a solid #2 goalie who backs up when needed while the #1 starts the majority of the games.

And we have one heck of a #1 goalie right now.

So, bottom line, Tampa Bay needs this injury to be of the minor variety very badly, and I truly hope that it is. Hopefully we’ll find out sometime later today that it’s nothing too serious, just an overextended or tweaked wrist, and some cautious rest is all that is required to get Bishop back between the pipes, where we need him, relatively fast.

I’ll be waiting with bated breath here Off the Dot, like much of you, Bolts Nation, until we hear the good, the bad, or the ugly news later on.

Hoping for the good news (a game or two), obviously, or at least the tolerably bad (meaning more than a few games but he’s coming back relatively fast) but really, truly, with sugar-on-top hoping we’re not looking at anything close to resembling a Steven Stamkos’ like loss.

I’m not a hundred percent sure this team has the depth in net, at least at this point with so many prospect goalies still feeling things out in the minors and abroad, to fill the void that “Big” Ben Bishop would leave in Tampa Bay.

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As far as the actual game went in Edmonton last night, well, the Bolts scored really fast, and first, for the second game in a row and I liked that action a lot (though I wasn’t given long to enjoy it).

It’s just all those bits of allowing the Oilers to score three unanswered goals in the first period, directly after that Nikita Kucherov goal, that showed the way the Lightning was really playing, and just as quickly as their game-opening goal, that caused my neck to whiplash a bit, the game became almost a downward spiral from there against a far less-talented team (in my opinion).

Alex Killorn‘s double minor (hooking) didn’t help the Lightning’s momentum, and the Oilers took advantage during that three-goal span early in the game, forcing Tampa Bay to play catch up early and for the entirely of the game for the most part.

The Bolts played urgently in Vancouver and Calgary and walked away with the four points.  But in Edmonton, the Bolts looked much like they did  coming out of the Christmas break at home against the Rangers and the Canadiens.  Sluggish on the puck; inaccurate passing; giveaways galore; out of sync entering the Edmonton zone on rushes; little to no ability to keep the puck embedded on offense, and almost no shots (at least in the first period, they came back big time in the ensuing periods to eventually out shoot the Oilers overall in the game) while the Oilers peppered the net and spent long periods of time cycling the puck around the Lightning’s boards and putting shots on Lindback, while getting their own rebounds.

Victor Hedman stepped up offensively once again for the Bolts by scoring in the second period and leading the Tampa Bay charge to catch back up.  Hedman continues to add to his eventual career best point totals in 2013-14 with his eighth goal of the season.

It did seem like Lindback, once warmed up a little, got his skates underneath him in the second period, giving the Lightning their best chance of taking the win after Valtteri Filppula tied the game up at 3-3.

But after that, it almost seemed like the Bolts reverted back to the early minutes of the first period’s play and were unable to keep the game even nor take their first lead of the game.

I’m not sure what to say about this game except maybe that the Lightning went into it too confident, based on the Oilers record, and maybe the last two wins; came out easy and never got themselves in sync or on their typical game plan fast enough.  While a slumping Edmonton team came to play a game of hockey, and really won the game decisively (and a bit ironically) with the kind of urgent play that the Lightning used to win in their last two Canadian road games.

Even when the Bolts caught up, the Oilers never quit and eventually regained the lead, then doubled it in a big third period effort.

They kind of beat the Lightning at their own game.  The Oilers wanted it last night and they got it.

The Lightning is going to have to get back on their game tomorrow in Winnipeg.  That’s a tough building to win in and the Bolts need to reestablish what they’re all about as the season is half-over, and yes they’re setting franchise records with this first half run, but a lot can still happen in the coming months, and they need to keep themselves entrenched where they are – not dropping back as teams start catching up in the points.

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