Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off The Dot: Tampa Bay Lightning And The Metropolitan Jitters

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.

 

The next couple of games against Metropolitan Division opponents, in my opinion, aren’t going to be easy – and that includes today’s matinee game in Philadelphia against the Flyers at 1 PM.

Tampa Bay is 5-7-1 against the Met so far this season (opposed to 10-3-1 against the Atlantic; 6-0-1 against the Central; 5-4-1 against the Pacific) and the next several games are all against Met teams with confusing experiences playing the Bolts.  Many of these teams are on hot streaks and may present problems for a rather inconsistent Lighting club who strings wins together but since the Christmas break have struggled to do it for longer than two games in a row.

The Flyers are 8-2-0 in their last 10 games and currently are tied with the Washington Capitals (another Met team we have struggled with all season and just took 2 points from us on Thursday, again, to sweep the two-game season series) for second place in the Met with 50 points.  If any team (among all the teams streaking on the upcoming schedule) to take advantage of a sometimes lapsing Lightning team:  it could be Philly.

The Bolts may have been able to easily take care of the Flyers in their own building on Nov. 27, but doing the same thing in the Wells Fargo Center, especially with the last ten games the Flyers have been having, is a whole other story.

On Monday and Tuesday of next week (Jan. 13 and 14) the Bolts stay on the road for two back-to-back games in Columbus and New York.

The Lightning phoned it in in both of the last two games they played the Blue Jackets (losing 1-0 in their first meeting) and the Rangers (at least the last game, losing 4-3, while dismantling the Blue Shirts 5-0 on Nov. 25)  and both teams are continuing to gel as strong teams in their respective Metro Division.

Both games are possible “two-pointers” for Tampa Bay but the Bolts can’t walk into them (and it’s already challenging enough being back-to-back) thinking they can phone it in, not against these two teams (Blue Jackets 6-3-0 last ten games; Rangers 7-2-1), they will make you eat a two-game skid before you can say “island”.

Which is precisely who the Bolts face next, at home:  the New York Islanders on Thursday Jan. 16 (and I’ll be there too, say hello, I’m the guy wearing the Lightning jersey, #81, with my last name on the back; couldn’t pick between St. Louis, Stamkos, Bishop, Filppula, Gudas…you get the idea).

Another game the Bolts more or less phoned in on The Island on Dec. 17 before waking up for a late game comeback to bring the contest to overtime and eventually winning in a thrilling shootout.

The Isles (7-3-0 last ten) are currently on a hot streak, despite occupying the Met’s basement (surprise), but I wouldn’t walk into that game thinking “easy two points”.

New York’s scoring tandem of John Tavares (20 goals), Kyle Okposo (17), Frans Nielsen (16), and Thomas Vanek (11) have started to find scoring synchronicity and that’s dangerous against a Lightning team (though scoring better than the recent past) who have had some defensive issues at the blue line lately, such as:  giving up the puck; takeaways; issues disrupting their opponents flow and ability to dig in and cycle the puck in their zone; and bad decisions with the puck once regaining control of it.

So yeah…Off the Dot is pretty nervous about these upcoming games against the Met, with good reason.

Especially with the loss of goaltender Ben Bishop (wrist) and defenseman Radko Gudas (upper-body injury).  Key components of the Lightning’s defensive shield.

Though head coach Jon Cooper has promised their return at some point during the three-game road trip.

I’m really hoping to see this Lightning team, despite the holes in their line-up,  buckle down and do what’s needed for continued success in the new year, while on the road this weekend and coming week, because it’s there for the taking if they want it bad enough.

Tags: NHL Tampa Bay Lightning

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