Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Dot: Tampa Bay Lightning Finally Win on Home Ice in 2014; Draw Even With Boston Again

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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.

 

Finally, the bleak home streak of losses for the Tampa Bay Lightning have ended (at five straight), as the Bolts won 4-3 last night against division rival the visiting Ottawa Senators in a thrilling shootout decision.

Tampa Bay came out in the opening period with so much quickness on the puck, racking up five shots in just over two-minutes of elapsed play, I was standing up to watch the game.  Waiting patiently for the Lightning to score the opening goal I was sure was coming from all of that activity.

Surprisingly, as it turned out, the Bolts didn’t score in that opening volley of ridiculous shots on net and puck possession in Ottawa territory, but rather during a Senator power play when Tyler Johnson scored short-handed.

Whatever, the Bolts scored first eventually, and I took it as a good sign. That, and Ben Bishop was doing some crazy things in net all night long to keep the Lightning in the game. He continues to impress game-in-and-game-out, last night showcasing some of his more dexterous and flexible saves I’ve seen, yet. Not to mention how fired up he got after a few Ottawa goals got past him. I like to see that kind of competitive attitude after a puck gets past a goaltender. Just to know he’s dialed in and ready to go the extra mile to ensure it doesn’t happen again ( which it more less didn’t, since the one even-strength goal the Sens got was a freaky flipping puck that was almost impossible to save from the angle it came at Bishop from).

Almost all three periods would start out that same way:  the Bolts gaining incredible possession of the puck in Ottawa territory, but more often than not, they would struggle to get one past Senator net-minder Craig Anderson (who made a lot of big saves in key moments that could have easily let the game get out of hand in the favor of the Bolts).  And then after those sustained periods of excellent offensive pressure a series of lapses in Lightning defense would follow and gave a fairly weak Ottawa team chances they would never have otherwise gotten, making the game a lot closer than I think it needed to be.

And that includes their two power play goals.

Giving opponents great chances with the man-advantage has been an issue for Tampa Bay this season.  Far too many junk penalties (Teddy Purcell) by an entire host of culprits have ended up deciding many games in 2013-14 in the favor of the Lightning’s opposition than I remember seeing in a good long while.

Despite an increased amount of PPG’s scored by the Bolts over the past several games (which is nice), it does little good to score your own PPG’s if you let your opponents walk back into the game constantly with weak penalty kills of your own and ultimately cancelling out whatever success you’re having with the man-advantage (or at even-strength, as it pertains to last night).

So, that’s something that I can see that needs to be cleaned up and I’m sure the Bolts are fully aware of it (along with Jon Cooper) and we’ll start seeing some improvement in that area.  At least I hope we do.

One thing at a time, right?  They just now got things more or less situated, or the beginnings of doing so, at home.  And it was a long time coming.  I was at a game during that sad home record (Thursday Jan. 16 vs. the Islanders) and it was seriously bumming me out (then and since).

Bottom line:  the Bolts got another win (their second in a row, and we love streaks of THOSE kind) and the two points earned in the Tampa Bay Times Forum last night tie the Lightning up in first place in the Atlantic Division with the Boston Bruins (65 points) for the second time in the last six days.

As long as Tampa Bay continues to keep themselves right there in the mix – on Boston’s tail or right along beside it – then I think Lightning fans can relax and just be proud of this excellent club for all that is has accomplished this season, and continues to accomplish, despite numerous setbacks and bad luck that otherwise might have waylaid this great mid-season positioning we’ve found ourselves in.

I agree with Steven Stamkos’ assertion that this year is going to be a special year in Tampa Bay (and one of the reasons he really wants to hurry back to be a part of it).  Just a matter of time before everyone else in the league starts to figure that out, too.

And we, Bolts Nation, get to come along for the ride!

But, I’m willing to let the league (meaning Lightning opponents) keep all of their attention focused on recent headline stealing teams like the Columbus Blue Jackets (eight-game win streak) and the San Jose Sharks (five-game win streak) for the time being, for as long as it takes, then maybe the Bolts can sneak up on some teams while quietly climbing to the top of the Eastern Conference, yet again.

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