Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Off the Dot: Tampa Bay Lightning Need to Just Keep On Keeping On

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.

 

I’m going to go ahead and say it.  In my opinion, Jonathan Bernier won Tuesday’s game for the Toronto Maple Leafs, otherwise the Bolts had that game and I’m standing by it.

Bernier’s 42 saves single-handedly kept the Tampa Bay Lightning from scoring several key goals that might have instantly changed the complexion of a close, well-played game by the Bolts in Toronto at the Air Canada Centre, and that’s been something of the story lately for the Lightning this season:  great team effort stumped by an opponent’s great goaltending performance.

Ben Bishop had a nearly equal night in net for Tampa Bay, as far flashy saves are concerned, not so much in the total saves department (26).  Bishop impressively executed many key stops when the Lightning needed it the most to keep the game as close as it was – failing only in the third period, with just over four minutes left in the game, when James van Riemsdyk scored the game-winner off a snap shot set up by Phil Kessel and Tyler Bozak.

The Leafs won 3-2 in regulation, as it were.

Tampa Bay looked so good Tuesday night, I thought, and it’s a real shame to see such solid work by the team not result in a win and two more all-important points.  Especially when the Boston Bruins have converted two games over the past several days into four-of-their-own points; leading the Atlantic Division once again outright with 71 points to the Bolts’ second place total of 67 points.

It really burns my biscuit.

But I’m not suggesting that it should burn the Bolts’ collective biscuits.

They played well on Tuesday, as previously stated, and they have been playing well, overall, for the past several games and just need to “keep on keeping on” with the philosophy of play they have been using because it’s working.

In the game of hockey, as in the NHL, some games are going to get away from you, and some games bounce in your favor.  Tuesday was an example of a game bouncing in favor of the Maple Leafs despite a valiant effort by the Lightning to win.  Some games just break that way.

Tampa Bay needs to just “keep up keeping up”, as well, because they still got a certain amount of magic happening on the ice right now and I do believe they can maintain it.  They’ve definitely won more games than they have lost in the month of January (8-5-1) and I think that ratio of win/losses will continue to improve throughout the next few months.

I just hate to see the Bolts lose any games right now since they’re so close to Boston yet so closely pursued by the rest of the teams in the Atlantic:  every game feels precious and every loss feels even more like a true loss – a loss of opportunity.

Today brings the final game of January and the Lightning need to win it.

I’m just going to say it again.  The Lightning needs to win this one.

They have already proven able to handle the Ottawa Senators quite well this year, so far, and I hope to see similar results tonight, but that doesn’t stop my stomach from flopping around in my abdomen.

And the reason I stress need is because that’s all part of the keep on keeping on philosophy I feel the Bolts need to have after the Toronto loss, and the attitude they need to continue to adopt for the rest of the season.

They are a very good and dangerous hockey team with playoff aspirations firmly and rightly on their radar, but if the Bolts hope to keep themselves set on that outcome, they’ll need to shake off the bad bounce games and consistently come back to play fast, high-scoring, strong fore-checking, tight blue line defended games that win in the NHL.  And Bishop needs to continue to rule, which he more than often does.

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Tags: NHL Tampa Bay Lightning

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