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.
So last night’s game in Ottawa was a rough one to watch. From the very start nothing seemed to go the way the Lightning would have wanted.
The nightmare started just over two minutes into the first period when Lightning netminder Ben Bishop got his bell rung (Bish took a header off a jumping Nikita Kucherov’s skate) while diving to intercept the puck from Ottawa’s Mika Zibanejad during a slight breakaway. Kucherov had been shadowing Zibanejad through Tampa Bay territory with speed at the time Bishop made his diving move and the slight collision between the two was almost unavoidable and unfortunate.
If that wasn’t bad enough, the Senators scored on the open net for the early lead, while Bishop lay on the ice immobile and unable to defend the pipes. The only way the goal would not have been allowed, and the puck called dead, would be if the Bolts had gained possession of the puck immediately after Bishop was injured.
As it were, the Sens maintained possession and scored the empty net goal.
Bad Luck continued to rear its ugly head in the second period as Valtteri Filppula was forced to leave the game due to an unknown lower-body injury (probably his ribs) after a sustaining an awkward (interfering) hit early in the second frame.
Filppula attempted to skate one more shift after the hit but shook his head “no” almost immediately after only a short time of it on the ice; retreating to the Lightning’s locker room for the rest of the game.
As of this writing word has gotten out that Bishop did NOT sustain a concussion and that the reason he stayed out of last night’s game was only as a precaution. No word yet on how quickly he will return to play for the Lightning. In the case of Filppula’s injury this author has yet to hear any news good, bad or otherwise.
Both injuries are severe blows to this Tampa Bay hockey team (if long term) and the effect of their loss (especially in the case of Bishop) was felt immediately in last night’s game.
The Bolts never seemed to get their legs under them last night. They looked out of sync in every aspect of their game. I don’t know if this was a direct result of seeing Bishop hurt early, before the Lightning had had a chance to get set up into their system, or it was just a bad night no matter what they tried to do on the ice (and those nights happen from time to time), the result is the same. It was one of the worst games I have seen the Bolts play in a long time, possibly all season.
My hat’s off to Anders Lindback for doing the best he could do on such late notice (though he is kind of paid to be ready to play no matter what, that’s why he’s there) and for the first period, at least, he looked to be answering the call quite well. That is, until the second period started, then all hell broke loose on Lindback, along with any chance the Bolts had to win that game.
Not to name names (as I name a name), but, Radko Gudas had a pretty rough night in Ottawa: turning the puck over or mishandling it in sensitive areas of the ice (at least one goal resulted from Gudas not maintaining possession deep in Lightning territory while the Sens dug in). Gudy was most-definitely not playing up to his usual standards and that hurt the team in several scenarios. He had at least two big mistakes he would have liked to maybe do over, but, in hockey, there are no takebacks.
Penalties may have been low for both teams (though at least two situations that I saw should have given the Bolts the man-advantage. Shame on you, Cory Conacher!), which is nice, but passing in all three zones looked pathetic by the Lightning’s usual standard of late. Not a crisp pass to be found by any player.
Though I did thoroughly appreciate the rise in quality play in the third period (that saw the Bolts shoot 23 of their combined 38 shots in the game in that period alone), when for the briefest of moments you wondered where the hell that team had been all night, and for an even briefer moment of time, thought the Bolts might pull off an amazing comeback. Then time ran out and that was unfortunately that.
But that little bit of solid intensity by the Bolts was nice to see: a lone sparkle in an otherwise dismal, cloudy game.
But it wasn’t just Gudas, it was everybody. The whole team had an off night. And I’m deeply hoping that it was just a one night occurrence (and more often than not this year it usually is. This tenacious group usually responds with a good series of games after a bad series of games) and Bishop and Filppula return to the ice relatively quickly, because we need them desperately.
Saturday sees the Bolts traveling to Montreal to face the recently hot Canadiens, who just last night beat the mighty Boston Bruins 4-1. So I’m not so sure I’m looking forward to watching their next game if they end up playing like they did on Thursday. We’ll have to wait and see. It is a matinee game which have proven to be kind to the Lightning so far this season.
The Bolts currently sit in second place in the Atlantic Division with 67 points. Four points behind the division leading Bruins (71), while the Canadiens are in close pursuit with 63 points in fourth place (one point behind the third place Toronto Maple Leafs).
Saturday is another MUST WIN game for the Bolts. As a constant reader of our Bolts by the Bay website is wont to say: time to knuckle up.
Yes, it certainly is.