Last night’s game against the Boston Bruins (game four of the four game series for those keeping score at home) was easily the best game the Tampa Bay Lightning has played against the Bad B’s, and the best game since just before the Olympic break.
Yeah they lost (all four games I know) but they went toe-to-toe with the Bears for all 65 minutes plus of that game, and even when they were pushed down against the walls and forced to battle in their own zone for what seemed like forever, the Lightning fought hard, and took away angles, and never gave Boston the easiest time of scoring and walking away with the game. No, the Bruins had to work for that one. And that’s the point.
The Bolts went from only scoring one goal (game one, season opener) over the course of three meetings against Boston to scoring three goals in one period!
If the Lightning could bottle that effort and sprinkle it over the ice for every game they play for the remainder of the regular season then I would have no doubts about the Bolts making the playoffs this year. They played with the kind of stand up intensity and with a sense of urgency that we haven’t seen in these past five games out from the break, and it’s the kind of play that the Bolts will need to continue to hold by the horns if they mean to regain their positioning in the Atlantic Division (currently fourth with 74 points) or take firm hold of a wildcard spot (which is where they currently sit).
Now, the game still featured some blunders, as does most Lightning games: breakdowns in defense, bad positioning that allowed breakaways and scoring chances (where Boston got one of it’s comeback goals), and at least one soft goal by Ben Bishop that allowed the tying goal midway through the third period. But overall, I’ve never seen our team play as well from both ends of the ice for three complete periods in a long time. And against the Bruins, which is no small feat, as they are one of the top-five elite teams in the NHL. A place the Bolts hope to one day be as well.
It was a tough loss and I really, really wanted them to win that game. But at the end of the day, it was the kind of effort from the Lightning that I have missed seeing, and I hope it is a sign of things to come with new captain Steven Stamkos at the helm.
Stamkos looked incrementally better last night than he did against Buffalo. Still sending shots a little wide of the net but he was better positioned against Boston and created better scoring opportunities. Bottom line: he’s getting there and once he finds twine, I’m pretty sure the flood gates will promptly open.
We need more games like last night, and I hope that after playing one against Boston the Lightning will see how it’s done again and repeat that effort in every game that remains. It ain’t over yet. We got one point; one very, very, very much needed point. We’re two points back from the Toronto Maple Leafs (76 points) and three points behind the Montreal Canadiens (77), who lost last night as well against the San Jose Sharks 4-0 in regulation. So that helps to keep the Habs close.
Tampa Bay can still right this ship and sail it into the post season, I firmly believe that – the Bolts just need to believe it too, and play like it. Hopefully, last night was a sign of the changing of the tides.