Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports

Tampa Bay Lightning Take Two Much Needed Points From the Panthers, End Losing Streak

It wasn’t the prettiest win for the Tampa Bay Lightning last night at home against the visiting Florida Panthers, especially at the end, but it got the job done.

Two much-needed points firmly in their quiver, the Bolts march on through the playoff push:  regaining third place in the Atlantic with 77 points, three-points behind second place Toronto, and tied with Montreal in points (we’ve played one game less than the Habs which gives us the edge) but the Canadiens still sit back in the top wildcard spot.  For now that is.  In easy striking distance.

Lots of hockey left to play so a lot more shifting in the ranks could (and will) occur but I am at least pleased with the Lightning’s current positioning and play over the last three games (four if you count the effort if not the result against Buffalo).  The Bolts are keeping themselves relevant.  They’re keeping themselves in the playoff equation and sometimes that can be enough to motivate better play down the homestretch.  Which they’ll desperately need if they have any intentions of staying in the postseason picture.  They’re not the only team crowding together (like an Academy Awards selfie), trying desperately to get into the frame of Stanley Cup significance.

Tomorrow should be a hard-fought, low-scoring affair against the New Jersey Devils.  A team the Bolts have struggled to pull two-points out of all season long.  But if Tampa Bay has ever needed to solve the Devils Equation more than tomorrow I surely can’t think of when that was.  After skidding for five games, the Bolts need to put some wins together, not fall back on their heels with more goose eggs.  Two points against New Jersey would go very nicely with the two points gained against the Cats, and work well towards establishing the “new” team that needs to take precedence as the 2013-14 season closes.  No better time than right now to solve New Jersey and start catching up with Toronto for sole possession of second place in the Atlantic (Boston is uncatchable at this point).

Can they do it?  Is the worst truly behind us now that Steven Stamkos has scored his first goal (in classic Stammer one-timer fashion from the left circle)?

I, for one, can only hope so.  But one thing I do know is that if they can continue to match their level of play to that Boston game on Mar. 8, for what remains of the regular season, then the Bolts are in complete control of their playoff destiny.

Though I am slightly worried about Ben Bishop.  He hasn’t been looking like his normal indomitable self of late.  Letting in more goals than usual, despite some spectacular saves:  Bishop looks fatigued.  What should head coach Jon Cooper do if that’s the case?

I say Kristers Gudlevskis deserves a shot at the pipes.  More so than Anders Lindback.  Gudlevskis performed amazingly in Sochi for his native country of Latvia and I think he could maybe work some similar magic if put to the test here in the tail end of the Lightning’s season.  These final games are very much like playoff games anyhow (not too different than elimination games in the Olympics), if Tampa Bay means to make the postseason then maybe Gudlevskis could be, at the very least, an inspired choice in one game to see if he develops a similar hot glove.

Give the Latvian a shot to shine, I say.  I’d personally love to see what the kid can do.  If just once, just to say we tried.

Or is that maybe too risky with a season on the line, since he’s still unproven in the NHL?

What do you all think?  Share your thoughts in the COMMENTS below.

If Bishop is fatigued, which he appears to be, how does Cooper get him back to one-hundred percent in these final games, which are all very important, and we need Bishop’s best work in net (though he’s justifiably overworked with some weaknesses at No. 2 goaltender)?

And if that’s just not possible this late in the season, who do we really tap to help even out the load for Bish?  Or does Bish just need to suck it up, show some character, show the naysayers why he should have been chosen for the U.S. Olympic team, and help get this Lightning team into the playoffs with his best work yet?

Many questions asked.  And a very finite amount of time left for Tampa Bay to answer them.

 

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.

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