Off the Dot: The “Ovi” Factor and the game that maybe almost was for the Lightning


Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

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.

Lightning fans have been saying it for weeks, as have I:  the Bolts need more goals.

A drought of epic proportions has beset itself upon Tampa Bay, and many missed opportunities for much-needed points have passed the Lightning by due to this lack of production when it counts.

But despite all that, Tampa Bay seemingly answered the goal call, for the most part, last night in Washington, D.C. against the Capitals, jumping out to an unheard of (lately) three goal lead in the first period.  And for a little while, it was looking like exciting, offensive-minded Tampa Bay Lightning hockey again.

The Bolts outshot the Caps 42-31; something else missing from the team lately and directly related to the goal drought.

They looked like the team of old.  The questions is, were they the team of old?

Did something that has seemingly been lost to them for weeks been found against the Caps?  And was this loss a product of turning on the offense at the expense of defense or could the Bolts just not account for the “Ovi” Factor?

Alex Ovechkin is the current NHL leader in goals (26) and netted four of them Tuesday evening, his third career four-goal game, including the game-tying goal with 32 seconds left in regulation to propel his Capitals into overtime where they eventually won in a five-round shootout 6-5 over the Lightning.

It’s no secret that Ovi is currently dialed into some kind of scoring hyper-zone that started at the tail end of last season and has clearly carried over into this season.

Was he the deciding factor in last night’s loss?

And I don’t mean that question in a “duh, of course he was, he scored almost of their goals” kind of way.

I mean to suggest the ultimate question of whether or not a player, operating on a whole other level in hockey, for a while, almost by himself, super-humanly scored a ton of goals, by no fault of the Lightning’s play:  was he the deciding factor in last night’s game and couldn’t honestly be stopped?

Heavy question, right?  I know.  But what do you think?  Any weight to it possibly being true?  Ovi is scoring all kinds of crazy amounts of goals, even stretched over two seasons it’s nuts how much he’s scoring.

I kept screaming at the TV during the broadcast about letting Ovi set up in his “office”, so to speak, near the face-off circle, where a vast majority of his goals come from; always poised and ready for the quick pass to his eagerly awaiting slap shot.

Ovi is known for the quick-release slapper right after a face-off is won.  He constantly scores from that position.

I’ve seen far too many highlight reels of Ovechkin scoring, with that basic setup as the one constant, to tide me over for a real long time.

Was that a Lightning bench miscue or is Ovi just not stoppable at this point?

He certainly looked to be on fire on Tuesday with very little the Bolts could do to stifle the flames.

Ben Bishop rarely allows more than three goals a game, is that a product of the Ovi Factor as well or an off night for Bishop and the Lightning defense (who have suffered greatly the past few weeks with injuries along with the goal drought)?

Because I did get a feeling that a 180 degree flip had occurred between the Lightning’s ability defensively, and in net, to keep the other team’s goals low, while struggling to score themselves for just about two weeks, to suddenly a free-for-all, goal-a-thon where the Lightning scored in tandem, but so did the opposition.

Once again, was that just Ovi?  Without Ovechkin’s production last night, do the Bolts win in Washington 5-1?

Lots of questions, I know.  And I don’t mean to point them at you, the readers, who were kind enough to stop by and read my new column of rambling thoughts on the Lightning.  I wish I could at least attempt to answer them in meaningful, nuanced explanations that may or may not be accurate, but alas, I cannot.

The game was divisive to say the least, and I am conflicted on how to feel about it.

And I’m sure this Ovi Factor question (as I call it) is probably meaningless minutia for the rare sports fan that enjoys discussing such “what ifs”.

But as a Lightning fan, after seeing that increase in offense after so long without it, it forced me to wonder what internal chemistry had just started clicking on the team, and was it thwarted by one man’s hot night (and season really) or are things still amiss in Tampa Bay?

Should I be happy for the increase in shots and goals or bummed out in the sudden slack in defense that seemed to accompany it?

Or is it really just Alex the Great’s hot stick, and the Lightning looked awesome last night in a tough but well-played loss?

There I go asking more questions that I don’t, as of yet, have the answers to.

Hoping to know more on Thursday as the Lightning hosts the Detroit Red Wings in another Eastern Conference showdown.

If something is clicking offensively between the Lightning’s forward lines (and there was such a rich variety of goal scorers last night that it makes me think so), then hopefully more of those shots and goals will follow at the Tampa Bay Times Forum Thursday evening against Detroit.

Maybe then some of these questions will start answering themselves.