Off the Dot: Bolts bring the pepper while Radko Gudas brought the laser


Kim Klement-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.

The Tampa Bay Lightning added to their first four-game win streak last night (second such streak earned this year) since Steven Stamkos’ injury; winning a close game at home against the visiting Carolina Hurricanes 3-2 in OT.

In fact, it was the Nov. 11 game in Boston when Stammer broke his right tibia that saw the Bolts’ first four-game winning streak come skidding to a heartrending end as the Bruins shutout the Lightning 3-0 on the road.

Previous to that loss at TD Garden, Tampa Bay had defeated the Hurricanes (in their first meeting of the season), the St. Louis Blues, the Edmonton Oilers, and that thrilling OT win over the Detroit Red Wings (in their first of five meetings) on Nov. 9.

Last night, for me, and really the last three games prior to the Hurricane game, have shown this Lightning team to be way more than maybe what casual critics of the team might have imagined:  a product of one player (i.e. Steven Stamkos) instead of a roster of talented and capable hockey players – which the Lightning clearly have proven they are not just one player but a confluence of talents and new attitudes, heralded by head coach Jon Cooper.

There is a lot more going on in Tampa Bay than just one superstar (love him as much as we do).

For the most part, the Bolts have stayed right there in the upper-echelon of the Eastern Conference (currently second in the Atlantic Division and third in the East) ever since losing Stammer in mid-November.

That’s over a month of treading competitive waters, keeping things on an even keel, for Stammer’s hoped for return on Feb. 6 against the Toronto Maple Leafs.

Allowing Stammer to essentially jump back into a Lightning lineup right where he left off, and hopefully he’ll be at a hundred-percent to help aid Tampa Bay, with his considerable and missed talents, for the remainder of the season and a hoped for playoff run.

Last night also proved how the loss of Stammer has motivated the Lightning team, composed of primarily young, up-and-coming talent, to make up the difference that a star center like Stamkos makes by shooting the puck more and scoring just as often from a variety of different players.

Not every game has this new creed been fully established but I think last night’s game has to be considered the pinnacle of what can be done when they follow it.

If not the goals (still something is amiss there when you consider all those shots and only two goals in regulation) then at least the amount of shots and the effect that that many shots can create for a team’s confidence towards winning games.

That much production maybe didn’t give the Lightning a 10-2 win but I’d still wager those shots allowed them to bounce back against every goal scored by the ‘Canes; answering the call (which sometimes can be a struggle for the Bolts), and ultimately winning the game because they were just so incessant.  They could not be stopped.

50 shots on goal!  That amount of offensive production kind of put me in a confident mood while watching the game from work.  You almost kind of KNEW they were going to win the game, despite the two times they trailed Carolina, with all that shooting on net, no matter when or how often the ‘Canes managed to squirrel away a goal here and there in the game, it just felt like the Bolts had that one in their grasp.

“Big” Ben Bishop (along with Anders Lindback of late) have been very dialed in this season, and doing precisely what has been needed to be done, game in and game out, which continues to be probably the biggest main factor in the Lightning’s overall success this season.

Bishop just secured his 19th win of the season last night, ranking him second in the league (just behind Marc-Andre Fleury who has 21).

And now on to Radko Gudas, for starters, easily one of my favorite players on the Lightning roster, and this carries over from last season.  I knew he’d become a key defenseman for the Bolts and he hasn’t let me down (though I could do without all the penalities if he could find a way to do what he does smarter without simultaneously dialing down his physical presence too much, he’d be perfect).

When he was injured a few weeks back, his loss of physicality on the puck was felt all over the ice.  He is one of those, in my opinion, key players on the team that the Bolts cannot afford to lose.

So many other defensemen for the Bolts, though talented, just do not bring the same amount of physicality on the puck and therefore don’t inspire all that much fear in other hockey teams.

I can’t get enough of Gudas and hope he sticks around in Tampa Bay for a real, long while.

Because with lasers like that (concerning his game-winning slapper in OT), man, it’s like he’s a Terminator sent from the future to help our Lightning team achieve their fated destiny of winning a second Stanley Cup.

His toughness is on par with a cybernetic organism.

Like imagine for a second, the infrared thermal imaging devices that Terminator’s have for eyes.

That game-winning shot had  that kind of laser guidance system quality to it.

A bit of the Judgment Day on it.

Serioulsy, imagine that game-winning goal to this score.  Do it.

It is seriously epic.

Anyways, if I don’t see you all again before the big day, have a very Happy Holidays!

From Off the Dot and on behalf of everyone from Bolts by the Bay, I wish all the fans out there in the Bolts Nation a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Oh, and FEAR THE BEARD.  Because I do.  And so should every team in the NHL.  Seriously epic.