That Which Does Not Kill You...

It's hard not to be excited about the Lightning's 2-0 start, and I just wanted to expand on some thoughts I had after tonight's dominating effort against Atlanta. The big concern I think we all had coming into the year was how Dan Boyle's injury was going to effect the team. Boyle has been the tempo setter for this team ever since he was acquired in the 2001-2002 season, and as one of only two righty shot defensemen in the organization (AHLer David Schneider being the other) his minutes on the power play were going to be very difficult to replace. If you had held a gun to my head and asked me how the team would do over this first month, I probably would've said about .500, maybe a tad below, without Boyle. Now they're 2-0 heading into a two game set against an 0-2 Panthers team with the chance to get off to a really good start. Granted, things can change in a hurry and the team still will probably need to weather at least another three weeks without Danny (and he might not be 100% for a long time even after he returns). However, I can't help starting to think about how if this team gets off to a great first month of the season without Boyle, think how good they'll be when he returns?

You know the old saying, "That which does not kill us makes us stronger?"

Through two games Paul Ranger has averaged about 26 and a half minutes of ice time a game. Shane O'Brien has averaged about 25 minutes. It's easy to forget how young and inexperienced these two players are, especially O'Brien. Last year Shane only averaged a little under 15 minutes a game as he languished much of his rookie season on a very deep Anaheim roster. Heading into this season I was s bit uneasy with just giving O'Brien top four minutes without much experience in the role to draw upon. Now he's getting the kind of minutes reserved for top pairing defensemen, and the Lightning are still getting W's. Granted, rolling two pairings almost exclusively is not without peril. There's a chance Tortorella and Sullivan may wear Ranger, O'Brien, Kuba, and Lukowich out a bit over the next month. But if they don't, the Lightning will have greatly strengthened their top pairings which can only help other areas of the team. Paul Ranger having to play more of an offensive role (he has a point a game so far this year) is only going to make this team's forwards even more explosive if they can count on more and better passing from their blueline. Shane O'Brien having the experience of playing against other team's top pairings and what he gains learning what to do in one-on-one situations against the leagues best players is only going to make the Lightning an even tighter team defensively and only benefit its goaltenders.

And if that happens, is there a team in the league that wants to play a Lightning team that's even more explosive in transition and which is even harder to get quality chances against? Methinks not.

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They Did It Right

When Boyle was injured, a number of folks urged going to the waiver wire and to low end free agents to fill the void. I was of the opinion that this was the time to see if the current crop of dmen would step up and do the job.

Granted, none of them bring to the table some of the things Boyle can do. But if they can play solid defense and minimize mental blunders, the Bolts would do just fine.

The tale is not completely told after 2 games, but early indications show our d corps is more than holding their own. Ranger and O'Brien have stepped up and are playing big minutes and not embarrassing themselves, and are actually doing quite well. Lundin has been a major surprise. Lukowich is playing well also.

Boyle will be back in a month. If the dmen keep playing at this level, there is no need to be perusing the waiver wire or available free agents who will not help the salary structure, and will probably add nothing to what is already in place.

knock on wood,,,

I was thinking the same thing. Lundin really seems to have emerged. It took the D a period and a half against the Devils to realize that Boyle would not be bringing it up.

The verdict is still out on the second line. They provided offensive activity, but nothing to show for it... Richards got his points on the special teams. The difference is we have more options this year. I still believe there is a bigger role for Tarnasky down the road... maybe playing with Richie?

Even if they didn't score

Even if they didn't score they do take some pressure off the first line.

Lundin and the 2nd line

Lundin has been nothing but spectacular stepping in at this time. He does not make the panic moves, keeps himself and the puck under control and his positioning is always good. Saturday he was stripped of the puck and all I could think off is oh oh here we go in the back of the net. However, he did not panic made a move on the player and took it back then hit a real nice pass out of the zone. Nothing like the panic stuff we would see from the Pratt's and Janik's of the world in the same spot. I've been very impressed - he looks to be the Ranger of 05 who got his shot and stuck with the team.
The 2nd line will start putting the puck in the net. Brodeur the first night stoned, as he often does, oulette, hlavach and richie on several shots and beautiful set ups. Remember both Oulette and Lhavach were injured and out a couple games. Let's see how they look after the series with Florida this week. Richie did pop two last night just the begining of the song for him this year IMHO.

Smaby will take more time, it usually does with the 6-6 guys and he too is only 23 years old. Can't wait for the maturity to set in with that one. I think on the blue line we will be ok this year. I think Lundin and Janik stick when Boyle is back and Smaby is sent back to Norfolk so he can play every day and continue to work on his speed and re-action time to the play. Janik will be the consistent healthy scratch.

Go Bolts.

I believe when Boyle returns

I believe when Boyle returns Janik's days in a Lightning uniform are numbered.

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