NHL Game Night 1/3: Lightning at Canadiens
And with their first pick in the 2008 NHL Entry Draft, the Lightning select... Colin Wilson? Kyle Beach?
Karri Ramo played his first really poor game as a starter allowing a couple of long, unscreened shots from the wing off the rush. He had his moments stoning several wide open looks Montreal got off 3-on-2's, but in the end he couldn't make the key save in the third period to keep the Lightning alive in this one. He ended up allowing 6 goals on 30 shots in total.
Tonight was the halfway point of the season: game 41. I'm sure nobody saw this coming but a Kings win tonight could put the Lightning at dead last in the entire league when you open your paper tomorrow morning. This team has been snake bitten by freak injuries (Dan Boyle), inexperience (half the defensive corps), stupidity (the other half of the defensive corps), and inconsistency (the goaltenders and the forwards). Now they're seven games under .500 and about 10 points out of a playoff spot and some hard questions are going to have to be asked.
The Lightning haven't been sellers since 2001-2002, but now they're going to have to decide how much of the current team they want to keep in Tampa if the ship isn't righted in the next couple of weeks. Vaclav Prospal and Filip Kuba, due to their contract statuses, seem like obvious choices to move. Dan Boyle is also about to turn UFA and that is probably the most pressing question of all: do you swallow hard and deal Boyle or do you keep him? Beyond that: do you call the Michel Ouellet experiment a mistake and deal him off? Is there a team that needs goaltending that would want to rent Johan Holmqvist? Brad Lukowich? Ryan Craig? Chris Gratton?
At the end of the day I expect the Lightning will keep Lecavalier, Richards, and St. Louis together as the potential new ownership seems inclined to keep that core group together. Beyond those three, it looks like wholesale changes could be in the offing.
And, seeing as this is a prospect site, there is the potential of the Lightning holding a top-5 pick in June. That pick, undoubtedly, will be the most important for this franchise since Espo and Demers plucked Lecavalier at 1st overall in 1998 almost a decade ago. Will they get an opportunity to select the player being touted as the clear cut #1, Steve Stamkos of Sarnia? I shudder to think the Lightning will end this season in dead last, but as it stands tonight it's a possibility. If they're in the more likely 4-8 range, will they have a shot at BU standout Colin Wilson? Petulent but ultra talented Kyle Beach of Everett who is the kind of power forward Lightning fans have always dreamt of? What about mighty might Zach Boychuk of Lethbridge? It's been, thankfully, a long long time since the Lightning had to make such a high selection and this will be the first time it will be done with the thought of adding a critical complimentary piece around Lecavalier and Richards. Make no mistakes, jobs could be secured or lost in the scouting staff based on any potential selection.
Going back to tonight's dismal outcome, Mathieu Darche was even in 15:42 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots.
Mike Lundin played his 41st game tonight thereby making him a graduate by the Bolt Prospects website criteria. Although this doesn't seem like an appropriate night for celebration, congratulations are definitely in order for the young man. He played 13:41 tonight and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot. If the season really does get out of hand, I hope Tortorella and Sullivan start upping Mike's ice time and start grooming him for a bigger role next season.
If that scenario comes to pass, I also hope Jay Feaster calls up Blair Jones and Matt Smaby and starts the grooming process for their futures as well. Cups of coffee for guys like Vladimir Mihalik and Justin Keller might be in order as well down the stretch.