â€œFirst they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.â€
Mike Smith allowed just 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
04:52 BUF Vanek (8), unassisted
18:10 TB Purcell (3), R. Jones (5), Kubina (5)
11:26 TB Hall (4), unassisted
Smith and Adam Hall were named the game's first and third stars. Hall would like to thank Patrick Lalime for that assist on the game winning goal.
I'm always fascinated by the reaction of other teams' media when their teams play the Tampa Bay Lightning, and particularly the way the two medias up north react to the Lightning and its players. There's the Canadian hockey media, and there's the northern hockey media establishment in the United States. The Canadian hockey media has started to take notice of the Lightning and started to take notice of young #91, partly because of the reverence they have for Steve Yzerman and partly because the Lightning's blood lines come from suburban Toronto with Stamkos and from Montreal with Boucher, St. Louis, and Lecavalier.
The northern hockey media here in the United States, though, is not on board as of yet, if tonight's Buffalo broadcast is any indication. I partly blame ESPN, and their continuation of the policy of ignoring the Lightning and Stamkos in a vain attempt to circle the wagons around Barry Melrose. Between Melrose and the article John Buccigross penned in his rookie season that was practically ghost written by Melrose claiming that the only thing that could save Stamkos' career was a move to the wing where he could take his rightful place as a, and damn this is funny in retrospect, Phil Kessel clone, the four-letter-network has a vested interest in not drawing attention to the fact their top hockey "experts" have been absolutely de-pantsed by Stamkos' meteoric rise.
But I digress. Tonight's moment of interest was a second intermission roundtable discussion between Mike Robitaille, Rob Ray, and Harry Neale over whether Steven Stamkos is the best player in the game today. I, for one, don't think you can make that argument definitively until Stamkos gets the ring that Sidney Crosby already has. But, that said, I think only a fool would line up on the wrong side of history, like Melrose and Buccigross before them, by attacking Stamkos and mocking him as a player. I witnessed that tonight. I witnessed Robitaille claiming the central reason to write off Stamkos was that he doesn't generate "buzz," as if the lack of "buzz" around Stamkos isn't the fault of the same northern hockey media establishment's investment in the binary choice of Crosby vs. Ovechkin, a la Magic vs. Bird. That's what the NHL has put all their muscle behind, given Bettman's NBA background, and that's why there's no "buzz" around Stamkos. All the media oxygen in the room has been devoted to "Driver 8" and "Sid the Kid," nevermind the fact Stamkos could be to Crosby and Ovechkin's Magic vs. Bird what Michael Jordan was coming in a few years after.
Rob Ray, who I assume is just jealous of the fact that Stamkos had more goals last season (51) in his second year than Ray had in his entire career (41), then proceeded to step in it by claiming Stamkos doesn't have as well rounded a game as Crosby or Ovechkin and never will and will struggle the rest of his career because of it, particularly defensively. Dear Rob Ray: entering play tonight Stamkos was +8 and he's improved his plus/minus in each NHL season thus far. More to the point, though, call up Gary Roberts and ask about Stamkos' work ethic. Talk to Martin St. Louis. In your green eyed jealousy, don't simply write off Stamkos as a lazy, cancerous Ilya Kovalchuk clone just because he happens to be a talented sniper. Do your homework before you hop on air and start ripping a 20-year old kid you, lets be honest, only watch when the Lightning come play the Sabres.
To his credit, Harry Neale hit the head on the nail after the two epic whiffs that came before him. Neale made the point that the fact that roundtable segment made it on air says all you need to know. The fact a 20 year old Stamkos has forced the northern hockey media establishment to ask that question aloud in comparing him to a 23 year old Crosby or a 25 year old Ovechkin says it all. Where will Stamkos be in his development in 3 to 5 years time if he's already good enough to force people to ask aloud if he's as good as Crosby or Ovechkin? No rational human being would have doubled down on attacking Stamkos like Ray did because no rational human being is stupid enough to try to fight the future. But Ray is, and then he and Robitaille continued on to sneer about the fact that the Lightning (11-7-2-0) are a team the (8-11-3-0) Sabres should beat, with a tone of derision indicating the Lightning should be treated like a Junior A team, nevermind the fact they're now 5 points ahead of the Sabres and have won 3 in a row even without Vincent Lecavalier and Simon Gagne.
I was reminded of the quote by Gahndi, â€œFirst they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win.â€ The northern hockey media establishment ignored Stamkos and the Lightning's development all last season. Then they laughed at the previous Lightning's ownership blunders as a means to avoid reporting on the obvious on-ice improvement. Now some of them are going to spew all kinds of venom about Stamkos and the Lightning and fight tooth and nail to deny the fact the Lightning now have a world-class owner, world-class front office, and world-class talent on the ice. First they ignored. Then they laughed. Now they're starting to fight it. And, you know what (hat tip to Brian Bradley)? None of their flagellation mattered tonight, because the Lightning won.
Tonight was a huge victory, especially considering how poorly the Lightning have played against the Sabres over the past four or five seasons. That's probably also part of the reason Mike Robitaille looked like Adam Hall had done number two in his corn flakes when the game was over. Change can be difficult. The Lightning pull into the 20 game mark of the season with 24 points, which is 1 point off the milestone target I would've liked to have seen them at. That's not bad considering the rash of injuries that beset the team, and the fact the goaltending still hasn't settled down. The team is on a pace for 98 points right now (by the way, Mike Robitaille, your mighty Sabres are on a pace for 71) and there's still room for improvement. That's exciting. I'd like to see the club at 36 points after 30 games, or get 12 points in their next 10 game set, which should get them around to Lecavalier's return date and will probably also see Simon Gagne return to the lineup.
Dana Tyrell had 1 hit in 10:40 of ice time.
Michael Vernace had 2 hits in 4:41. He looked better than in his first stint with the team. No really, I mean that.
Blair Jones was +1 with 1 shot in 7:50. Have I mentioned how much I'm rooting for him to stick at some point this season? He's not necessarily the most talented prospect in the world, but he's working his bag off this season. Most prospects who don't make it during their entry-level deal spend their fourth pro season going through the motions and planning to play for in the NL/A in Switzerland or some other European destination. Jonesy hasn't done that, to his credit. He's all in.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.