Tampa Bay Lightning
Gee, who do you think the league office in Toronto wants to win the Southeast Division?
The league replay system is a joke, a complete and utter sham. This is the second time this season the Lightning have been robbed of a point on a blatently obvious puck tipped in with a high stick that was allowed. The first time, in Boston, the league spun allowing a goal knocked in by 6'9" Zdeno Chara with the shaft of a stick that was above his eye level into a 4' high net by citing a made up non-existent rule regarding Chara getting cross checked (as if that absolved Chara from his responsibility for carrying his stick at a safe height which is what the high stick rule was instituted to promote). They also did a song and dance claiming that they didn't have all the proper camera angles to make a completely informed decision, as if not having enough information to make an informed ruling somehow made it ok.
Tonight, with less than 9 seconds left in the game, a long wrist shot from the point by Bobby Holik was tipped in by the blade of Jim Slater's stick being carried above both Slater and defenseman Dan Boyle's head. Slater is listed at 6'0" tall. Boyle is between 5'10" and 5'11". The net is 4' tall. It does not take a PHD in physics from MIT to figure out that the puck was tipped in with a high stick. My guess is that the NHL will claim they did not have a definitive angle proving Slater's stick was above the crossbar when the puck was tipped, hoping that you as hockey fans will cast aside simple logic as easily as they have.
Every single person in the league office with a stake in video review should be fired. Period. Point blank. Every single one of them. No matter how you want to look at this, the league is either guilty of bias or it is guilty of incompetence in both the way that the system is set up without all the proper video angles (and, honestly, if that's true I will offer to plunk down the $130 it will take to purchase the Toronto office their own Centre Ice package so they will at least have all the replay angles that I and every other Lightning fan has at their disposal) and in their complete disregard for common sense. We ought to go back to having in-building review judges who have access to all the available camera angles from the TV production crews and so that there is not the seeming of inpropriety of a league operating from on high from some 1,000 miles away manipulating scores to serve an agenda.
Lets quit talking about changing conference structures or making the nets bigger or making the jerseys tighter and start with a more fundamental problem: integrity, or lack thereof, in the league office. Lets fix that before we get to Gary Bettman's next gimmick o' the month. Nah, I can already here what Toronto is saying now, "No, wait, I got a better idea, lets keep the rigged replay system and instead institute the two point goal arc from 'beach roller hockey'."
Do these buffoons ever stop to think what they're doing to this sport?
And, playing the role of The Savior, Dan Boyle.
Marc Denis stopped just 13 of 16 shots before being pulled at the second intermission. Johan Holmqvist was strong stopping 12 of 12 shots in the final frame to take the win. Dan Boyle scored the first hat trick by a Lightning defenseman since Doug Crossman all the way back at the start of the innagural season in 1992 single handedly kick starting the comeback effort in the third period with an incredible individual effort on a one man rush for his first of 3 goals and 1 assist. Henrik Lundqvist FEARS Dan Boyle. Brad Richards had a pair of assists in the comeback while Vincent Lecavalier had the other Lightning goal. Holmqvist, Nikita Alexeev and Ryan Craig had individual helpers in the contest.
If the Ottawa game wasn't the turning point of the season, that third period would have to be considered a strong candidate for the title. This team looked dead in the water down 3-0 after 40 minutes and it looked to be a lock to be heading into Christmas 2 games under .500 possibly tied for dead last in the Southeast (the Panthers were winning for some time this evening against Carolina before falling in overtime). Instead, the Lightning will be celebrating their short vacation time off sitting at .500 with a 3 game winning streak having kept pace with the 7 and 8 teams in the conference just 3 points out. I was ready to write this team's obituary and Dan Boyle single handedly resurrected them. Incredible.
NY Rangers 16:37, Martin Straka 18 (power play) (Brendan Shanahan, Michal Rozsival)
NY Rangers 19:08, Blair Betts 5 (unassisted)
NY Rangers 8:17, Aaron Ward 3 (Martin Straka, Michael Nylander)
Tampa Bay 1:02, Dan Boyle 6 (power play) (Brad Richards, Johan Holmqvist)
Tampa Bay 2:29, Dan Boyle 7 (Nikita Alexeev, Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 5:56, Vincent Lecavalier 21 (power play) (Dan Boyle, Ryan Craig)
Tampa Bay 11:03, Dan Boyle 8 (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
That felt like a turning point to me.
Marc Denis stopped 16 of 18 shots faced for the win in a game where the Lightning outshot a very skilled and very fast Ottawa team 30-18. Impressive. Paul Ranger and Vincent Lecavalier each had 1 goal and 1 assist with the other Lightning goals coming from Martin St. Louis and Ruslan Fedotenko. Brad Richards added an individual helper.
Tonight felt like a turning point for the Lightning, in my opinion. The Lightning played an incredibly solid game against a team they traditionally struggle with more than any other club in the league. To hold a team as loaded as Ottawa to 18 shots is simply amazing, and with the exception of the Lightning's usual impotent power play performance they crossed every T and dotted every I in this game and all those details you address over the course of 60 minutes will inevitably add up to a win. It was 100% appropriate the game winning goal by Ranger came off a little thing like a faceoff win. This team has lost a slew of one goal games this season because they haven't managed the details this year. Tonight showed when they do, they can beat even their most formidable nemesis soundly.
In my opinion, this was a very critical game for both Ottawa and Tampa. Neither team is playing well right now and I had a feeling going into this one that the winner had a chance to springboard and get well positioned in the Eastern Conference playoff hunt while the loser could be reeling for at least another week or two. Fortunately, the Lightning put forth one of their best efforts and if they can knock off a talented by struggling Rangers squad on Saturday they can pull into Christmas at .500. That seemed impossible just a week ago. .500 on December 25th sets this team up nicely to break out strong once they get back to work.
By the way, if this team does break out after Christmas, Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis will both be MVP candidates down the stretch of this season. They've been incredible this year and easily a couple of the best kept secrets in the league, if that's possible. 9 out of 10 games this season they've been the two best players on the ice not just for the Lightning but both teams on the rink. The only serious question to me isn't whether or not they're worthy of consideration to get the hardware, but rather which one is Batman and which one is Robin?
Ottawa 2:21, Dany Heatley 20 (power play) (Daniel Alfredsson, Jason Spezza)
Tampa Bay 5:46, Martin St. Louis 23 (Vincent Lecavalier)
Ottawa 13:53, Antoine Vermette 13 (Patrick Eaves)
Tampa Bay 3:30, Ruslan Fedotenko 9 (Paul Ranger)
Tampa Bay 8:53, Paul Ranger 1 (Brad Richards)
Tampa Bay 19:07, Vincent Lecavalier 20 (empty net) (unassisted)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Marc Denis stopped 20 of 24 shots for the win. Filip Kuba and Vincent Lecavalier paced the Lightning with 1 goal and 2 assists in the game. Martin St. Louis also chipped in 2 goals with Nikita Alexeev scoring the other Lightning marker. Dan Boyle, Ryan Craig, Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal and Cory Sarich each chipped in a helper in the contest.
The win will keep the Lightning 2 points ahead of Florida, which is pounding Toronto tonight 7-1 and will move the team back to 2 games under .500. Baby steps, I suppose.
Tampa Bay 7:34, Filip Kuba 4 (power play) (Ryan Craig, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 12:54, Martin St. Louis 21 (Vincent Lecavalier, Cory Sarich)
Washington 13:54, Alexander Ovechkin 23 (Brooks Laich, Brian Sutherby)
Tampa Bay 17:15, Vincent Lecavalier 19 (power play) (Filip Kuba, Dan Boyle)
Tampa Bay 1:35, Martin St. Louis 22 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Filip Kuba)
Washington 8:36, Jamie Heward 3 (power play) (Ben Clymer, Kris Beech)
Tampa Bay 19:18, Nikita Alexeev 10 (Ruslan Fedotenko)
Washington 10:29, Kris Beech 4 (power play) (Alexander Semin, Ben Clymer)
Washington 12:12, Bryan Muir 3 (Alexander Ovechkin, Alexander Semin)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Someone pass me a bucket.
Marc Denis stopped 24 of 27 shots faced as the Lightning continue to find new and creative ways to waste opportunities to get points and slide further and further under .500. Ryan Craig had 1 goal and 1 assist in the game while Martin St. Louis scored the other Lightning goal. Individual helpers belonged to Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal and Eric Perrin.
I'm at a loss for words at this point. When the goaltending plays well, the offense breaks down. When the offense plays well the defense breaks down. And when this team gets in a one goal game, it seems incapable of making that one critical play it needs to stay out of the loss column. How does a team that has won so many games over the past two seasons forget how to do the little things that will put them over the top in a close game?
Don't look now, but the Panthers are just 2 points behind in the standings. Good grief.
Tampa Bay 7:49, Ryan Craig 9 (Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal)
Carolina 13:05, Ray Whitney 11 (power play) (Keith Aucoin)
Carolina 12:58, Eric Staal 17 (Erik Cole)
Carolina 18:36, Ray Whitney 12 (Justin Williams, Eric Belanger)
Tampa Bay 19:04, Martin St. Louis 20 (power play) (Eric Perrin, Ryan Craig)
Game sheet from NHL.com.