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Like what you see from the new-look Lightning?

Posted Oct 5, 2008 by Erik Erlendsson

Updated Oct 5, 2008 at 03:44 PM

I was very underwhelmed by what I saw over the weekend. And in two straight games, it was a costly power play goal which proved to be the difference for the Rangers in a pair of 2-1 losses for the Lightning. In the process, Tampa Bay was outshot 80-40 and finished without a power play goal in eight chances, including five in Sunday’s loss, two in the third period which could have tied the game.

The defense, which many - including myself - predicted would struggle certainly did. They’ve had trouble getting the puck out of the defensive zone on too many occasions. In both games, the second period in particular, was a challenge for whatever reason.

And I have to say this about the defense - Andrej Meszaros looks strong and that A on his jersey I think will be earned because he’s going to be the leader of the defense, and he was on the ice for over 30 minutes on Sunday. Matt Carle has looked better in the two regular season games than any of the preseason games he was in. Beyond that, the only thing that stands out is that things can’t be good when Jamie Heward logs 20-plus minutes of ice time in consecutive games.

Goaltending has been strong, and in fact, it’s the only reason Tampa Bay has had a chance to stay in the two games against the Rangers. Mike Smith was spectacular and deserved a star of the game on Saturday - although he should have had the first Rangers’ goal - and although Olie Kolzig was not tested as much as Smith was, Godzilla stood tall in net.

And I would be a little concerned with the offense, which was supposed to be the team’s overwhelming strength, but two goals, 0-for-8 on the power play and only 40 shots generated in two games needs to be cause for some alarm. While the MVP line looked good on Saturday, it wasn’t so good on Sunday and was broken up for a brief time at the start of the third period. And after watching these two games, I understand why Barry Melrose moved Radim Vrbata down in the line combos during the preseason because he’s been virtually invisible.

Steven Stamkos, meanwhile, I think has been very good, although he had a team-low 8 minutes plus of ice time on Saturday, he logged 14-plus minutes on Sunday including 3:15 of power play time, which is exactly 3:15 more than he got on Saturday. He had a breakaway chance on Saturday and rang one off the crossbar on Sunday. Those will start to go in sooner or later for the young man.

Overall, there are positives to deal with, but there are just as many negatives and questions, possibly more questions that need to be answered before Saturday’s home opener than were there before the start of training camp.

Certainly it is early - and remember Tampa Bay started last season with three consecutive victories - and there are 80 more games to go, but what does the voice of the fan say here? What’s your thoughts on what you saw over the weekend? Are you still just as excited to see Saturday’s home opener as you were before? Less so? What stood out, good or bad?

Reader Comments

Por (Nancy Pacini) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

You hit just about every nail right on the head, Erik.  I’d like to add that Ryan Malone needs to understand that the 11 minutes he spent in the box is 11 minutes Steven Stamkos can’t be on the ice.  Malone’s supposed to be Stamkos’ protector, and protect him he did, kept him on the bench, nice and safe.  The D is doing a fine job of ‘defending’, blocking shots and what-all, but they are doing absolutely nothing to help the offense, such as clearing the puck from their own zone and getting it back up the ice.  Can you imagine how ugly these two games would have looked against a team that actually is offensively strong?

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Por (Cookie) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Erik, underwhelmed is the appropriate word.  Our goalies have been terrific.  Confusion seems to reign in the other areas.  It’s early and I’m hoping for the best.  Right now EE, I’d have to say they looked better when they were doing their own thing out in Brandon!!!

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Por (Joe) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

The defense is confused, the offense is confused, good thing the goalies are in the game!  Melrose has a long way to go and a short time to get there.  His team looked overmatched both days against a team that I don’t think will make the playoffs.

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Por (Ruthe Robertson) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Just wondering where that team is that everyone was going to be afraid to play. Not too many physical things going on with the Bolts. It’s early, but being out shot 80-40 in two games is scary. Hats off to Smith and Kolizg.  Still think they need to do something quick about the defense. I think the offense will be OK once they get going. You are right Nancy, imagine if these two games had been against the Red Wings! Mercy!

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Por (safa) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

An I the only guy who think that Stamkos is kind of selfish ? No pass to team-mates ... just receive a puck and shot immediately ?

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Por (Jen) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

They need more of the players to shoot the freakin’ puck. Wear the darn goalie out. Stamkos did well! Being outshot 80-40 in 2 games w/ all the forwards that were picked up in the offseason? Give me a break!

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Por (Jason H) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Underwhelmed is almost a good term to coin the first two games with, but a more appropriate word would be lackluster.

A one point in Sat’s game TB had 10 SOG, and Vinny #4 had 5 of those ten.

Sure the stars need to shine, but the ‘support staff’ need to shoot the puck as well. Relaying only on your stars to carry this team will certainly land it in 30th place yet again.

The whole sale of the team and all of the hoopla surrounding the pre season trades and acquisitions kinda reminds me of the $700b mistake our gov’t made on Fri. Invest a huge sum of cash into the market, only to watch the stocks fall.

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Por (Mike Joyce) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Why does the new look Bolts look so much like the old look Bolts?  They were supposed to be physical, but they looked like a bunch of little sissy boys out there, with the possible exception of Artyukin.  They were supposed to highly offensive - well, they were certainly offensive, but not in a productive way.  Melrose was supposed to be a motivator.  If that was the Bolts highly motivated, I’d hate to see lackluster.

I think this is last year’s team, but all the players, except Vinny’s line are wearing masks to make us think that they were highly skilled players.

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Por (Nancy Sherman) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I think underwhelmed is an understatement. Well, both games were poorly played. The offense can’t play without the defense getting the puck. Good offense starts with good defense. So lets fix the defense! There was no excuse for not getting a power play goal however especially with Vinny and Marty on it. That has to be corrected. The D are young and we should have some patience.

Geez, I hope Melrose doesn’t break up the MVP line very often. Use to drive me nuts when Torts did it. Melrose would do better to encourage them instead of breaking them up which I think would be more like discouragment.

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Por (Tampafan) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Last season they started with 3 wins and ended terribly—maybe this year’s trend will make them better later.  We can only hope!

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Por (Geografer) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

All I can say is every time I see the D attempt to make a pass up the boards to get the puck out (and pretty much turn it over every time) I can’t help but hum ‘Do You Know The Way To San Jose”!! I don’t see how this is a new and improved D. Younger without question, faster maybe but better no - exactly the opposite. Think we can get San Jose to take Carle, Wishart and the pick back even if it is just for Boyle? Maybe we could even throw in a forward or two (Ouellet and/or Vrbata maybe) to sweeten the deal.

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Por (Mike Joyce) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I don’t think anyone ever expressed the thought that this was an improved defense - unless you consider the gains that have accrued by getting rid of Boyle and Kuba.  For the most part, there has been much expressed concerned about the lack of attention that the new owners have paid to the defense. 

They spent a lot of money on the offense, even if there is nothing to show for the money and basically ignored the defense.

I think that OB is out of his league and why did we go with a career minor leaguer?  I wish the monster sized one played a little more like Arty.

On the other hand, we haven’t gotten worse than last place yet, so we are staying even with last year.  Keep up the positive thoughts.

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Por (Thunderstruck) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

My first thoughts were of how much worse this team looked today than last year.  My next thoughts were of how happy I was I didn’t spend $$ on this trip to Prague.  These owners created excitement with their action during the summer but they sure fell short when it comes to the D.  Seeing this D in action is worse than hearing about how young and inexperienced they are.  Len & Squiggy are trying to put a D on the ice with a bargain basement budget….cause they overspent on forwards who now cannot get anything done because they’re too busy pitching in and ‘trying’ to play defense.  I wonder if Lennie is gonna wear his cowboy hat on opening night now?

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Por (Dustin Keene) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I’d like to say the Lightning looked terrible, awful, dreadful, all of the above. Not only were they out worked, aside from Stamkos, Artyukhin and the MVP line NO ONE and I mean NO ONE was skating. Meszaros drifted around like a lost dog even though he has a hugemongous shot.

Aside from the lack luster skating in the game, every time the Rangers entered the zone it seemed as if they were on a power play. No one challenged the blue line shots as they passed freely and on the opposite side of the puck NONE of our defense was pinching, I understand playing say but a good offense makes it easier for you defense to get in a good groove.

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Por (Dustin Keene) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

The coaching staff needs to wake up and bench this 37 year old no name who randomly signed a contract and get the real defensemen back in there. Also, Niskala is NOT NHL ready, he was clueless.

Meszaros - Carle
Lundin - O’Brien
Smaby - Mihalik

As for forwards it should go a bit like this..
Prospal - Vinny - Marty
Jokinen - Stamkos - Artyukhin
Malone - Craig - Vrbata
Recchi - Gratton - Roberts

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Por (Patrick) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Underwhelmed—yeah, to say the least.

For 1, Our D looked and played horrid. And we weren’t any better with O’Brien sitting out. And to think this club might trade him—god forbid. Hell, our D-core made Colton Orr look like Sidney Crosby…

Overall: we looked AWFUL. If the team continues to play this way, I won’t be attending any more games this season. And I mean that. For in the beginning, all we were told by managment/Barry Melrose was how rough and tough this hockey club would play, and if this is the way this team will play this season, I think it might be possible that we’ll be right at the bottom of the standings again, just like last season.

Koci should have played.

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Por (Mike Joyce) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Dustin,

I generally agree with you, except that I might swap Recchi and Jokinen as forwards.  I think that Recchi still has the wheels and has a lot more grit than Jokinen.  Jokinen is pretty passive.

On defense, I’m not sure that OB can handle it, but he might be miles ahead of some of the meatheads that have been playing.

Overall, I think they will pay a big price for ignoring the defense.  If they can’t score, they can’t beat you.  Even a 0-0 tie will give you more points than a loss.

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Por (berlin) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Lazy Lazy Lazy.

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Por (Don in St. Pete) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Good observations by all, and yes we should be worried. However, I am hopeful after watching the Bolts dominate the 3rd period. We started skating like were capable of and it showed. Why were we standing around for the first 4&1/2 periods this weekend? Carle was better than expected. Meszaros has got to shoot the puck. We dominated the faceoff circle and had some clean wins back to the point in the offensive zone and Mez tried to pass the puck into traffic. Shoot the puck, especially when there’s trafic in front. We’ll need a lot of garbage goals to get out of this rut, not the highlight reel type. Ranger can’t get back soon enough, and I still hope they’re looking for a good defenseman through trade.

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Por (dale) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Pittsburgh tried the same thing Crosby’s first season, the Leafs & Rangers tried it a time or 10, it’s very hard to rebuilt through free agency? I think last years team was 4 players away from being a good play off team.
I read most of the comments, and with all do respect because they are dead on in most cases, but guys/gals Dan Boyles shoes/skates are going to be missed.
Until the new guys start playing for the name on the front of their jersies (not the back) things will be rough.
Have you ever gone out and hooked up with a new softball team, hockey team, etc. takes time before your part of that team, your the new guy, if things go right and with some time you become part of the team. Not sure the new guys are there yet. imao

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Por (A Ryan) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

One stat I would love to see is how many battles for pucks we won.  I understand it’s early and we have a lot of new people who need time to gel.  But I can’t understand how the “newness” impacts a one-on-one battle against the wall.  We were soft.  Most looked like they played scared.  Marty, God love him, looks like the last two years when he can’t wait to get rid of the puck.  We need him to want to have the puck, much like he did when he scored the goal.  Thank goodness for the goaltending.  The Bulls, Bucs, and Bolts.  What a painful sports weekend, particularly if you’re looking for an offense (and heart).

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Por (Mat Gedge) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I certainly hope this is not a preview of what’s to come. The goaltending was great, but I’ve never seen so many statues since I visited Vatican City!

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Por (Thunderstruck) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Dale, I agree with you about Boyler. Theres been a lot of talk about how young our D is.  If you think about it and consider how long it would take to develop these guys and really get them playing well, you have to wonder if those years working towards that ultimate goal are worth it.  All the while they spend time getting experienced is time cut away from the careers of guys like VL4 and MSL.  VL4 is in his prime.  We dont need to finally get an experienced blue line as he is crossing over out of these prime playing years.  But what do I know? Len has it all figured out, probably right down to what style of cowboy hat he’ll wear at the home opener.

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Por (Andy Douglas) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

Yikes! Not at all what I was hoping for. Maybe they need more time to get used to each other on the ice.  The power play was horrible. The penalty kill looked worse.  They didn’t seem to have any direction or plan on the ice at even strength or special teams. Hopefully Melrose gets this thing together quickly, or the season will be over by Christmas.  Thank God for the solid goaltending, but that can only carry you so far.

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Por (Steve) on October 05, 2008 (Suggest removal)

I think anyone who has been paying attention knew our defense would take a while to gel, so there’s no surprise there. The goaltending has been good, and the offense has been worse than expected, including the power play.

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