Erik Erlendsson covers the Tampa Bay Lightning for The Tampa Tribune.
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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?