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Did the Summer Classic ruin the Lightning? Written by Laci Bloomers - November 30th, -0001

TAMPA BAY
October 25, 2008

Earlier this summer, the Tampa Bay Lightning were the toast of the CMHL, having just emerged as the surprise winner of the 1st Annual Invitational Summer Classic.  Using a stiffling defensive game and some timely goal scoring, the Bolts looked ready to join the legitimate challengers among the CMHL elite.

What a difference a month or so makes.

Now, people around the inner CMHL circles are wondering what is going wrong in Tampa.

After losing back to back games to the Washington Capitals to close our this week, the Lightning sit with a 1-5-1 record, battling for the Eastern Conference cellar with two teams off to equally shocking atsrts, Buffalo and Carolina.

After dealing a malcontent Wade Redden after the Classic for some outstanding young blueliners, the club struggled in preseason.  They addressed that by adding veteran D-man Danny Markov, giving them a solid Top 6.

Looking to add another solid Top line forward, they then traded one-dimensional D-man Joe Corvo and some farm depth for Rod Brind' Amour, who was leading the league in scoring with 10 points in his first 5 games.

Since that trade, the team has dropped 3 straight, being outscored 12-6 in the process.  They are winless at home this season, and the fans are getting restless.  They have allowed an average of 3 goals per game, and while their specialty teams have been strong, their 5 on 5 play has been brutal.  In fact, other than Brind' Amour, who brought his +/- with him, only Mike Modano and Geoff Sanderson at +1 have not been a liability at even strength.

Offensively, the team has lit the light only 16 times in 7 games.  Richard Zednik, a proven scorer, has yet to socre and is a -3.  Alex Radulov can not find a line, being shuffled on each of the top 3 lines, and has only 1 assist and is a -2.  Little has worked the way it was expected.  In fact, today's loss to Washington was aperfect example.  After losing 4-3 to the Caps back-up goaltender while rolling out 4 lines, the club shortened their bench, double shifting their top line to start the game.  The results?  They get shut out 4-0, as their defense gives up 4 goals on 20 shots.

A look at the game lines tell some of the story.  The players are obviously playing tight.  They are frustrated.  Jere Lehtinen, who has 8 points in 7 games, had his night shortened after picking up a high sticking penalty and game misconduct late in the opening period after catching Caps' D-man Brent Sopel with a high stick.  It was deemed intent to injure, although it clearly was not.

However, a look at the team's six penalties for the period tells a stroy.

DAYMOND LANGKOW (CHARGING, Major) 02:15 1st period
JERE LEHTINEN (UNSPORTSMANLIKE-CONDUCT, Minor) 09:38 1st period
JERE LEHTINEN (HIGHSTICKING, Minor, Game Misconduct) 19:27 1st  period
(resulted in PP goal)
GEOFF SANDERSON (ELBOWING, Minor) 02:00 2nd period
MIKE MODANO (BOARDING, Minor) 13:44 2nd period
RADEK BONK (ELBOWING, Minor) 04:00 3rd period
PHILIPPE BOUCHER (UNSPORTSMANLIKE-CONDUCT, Minor) 08:03
(resulted in PP goal)

Four aggressive penalties and two unsportsmanlike conduct penalties.  All penalties borne out of frustration.  All penalties not typical for this roster.  And five of the penalties to the team's offensive producers.

This season opening streak all shows signs that the team does not have the chemistry required to be an elite contender.  They most certainly, at the very least, have no confidence in their game at the moment.  Perhaps sthat is all that is wrong, but definately if that is going to reverse itself the Lightning will need their goaltenders Tim Thomas and Robert Esche to steal a couple of wins, and soon.

Does this team have what it takes?  On paper they surely do.  Unfortunately hockey games are won on the ice though.

Brind' Amour thinks that the club has what it needs.  "We have a solid line-up here" stated the veteran forward.  "I think we have a couple of players who are starting to doubt their abilities, but we are a veteran club and that will not last long.  I expect this club to be a force once we getin sync, which we are working hard in practice to correct in practice.  Coach Carlyle has been reminding us all about how confidence is so cyclical in hockey, and I believe we will be fine."

Carlyle better hope he can get the message through, because one would believe that if the Lightning do not produce some wins very soon, theie coaches job might be jeopardized.

- Laci Bloomers reporting -

 

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