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10 Games In - Tampa Bay Lightning Written by Laci Bloomers - November 30th, -0001

Sean Avery's look says it all.

The first 10 games in could hardly be called a success for the Tampa Bay Lightning this season.

The Bolts started poorly, being shut out by the cross-state rival Florida Panthers 2-0 on opening night.  They went another couple of games before looking like the team people expected to see, avenging the Panthers in a 5-0 romp in their 4th game.


That was followed by a 4 game slide, which included another shut out loss at the hands of the Washington Capitals.  A split in the last 2 games leaves the club with a pair of wins against 7 losses and a tie through 10 games.  Not a sparkling start to the season.


So what has gone wrong so far?


The two glaring issues thus far have been the overall defensive play of the club, and a poor start at home.


The home record is an unimpressive 0-4-1 thus far.  That record will hardly strike the fear of god in any visiting team, especially when they have been manhandled 19-11 on the scoreboard at home.


Which brings us to the crux of the problem.  Team defense.


Goaltenders Tim Thomas and Robert Esche have identical 3.18 goals against averages at this point in the season.  Each has played 302 minutes.  Each has given up 16 goals, although Esche has a shutout.  Esche has a marginally better save percentage thanks to that very same shutout.  Thomas looked horrible in his first 3 starts, but has looked much better in his last 3.


Not that they have had much help from the team in front of them.  They have scored 25 goals, but only 19 of them 5 on 5 through 10 games.  There are only 2 plus players on the club at the moment.  Rod Brind ‘Amour, who joined the team as a +5, is now a +1.  Geoff Sanderson is a +2.  On the other end of the scale, Richard Zednik and Mike Commodore are each -6.  Radek Bonk is a -4.  These are players getting top 2 line ice time and not getting it done from a defending perspective.


Brind ‘Amour is the club leader in goals (5) and points (15).  Jere Lehtinen and Mike Modano have 4 goals each, and are the other players averaging a point per game, with 14 and 10 respectively.


After that, production drops off badly.  Of the touted goal scorers on the club, Bonk has 2 goals and 5 points, Daymond Langkow has 2 goals and 4 points, Sanderson has a pair of goals and 6 points, and Alex Radulov has a single goal and 3 points and was even sent to the farm for a game. 


On the blueline, Mike Rathje has probably been the most consistent with 4 assists and 15 hits. 


Perhaps it is a chemistry issue, something that the club’s GM has not ruled out.  He is open to trade discussions and will pull the trigger if he thinks a player will help the club.  I would think that urgency will increase if the team does not play with some desperation over the next few games.


Next up is another game in Florida, followed by a home game against the Coyotes and then another home and home match-up with the Panthers.  That will give the Lightning 5 of their first 14 games against the team many thought they would challenge for the Division title this season.  At present the club trails Florida by 6 points, so these games are crucial.  Even more alarming is that the club trails the Division leading Atlanta Thrashers by 8 points already in this young season.


Time to get on the game faces and show the fans in Tampa what this club can do before it is too late.  A scary thought at this point in the season, but it is almost that serious.


- Laci Bloomers reporting -


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