January 30, 2009

Tampa Bay Game 50: vs Philadelphia

The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Philadelphia Flyers 6-1.

50 down, only 32 to go....

Two disallowed goals - one supposed to have been kicked in, the other supposed to have been hit in by a high stick. Then there was a penalty shot that didn't go in. At that point, the Lightning were only down 3-1. Yep, it was one of those games.

This is what I don't get about this team - and I've never gotten about this team this season. In this game, for instance, the Lightning really didn't start kicking it into high gear until they were down 5-1. Why? Why do they do that?

Personally, I really hate losing. Being down in a game just makes me work harder because I want it that much more. And, if I had to, I'd be dragging the rest of the team with me. Not that I was ever a great offensive talent or anything, but I'd be talking teammates up on the bench and on the ice. I mean, that's just how I am.

If this group of guys were a person, I'd say that they don't think very well on their feet. And they don't deal with change very well. So it takes a while for them to work up to sudden momentum changes in the game. Like in this one, they were down three goals in five minutes in the third period before they could react. I suppose that's probably why their transition game isn't as good as it could be, either.

Someone really ought to take Malone aside and tell him to stop. He had two penalties in the game against Carolina, and then he had four penalties in this game - one of which was a fighting major. He's supposed to be one of the leaders on this team, and he should have much better discipline than that. I don't fault him for showing some passion, but he needs to be smarter than that.

You certainly can't accuse Tampa Bay's top line of slacking. Not when those three guys had half the shots for the team. St. Louis had nine shots, Lecavalier eight, and Prospal four. I thought that Prospal had a pretty good game, actually. And St. Louis got a penalty shot attempt, too. Like I'd said, tho, it was one of those games, so they weren't able to put anything in the net.

But let's give Niittymaki some credit. I've always thought that he was one of the more underrated goaltenders in the league. And he definitely shined in this game.

The Lightning's defense weren't helping Smith all that much. And the forwards weren't helping the defense. The only thing that looked good were their special teams. Which was good, I guess, since they were either on a power play or killing a penalty for a good part of the game.

Smith just looked mentally tired. This three-day break ought to do him a world of good. I think he ought to take up some off-ice hobby that has nothing remotely to do with hockey to get his mind off the game off the ice. Because I get the impression that he's a bit burned out with thinking about the game, his game, and the standings. The guy needs to figure out how to pace himself.

Okay, so all was not doom and gloom. But it wasn't all sunshine and light, either. They've managed to pull themselves out the turmoil from the first half of the season. Now they need to figure out how to maintain the mental fortitude needed for this intense stretch run without all of them collectively burning out.

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