Not Backing off Playoff Prediction, Bolts 8 Points Out

By on February 1, 2012

Marty St. Louis beats Marcus Johansson (90) with the biscuit on tape, Marty already is ahead of the work ethic curve. (photo by US Presswire/Kim Klement)

Tampa, Fla. — Yesterday on my show I reaffirmed my playoff prediction for the Tampa Bay Lightning, yes the Lightning will make the playoffs.  Last night I was on the edge of my seat as I felt I needed the two points like oxygen.

With the season on paper more than halfway over, I believe the true physiological halfway mark is now, the end of the all-star break.  The Lightning, faced with adversity since opening day and a roster at times that resembles a patient list from a train wreck, somehow now this team is only eight points out of first place and coincidentally eight points out of eighth. (8 my favorite number)

Coming into the first game of the second half of the season, with 19 out of the 30 games at home, Victor Hedman back in the lineup gave me the courage to spout off again, guarantee, the playoffs.  “We wanted to get this two points bad…I felt good, this break (all-star) for me came at a good time.” Hedman said after the game.

When the puck was dropped against the big bad Capitals, which I thought  would probably play more team like with Alex ME-vechkin out of the line-up. Immediately  I couldn’t help but notice an energy level that has rarely been seen this season by the Lightning in the first period.    They were beating the Capitals to the puck and passing real well.

As John McDaniel was announced as tonight’s community hero (LIGHTNING COMMUNITY HEROS) by Marty St. Louis (via video replay), I could not help but think that this team owes it to owner Jeffrey Vinik to give the effort needed to get to the top.

And then, not what I wanted to see at 16:55 of the first period, Capitals center Matt Hendricks fanned on a shot, I mean it was point blank, but Hendricks was able to wheel around and backhand a blind shot off the far post and in.  1-0 Caps. The play was set up by a hard work diving pass by Brooks Laich.

A couple of minutes later Teddy Purcell was set up on the doorstep famously by Steve Downie to tie the game at one, sending the Tampa Bay Times crowd happily into intermission bliss.

That bliss would advance at just over the one minute into the second twenty minutes when Marty St. Louis beat Washington goalie Tomas Vokoun to put the Lightning up on the scoreboard for the first time on the night, 2-1.

With the score board smiling 2-1 Lightning, Capitals center Mathieu Perreault draws a four minute high sticking infraction off the lumber of Steve Downie.   A four minute kill with three huge saves by Mathieu Garon and tenacious but patient skaters indicated the Bolts might just continue this win streak.

This is the effort I have been looking for. The second half of the season, which started tonight remember, this Lightning team will be different from here on out… watch and see.

Zap!  at 10:59, Nate Thompson makes it 3-1. But 2:08 later Thompson puts another one in, off his skate, no kicking motion, unfortunately it was in the Lightning goal to cut the lead to 3-2.  Thompson humored himself (which equates to me, this team has transformed) “It was one of those things,  it hits my toe and goes in, I had my first career two goal game tonight… I came back to the bench and everyone, coach included said don’t worry about it. ” Thompson said.

The first five minutes of the third period I sat there with a feeling that the Lightning were just coasting and not staying intense.  Why this impasse?  Why does this team seem to lull into this passiveness?

That is what Troy Brouwer was thinking when he tied the score unassisted on a giveaway in front.  Now the Lightning has to battle to regain what was theirs, a victory over first place Washington.

Former Tampa Bay Lightning Jeff Helpren takes goaltender interference at 11:41.  Ok the Lightning needs to seize the opportunity, remember I’m looking for two big points tonight.   One thing that I have learned;  when you lose the offensive zone draw to start the power play, things rarely go good for the next two minutes.  Washington kills it off as the Lighting did manage a flurry in front Vokoun but no light.

Tied at three as moved past the fifteen minute mark one might think, alright we are playing with these guys,  but me crazy Rocket, I was thinking differently.  The way the Lightning came out and built a 3-1 lead, they should be dominating  this Washington team.

As I watched the seconds melt off the clock in regulation it pained me to think of giving the Capitals a point. And now I had to endure overtime and possibly a shootout to worry about giving the DC gang another point.

At just over a minute in, Thomas Vokoun robbed Vinny Lecavalier.  Vinny waited very patiently for the puck to settle on the doorstep, got weak lumber putting the shot upstairs,  Vokoun swatted with the trapper.  “Yea I saw the reply…it was a great save he put the glove there and was able to get a hand on it,” Mathieu Garon said of the Vokoun save. “Well that’s him,” Coach Guy Boucher said of Vokoun.  Steven Stamkos said, “That one on Vinny was pretty impressive in overtime, even he (Vokoun) was shaking his head a little bit.”

At just over midway through in the OT session I get my two points!  Mathieu Garon made a nice stick poke pass to advance the puck ahead to Marty St. Louis who plays give and go with Stamkos.  Marty speeds in, in typical Marty fashion, gets the puck in on Vokoun while Stamkos the net crasher cleans up the party!  “I thought I had a quite a few chances tonight so it was nice to get rewarded in a big situation like that.” Steven Stamkos said of the OT game winner, “The old clique go to net and good things happen.”

“We’re playing good hockey… we didn’t let anything rattle us.” Said Nate Thompson.

And in closing I add to my playoff case,

“But I always say, deserving it starts with attitude then work ethic then discipline, so our attitude has been real good for a while now.” Guy Boucher.

Follow me fans, the work ethic and discipline are coming.

Oh yea and a side note, Rocket Sports & Entertainment’s favorite golfer was a guest of honor of the Lightning, yes Brittney Lincicome!  It’s all coming together now.

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