GAME DAY: vs. Tampa Bay
Tonight marks the first of two meetings overall and lone meeting at Nationwide Arena this season between the Blue Jackets and Lightning
WATCH: FOX Sports Ohio (HD) | LISTEN: 97.1 The Fan & BlueJackets.com
|The Tampa Bay Lightning could best be described as an unpredictable team – starting with their surprise run to the Eastern Conference finals a year ago and completing a stunning first-round comeback against the Pittsburgh Penguins. Couple that with their perplexingly slow start to this season, and it’s easy to see why coach Guy Boucher is dealing with a bad case of frustration these days.
Steven Stamkos scored an important goal for the Lightning on Thursday night, the overtime winner in a back-and-forth contest against the visiting Calgary Flames. Stamkos’ goal sealed a 5-4 win for his team, and two points that were sorely needed – Tampa Bay had lost its previous two games and six of its past seven overall. Perhaps their most glaring weakness is the absence of Martin St. Louis, who is out indefinitely with facial and nasal fractures resulting from a puck to the face in practice (the day he was scheduled to play in his 500th consecutive game).
St. Louis is the straw that stirs the drink in Boucher’s offense, and without him, the Lightning have looked lost at times and their goaltending hasn’t helped. Dwayne Roloson hasn’t followed up a strong 2010-11 campaign very well, and recently lost his net to backup Mathieu Garon. Roloson’s numbers (3.76 goals-against average, .882 save percentage) won’t win him many starts, but Garon has not performed much better.
A pleasant surprise for the Lightning has been the offensive production of defenseman Marc-Andre Bergeron. GM Steve Yzerman signed Bergeron in the middle of last season to boost his scoring on the blue line, and Bergeron’s big shot from the point was a major asset in the playoffs. He’s carried that over to this season, as well, posting 22 points so far to put him second overall in team scoring.
In order for the Lightning to get back on track and into the playoff picture once again, they are going to need production from all of their top-six forwards and not just Stamkos.