Friday, September 28, 2007

Being that this is really our first full season to get a crack at previewing teams, we decided to contact other bloggers to have them tell the stories of their respective team's season.
We will be running a team per day, possibly two teams, possibly six, all through September.


We start in the Southeast division.
John Fontana was kind enough to lend his words about his team the Tampa Bay Lightning.
[ Boltsmag ]


Division: Southeast
2006-07: (44-33-5) 93 points
Playoffs: 7th seed
Elimated: Owned by Devils


Vinny Lecavalier- Martin St. Louis- Brad Richards
(52G-56A-106P)- (43G-59A-102P)- (25G-45A-70P)

Hi everyone, John Fontana from here. Just for what it’s
worth I’m 28 and have been blogging on Boltsmag since February 2004,
making Boltsmag one of the longest running hockey blogs out there.

The Tampa Bay Lightning – a bane for the Pens last season if you recall
– have a number of questions about them that I think can be best
addressed by acknowledging my top concern down the stretch last season
and then working our way from there.

There’s a top concern in the hockey world when people look at the Bolts
and there is a top concern for me that I’ve had a few friends identify
with: The Lightning has been a one line team the past season with the
departure of Fredrik Modin (traded to Columbus before last season for
Goalie Marc Denis – more on that later) and weak play by former wing
Ruslan Fedotenko. With the top line assured to be a scoring threat with
the dynamo that was Vincent Lecavalier with Martin St. Louis on his
wing, the team became one dimensional once you took the top line off
ice. Brad Richards on the 2nd line worked with a plethora of wings and
yet didn’t quite click with any of them. And while the grit on the 3rd
and 4th lines were there, there was a desperate lack of scoring
contributions from these lines.

Lecavalier and St. Louis were a deadly force last year, make no mistake,
but the key to stopping the Lightning was to neutralize their contributions.

Flash forward to this upcoming season and there are three new forward
dynamics that will play into things: Jan Hlavac returns to the NHL
after 3 seasons of European exile, Chris Gratton was re-acquired by the
Bolts (his 3rd tenure with the team) to serve as a 3rd line center… And
much reviled former Pen (and former line-mate of Brad Richards during
Rimouski Oceanic’s memorial cup season of 2000-01) Michel Ouellet have
joined the fray. Hlavac and Ouellet are penciled in to join Richards on
the 2nd line and hopefully provide a second scoring line for the
Lightning. Gratton will serve in place of injured captain Tim Taylor as
3rd line center with Jason Ward on his wing complimented by either Ryan
Craig or Nick Tarnasky.

Now the official item that stands out to everyone else in the league is
the Lightning’s goaltending situation. Marc Denis was acquired before
2006-07 with loads of hype surrounding him. With that hype came
other-world expectations… And with that pressure came more-than-human
play between the pipes. I have to admit I liked Denis in net more than
former netminder John Grahame (who has a tendency to commit too early on
saves and otherwise play like a chicken with his head cut off). But as
I said above, Denis proved mortal in net. Johan Holmqvist played well
at times as the seldom #1 in Denis’ steed (9-1 in shootouts) but also
played like he belonged in the AHL at others (a terrible record versus
weak in-division rival Florida).

Improved play in goal will be vital this season but just as vital will
be play in front of goal by the Tampa Bay defense. Blocking shots and
crowding lanes and making it difficult for opposing defenses is just as
vital as routine playmaking by the netminders. Though the loss of Cory
Sarich on the blueline (to Calgary) may be felt, the addition of former
Bolt Brad Lukowich – who is better at blocking shots, as compared to
Sarich who was a physical force left to poke-check in the Lightning’s
defensive system – should even things out. The return of Dan Boyle,
Filip Kuba, as well as young Turks Paul Ranger and Shane O’Brien will
make up the top two pairings (most likely) in Tampa. The #6 defensive
role should be a battle between Lightning prospects (such as former
collegiate standout Matt Smaby, Andy Rogers, Vladimir Mahlik) as well as
depth additions such as Bryce Lampman (Rangers), Dan Jancevski (Stars)
and Doug Janik (TB – 6th/7th D-man last year).

All in all, the Lightning have made lateral moves in an effort to bring
back a double threat on offense while stabilizing and improving the
defense. How well that works will remain to be seen until the puck
drops on opening night… And doubts will remain in goal until Denis,
Holmqvist or Karri Ramo step up and prove themselves beyond the status
quo in net.
Pensblog Take

Bottom line:

The Lightning are going to go as far as the goaltending allows them.
Vinny Lecavalier is at the point in his career where he can dominated all day.
St. Louis is money, and Richards will job 30 goals.
You know they will somehow beat the Penguins.

Lightning are going to the playoffs mark it down.


dave said...

ouellet ouellet hands of cemmet


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