Game: 52 and 53
Opponent: Ottawa and Montreal
Score: 1-5 Loss and 2-4 Loss
Well. That was a fun trip through Canada, now wasn't it. When they crossed the border into the Great White North the Lightning were in second place in the Atlantic Division and ready to show the world that their recent winning streak wasn't restricted to the Sunshine State. Three days and two losses later, when asked if they had anything to declare at the border they responded with, “Yeah, we got our asses kicked.”
Nine goals (granted with the exchange rate it's only really like giving up 4 and ½ goals) allowed against two teams behind them in the standings is not good hockey. At least against Montreal they looked like they understood the game of hockey as opposed to their night in Ottawa. I'm not sure what game they were playing in Canada's capital city, but it sure wasn't hockey.
With their two losses the Lightning saw both Detroit and Boston leapfrog them in the standings. Now, instead of being comfortably in the playoffs (with home ice) they are in a wild card spot. Another loss and a New Jersey win and the Lightning are back out of the playoffs and the negative vibes can flow freely again.
Speaking of bad juju, it's funny how when the Lightning are losing the Steven Stamkos saga becomes more intense, but when they win it kind of fades to the background. While it's on my mind, let me lift the Stammergeddon ban for a second.
As the trade deadline nears who in their right mind would trade for Stamkos? And why would they part with anything of significance? If you were a GM would you pay the king's ransom for a player that you may have for the better part of two months (maybe two more if you make the playoffs?) If he's traded to a non-Toronto team, there is no way he signs an extension before July 1st.
So why trade a couple of high draft picks and top tier prospect? There is no way Mr. Yzerman is taking less than that for his captain and face of the franchise. Would Toronto trade for him? Would he waive his no-trade for Toronto? Maybe. If I'm not mistaken, that would allow the Maple Leafs to offer him the extra year as a free agent. Maybe that would be worth it. But if you're Mr. Yzerman the names William Nylander and Jake Gardiner better be the first words out of your mouth.
I don't believe he gets traded. At this point he re-signs with the Lightning or signs with Toronto in the off-season. Either way, I don't think there is an answer until July 1st. Now back to the team.
The team from the coach on down seemed to shake off the Ottawa loss as just one of those days. Every team has them. For whatever reason nothing seems to work and every mistake ends up in the back of the net. Case in point – Nikita Kucherov turns the puck over in the neutral zone, picks the wrong person to check in the defensive zone and the Senators turn it into a goal. Or Jason Garrison tries to clear the puck up the middle (something the Lightning do a lot of) and it's knocked down and poked past Andrei Vasilevskiy.
Sadly it was one of the last things Mr. Garrison did in the game as he left the game after the first period. I'm no medical expert (nor did I stay at a Holiday Inn Express) but I do remember him throwing a check in the first period and falling backward awkwardly backwards, with his ankle bending underneath his body. So I'm going with high-ankle sprain or tweaked knee. Whatever is broken on him will keep him out 3-5 weeks, which means the Lightning are short a defenseman.
Will they go the trade route? After all, according to the rumor scuttlebutt, all of the deals for Johnny Drouin included a blueliner coming back the other way (Cody Ceci or Kevin Shattenkirk). Unfortunately, St. Louis took a hit of their own with Alex Pietrangelo hurting his knee so those talks might have cooled off a bit. Ottawa did bring in Dion Phaneuf so they could technically afford to trade Ceci.
For now it looks like they will keep things in house as they've called up Slater Koekkoek. Yes I'm excited to have someone called Slater on the team so I can make unlimited “Saved By the Bell” jokes. Also, I really, really hope he wears the number 87 so that the Lightning can ice an 86-91 line:
86 – Nikita Kucherov
87 – Slater Koekkoek
88 – Vasilevskiy
89 – Nikita Nesterov
90 – Vlad Namestnikov
91 – Steven Stamkos
A blogger can dream, right?
While Garrison's injury is not good for the team it is good for the next part of this recap....
Did Matt Carle Get a Point?
I was afraid I was going to have to discontinue this feature after Matt Carle was scratched for the last few games (and Nesterov looking better with increased action). Carle did not play against Ottawa, but he did see 14:46 of action against Montreal. He did not score a point (boo), but it wasn't from lack of trying as he fired 4 shots at the net. Increase that trade value, baby!