Opponent: New Jersey Devils
Score: 3-1 Win
So, sometimes you get really, really excited about something like, I don't know, going to a hockey game in your favorite team's arena. Then you notice something. Hey, the team is missing someone. Then it's officially plastered across the screen – Tampa Bay Scratches: Steven Stamkos. You try and remember if you saw him in the pregame skate and can't remember because you were to busy staring at the Tesla Coils and entering text numbers to hopefully win a free jersey or a 7-Day cruise.
You rapidly try to refresh your twitter feed to find out why he's out and your phone isn't working (and it's almost out of juice because you spent all day taking stupid photos of food). The conspiracy part of your mind starts to wonder if Coach Cooper is a big enough dick to scratch Stamkos in what could be his final home start in a Lightning uniform.
Then the game starts and you get lost in the casual conversation with a friend you've been going to games with since college. You forget that Stamkos isn't on the ice, well except for that one power play where they set up Vlad Namestnikov for a one-timer in Stamkos' office and he totally whiffed on it. And the next 5 power plays that they didn't score on, where even with the Captain they might not have scored, but would have looked a little more effective.
Victor Hedman scores a pretty goal and the Triplets start weaving their magic a bit so you forget again. No one is really too concerned, in fact no one around you is talking about it. Heck you're just happy that Punisher guy is still going to games. Then you flip through the free yearbook and see Steven's profile and you remember again.
But on the ice Ben Bishop is doing Ben Bishop things by stopping almost all of the pucks that get fired at him. Brian Boyle gathers a rebound and slides a nifty backhand under Cory Schneider's pads to give the team the lead. Hey it was on the power play! Awesome.
YOUR BOY NIKITA KUCHEROV then gets a chance with an empty net and because he is an enigmatic Russian he roofs it under the bar, perhaps the prettiest empty net goal the Lighting have ever scored. The Lightning win. Everyone high-fives and the team is one-point from clinching a playoff team. You grab a Lightning Playoff Yard sign even though it won't fit in your luggage and you don't have a yard to begin with.
You get back to the hotel and pop up your email and the first thing you see is:
Now your said again. Luckily your wife and your friends have come back from the Duran Duran concert and now you have someone to commiserate with. They make you feel better until they remind you of the other email you received earlier in the week:
You're starting to develop an intense dislike of Fan 590 emails at this point. A Lightning team that was built to go deep in the playoffs was now missing its #2 defenseman and its leading goal scorer for the next couple of months. Holding on to home ice in the first round was looking tenuous at best and winning at least one round seems like it would be a success.
At no point are you angry. Depressed sure. Morose, maybe. Fatalistic, mostly. After all everyone else in the top six has been hurt at some point, so why not the captain. Plus, why not add some extra Drouin drama to the end of the season. General Manager Yzerman alluded to the possibility that the young forward might be in the mix to be called up, but then Drouin came up gimpy as well and missed his next game in Syracuse. As many bad decisions the former first round pick has made he has also suffered some untimely injuries as well. Just not his year I guess.
Did I have a good time? Of course. Did I miss the chance to get Filip Kuba's autograph. I did. Did I win a jersey off of a players back? No. Did I win the 50/50? No, but at least it's a $20 tax write off.
A win is a win. The Lightning are two points closer to making it to the playoffs for a third consecutive year. Matt Carle gets to play some more. As does Jonathan Marchessault (maybe).
Did Matt Carle Get a Point?
Nope, but I did start an official Matt Carle fan club with the lady that sat next to us. So he has that going for him. I'm not sure if we're going to print T-shirts or not. Might have to see how many people are interested. Look folks, Steve Yzerman is having enough trouble trying to move the rapidly aging defenseman. Let's make it look like he's actually worth something by whipping up some interest about him. You never know, it might work.