NHL Game Night 12/16: Hurricanes at Lightning

Someone pass me a bucket.

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Marc Denis stopped 24 of 27 shots faced as the Lightning continue to find new and creative ways to waste opportunities to get points and slide further and further under .500. Ryan Craig had 1 goal and 1 assist in the game while Martin St. Louis scored the other Lightning goal. Individual helpers belonged to Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal and Eric Perrin.

I'm at a loss for words at this point. When the goaltending plays well, the offense breaks down. When the offense plays well the defense breaks down. And when this team gets in a one goal game, it seems incapable of making that one critical play it needs to stay out of the loss column. How does a team that has won so many games over the past two seasons forget how to do the little things that will put them over the top in a close game?

Don't look now, but the Panthers are just 2 points behind in the standings. Good grief.

First Period
None

Second Period
Tampa Bay 7:49, Ryan Craig 9 (Brad Richards, Vaclav Prospal)
Carolina 13:05, Ray Whitney 11 (power play) (Keith Aucoin)

Third Period
Carolina 12:58, Eric Staal 17 (Erik Cole)
Carolina 18:36, Ray Whitney 12 (Justin Williams, Eric Belanger)
Tampa Bay 19:04, Martin St. Louis 20 (power play) (Eric Perrin, Ryan Craig)

Game sheet from NHL.com.

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At least Craig got back on the board..

..but damn is this team fragile. I think we may be underestimating the effect last season had on them. The wins are there for the taking every single night lately, it's just they keep pissing them away. That's why I have such a hard time grasping this as merely a talent issue. When the talent we have right now executes, it's working pretty damn well. Shuffling warm bodies around in the rest of the roster is not going to make some sort of magical difference. The problem is the mental approach, and that falls right on the coaching. Besides the fact that Torts is wearing out his top players by putting them out there so much, he's totally destroying the confidence of the supporting cast by not trusting them. Yes our 3rd and 4th lines aren't scoring, but it's not like they're hemorrhaging goals like crazy either. It's the top pairing guys, the top lines that are blowing these leads (see Prospal's -13, Ranger's -6, Richards' -8). Not every shift is about scoring goals. Sometimes you need to weather the storm and just slow things down before bursting back again. They're not manipulating momentum to their advantage right now.

I knew this team would

I knew this team would struggle this season, but when I thought of struggle, I thought of battling for the 7th or 8th spot. I never thought I'd look at the standings and see this team in the 13th spot. There's NO excuse for a team with this kind of talent to be that far down.

Exactly

And I'm definitely not against a trade, as that's part of the shakeup that's necessary, but I feel like it's being overlooked that it's not just a bad talent issue. It's an underperforming talent issue (outside of a couple guys, who knows why it's not rubbing off on the others AT ALL, jeez), which means even if we plug somebody else in that's better on paper, they might still suck because everyone else is sucking and dragging things down. Just look what an underachiever attitude and culture accomplished for the Rangers over the course of several seasons.

We should be getting more from our PP, more from our PK, more from our D. How do we know that? Because it's even worse than last year, even when most of the guys involved are exactly the same and have gone from being the good guys to the worst culprits out of nowhere.

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