Friday, November 4, 2011

Preview: Chicago Blackhawks at Tampa Bay Lightning

I've been rather passive with the blogging for the last few weeks. Although I've been keeping up with the games and goings-on, I haven't been commenting much. Why? Too much going on around the homestead. Also, I've dropped most of my other writing projects, and it feels nice to not have any obligations hanging around, making me feel like I should be doing other things besides being part of a family. Somehow blogging seems... I dunno... trivial?

But there's nothing trivial about hosting an Original Six franchise, which is what the Lightning will be doing Friday when the Blackhawks swoop down upon what is, for now, still called the St. Pete Times Forum (soon to be the Tampa Bay Times Forum, later to be renamed the West Florida Times Forum, much later to be renamed the Zurg Times Forum. All Hail Mighty Zurg!).

Anyway, if you believe things like "records" and "standings" you would have to believe that the Blackhawks are a better team than the Lightning. The Bolts are floating around the NHL's artificial .500 mark with a 5-5-2 record, while the 'Hawks are more like 8-2-2 after beating the Panthers Thursday night with an OT shocker.

The 'Hawks score lots of goals (40 in 12 games), but so do the Lightning (35 in 12). The 'Hawks are also better at keeping the puck out, with 31 GA against the Bolts' 39. So obviously, Chicago is going to win.

But wait! Isn't it possible that the Lightning will play well and win? Isn't it possible at all?

Well, yes, in theory. After all, the Lightning have two goaltenders, either one of which could turn out to be a game-thief. Mathieu Garon has been very good in his starts, and Dwayne Roloson has been mostly awful but also sometimes great. If either Garon or great Roloson start, the Lightning have a shot.

Both Ray Emery and Corey Crawford have been good for Chicago, and their stats are about the same, so it doesn't really matter who starts. Let's just say that whoever is in net for the Blackhawks will let in about two and a half goals, and stop about .915 percent of the shots thrown at them.

The 'Hawks have several scoring forwards, such as Kane, Hossa, and Toews, Dave Bolland, Patrick Sharp, etc. They can score. They have grit with guys like Jamal Meyers and Dan "Punch My Stupid Face" Carcillo. Good defenders. They're good. What do you want? They're leading the Western Conference? You want me to spell it out for you? G-O-O-D T-E-A-M.

The Lightning, on the other hand, have a shaky defence and a bunch of mega-talent forwards who have yet to break out. Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos are getting their points, but they do not look like Hart and Richard Trophy material so far. Vincent Lecavalier is getting accolades for his play and scoring, but lets wake up for a second: the team's leading scorer through 12 games is Marc-Andre Bergeron, a defenceman, with 13 points.

Great for MAB, right? But why the hell is he leading the team in scoring when there is a former Art Ross and two former Richard winners at forward?

I mean, isn't anyone concerned about the offensive production of several key forwards? St. Louis and Malone with three goals apiece? Dominic Moore with one? And what the hell is Steve Downie giving except penalty minutes? I'm all for fire in the belly, but dude, if you're going to stop scoring and become a pure slugger, at least don't give up on the defensive game. Dude, you're minus eight.

But yeah, it's the defence, right? The Blackhawks can score, and the Lightning are going to have to play tight, tight, tight to avoid getting ripped up by Chicago's razor-sharp beaks and flashing talons.

Come on, boys. Time to execute.

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