Atlanta visiting Tampa Bay on Saturday night was overshadowed in the south with college football (LSU hosting Florida and a full slate of college football games in the ACC, Big East and SEC) that got everyone's attention.
It hit me during the 2nd period, before Brad Richards break away short handed goal, how big a game this first match-up between the Thrashers and the Bolts was. It wasn't just the 2nd game of the Lightning's season but it was a matchup between a bitter division rival -- last year's Southeast division champion. A team that gives the Lightning fits at times and takes advantage of the Bolts when they aren't firing on all cylinders.
The Thrashers vs. the Lightning is something hockey fans in the area should know is a big deal... how come it felt like anything but going into this game? It's a long season but to be competitive, the Lightning are going to have to play well against all SE teams, not who they chose and when they chose.
And seeing the Thrashers are the reigning kings of the hill -- with thanks to the Lightning not playing as it needed to at times down the stretch last season -- and meeting them head on and trumping them in a contest should be looked at as imperative even this early in the season. Getting lucky and playing them on no rest (Atlanta only mustered 13 shots as proof of them being tuckered out) is a positive and the Lightning didn't waste the opportunity.
The M-V-P line (Martin St. Louis, Vincent Lecavalier, Vaclav Prospal) continued it's play as an offensive juggernaut that became apparent last season. Proposal especially is benefiting at the moment from Vincent Lecavalier's incredible play, netting two goals with thanks to Lecavalier and redirecting a Martin St. Louis shot.
Meanwhile, Brad Richards finally stepped to the plate and scored twice -- both on special teams (SHG and PPG). All in all it was a good night of play and a 5-2 victory to show for it.
...Now if there had only been more hype to this game before hand, as it may carry great weight come spring 2008.