It's Veterans Day in the United States, and what's more patriotic than being in the US Capital to play the Eastern Conference leading Washington Capitals this evening? If Bolts vs. Kings was looked at as a marquee matchup if division leaders last week, this will blow it's socks off that... The Bolts and the Caps are atop the Southeast division with four points separating the two teams.
In Canada, today is Remembrance Day. And speaking of remembrance, Damien Cox has absolutely no recollection of how things went down in Tampa Bay the past two years. In his rather comical piece of writing, Cox tries to declare Yzerman's (and the Lightning's) early successes are with thanks to the groundwork lain by former General Manager Brian Lawton.
In trying to defend Lawton, Cox makes the factual error in stating Lawton drafted "Both Stamkos and Hedman".
Really, he's benefitted from the stability of a deep-pocketed new owner and the foundation established by Lawton.....Lawton, remember, drafted both Stamkos and Victor Hedman. Maybe they were no-brainers, but Lawton did resist temptation to move first round picks for immediate help in a effort to save his job. He was authorized to make a big move at last winter's trade deadline, but decided against it and held on to his first round selection...
News flash, Damien: Jay Feaster was general manager in 2008 and Stamkos is a part of his final draft class with the Lightning. Also as a newsflash to Cox -- Lawton wasn't given free rein to make moves without meddling from ownership until the 2009 entry draft. That's a total of eight months after his formal hiring as general manager in October 2008.
In that eight-month span, it was difficult (even living in and watching the Tampa Bay organization up close) to tell what deals were made by Lawton or by ownership first. Recall just last spring that news came out ownership almost dealt off Steven Stamkos.
Also reported after Lawton's ouster: The failed trade with the Minnesota Wild at last winter's trade deadline. How much of an upgrade would rent-a-player Derek Boogaard have made for the Bolts?
In Cox's absent-minded remembrance, Yzerman is riding on Lawton's coat-tails. What a crock.
OK, onto the more important subject of tonight's game. Steve Downie is not on the road trip. Speculation has it that the Bolts will make a recall from Norfolk sometime today. Candidates for recall include Johan Harju, James Wright, and Blair Jones. Recall waiver issues hamper many other candidates.
Michael Neuvirth is the starter for the Capitals tonight (well, based on him being the first goalie off the ice at Caps practice). Not sure yet who will get the call for the Lightning. With his recent strong play, Dan Ellis may very well be tapped. That's not guaranteed though.
We talked about four points separating the Lightning and the Caps n the conference standings. Four points is the differential between NHL points leader Steven Stamkos (24) and Alex Ovechkin (20) at current. But, while mesmerized by the antics of these two players -- don't lose focus on Alexander Semin on the Caps. He's tied for 10th in the league with 16 points so far this season.... And Martin St. Louis is only a single point behind that.
So offense prowess should not be missing from this matchup. Should not, doesn't mean will not. After all, the Caps are only allowing 2.47 goals per game on average, whiel teh Lightning are allowing 2.79 goals on average.
The Caps are converting on just over 20% of their power play opportunities, that's good for 10th in the NHL. The Lightning are at 23.7% on the power play and are ranked sixth. On the penalty kill, the Capitals are also ranked at 10th int he league, allowing only 9 goals on 64 shorthanded opportunities so far this season. The Lightning are ranked third, killing off 90.6% of their short-handed situations and allowing only 6 goals in their own 64 short-handed situations.