I'm not gloating.
In a season that has shimmied and shashayed through inconsistent efforts during games and inconsistent results in the standings, it's hard not to take pleasure in seeing another notch in the win column. No, wait, it's more than that. In the nearly two seasons of the Vinik ownership era in Tampa, it's damn fine to finally be on the opposite side of a grandiose drubbing. Too often, the Bolts are the ones being made to look foolish (in grand fashion) in games like Tuesday night's victory against the Bruins.
It felt so good! It was a great change of pace!
But I'm not gloating...
No, the road remains rocky and treacherous in the coming days. For those who see the playoffs within reach - I see them at the same distance they've been at since January: So close, but still so far away. Close can't be good enough for those dead-set on the playoffs, and there will be excuses made and scapegoats made if and when the Lightning are statistically eliminated from playoff contention.
The true weight of Tuesday's victory... Hell, I don't want to even marginalize it. The Lightning were opportunists, and did the damage of 6 goals on a paltry 16 shots on net.
I'm not writing this to be a critic, or to crack the whip either. It was one game in 82 of them this season. One game, one delightful outcome.
I'm not here to gloat, I'm not here to criticize. I post this to make one declaration and one declaration alone:
December 2nd, 2010. TD Garden, Boston, Massachusetts. You do recall that game, right? No? Let me refresh your memory:
Yeah, that happened. That clip doesn't do the horror of that game justice. Nothing went right, goaltending was making a statement, the statement being "we're Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time players! Eat your heart out, Lorne Michaels!"
The Lightning had suffered lop-sided losses before that game, and they suffered them after that game as well... But the Boston game was a turning point in the 2010-11 season when panic kicked in and everyone - management, coaching, fans - saw just what needed to be remedied, STAT.
For Boston, yesterday might just serve as a panic-inducing wakeup call. While they don't have the liberty of making a trade for goaltending help, they do have enough time left in the regular season to mentally get past such an ugly loss and make adjustments to make sure games like that don't happen again this season or, more importantly, during the playoffs.
The lop-sided victory by Tampa Bay last night and the freshness of the painfully horrible December 2nd loss to (mostly) the same Bruins team puts a demon to rest, at least for this fan. Sure, the Lightning will likely suffer humiliation again, and nothing's been changed to prevent that from happening. Yet, for one brief moment, I feel redeemed.
Other Bolts fans might think that foolish, because they'd rather seek revenge for the 1-0, Game 7 loss in the 2011 Eastern Conference finale last season... But that was a well-played game. It's hard to be bitter about a close loss.
Being made fools of? Different story. Just ask Bruins fans today. I'm not writing that to goad, I'm not writing that to gloat, I'm writing it to compare... Because I know the feeling too well from the drubbings we've seen the Lightning take at times over the past two seasons.
I don't write this to gloat. No, sir. Not when I know full well that the Lightning and Bruins will dance one more time this season. Not when I know that game is the second game of a back-to-back affair. Not when I know the first opponent of those back-to-back games is Philadelphia.
We're even, though... For the moment. If that moment lasts past March 27th remains to be seen.