This is... Well, this is awkward.
The Tampa Bay Lightning plays the flip-side of back-to-back games tonight when they square off against the Toronto Maple Leafs in Toronto. The Leafs have had many a game at home lately that they haven't won. There was a recent 11-game streak of losses at the ACC by the Leafs. These losses, and the efforts that were paired with them, led to a chorus of jeers from the fans in the stands. That turned into mocking chants of "Let's go Blue Jays" to rub in the fact the rest of the Leafs season wasn't worth looking forward to when compared with Toronto's MLB team.
So what makes this awkward? Take a despondent crowd that's paying top dollar for seats to tonight's game and then factor in that a local boy playing for the opponent is on the cusp of a major offensive milestone.
Markham, Ontario is a suburb of the city of Toronto. Steven Stamkos, Mr. 58-Goals-And-Counting, hails from Markham. Steven Stamkos played for the Sarnia Sting of the OHL during his days in Juniors... Sarnia is in Ontario (though closer to Detroit, Michigan than Toronto).
My point is, seldom do the Tampa Bay Lightning venture into the building of their adversary with the possibility of being cheered by the local fans. Oh, the Leafs faithful are loyal to their team - even if they're not happy with them to any degree... That being said, can you seriously expect those in attendance tonight to be rooting against a "good Ontario boy" and his chase of the 60 goal plateau?
In the #GreatestTankBattle, the winner is the loser in the competition for 2012 NHL Draft Lottery position... We did the Leafs no favors last night when falling to Les Habs. Let's see if the Bolts can aid their quest tonight. I've never asked which is tougher - traveling the night after a game or the day of game... But I'm wondering if the Bolts traveling the night after a game is something the team should re-think? Just because the Lightning has, you know, sucked on the road this season (12-22-5 in 39 games). Of course, not all of these games were back-to-back, not all of them included travel late night before a game day...
Going by a Tweet from Chris Dingman, the Bolts did not make it to Toronto until almost 1:30 AM this morning. That's just the flight. I can't tell you what time they checked in at their hotel and what not.
Wednesday night's contest in Montreal was another game where Tampa Bay was outshot by a wide margin and the Lightning offense sputtered, to say the least. There are various reasons that the team cited post-game last night, but the fact of the matter is the team finds urgency at home more often than they do on the road... And now with the Bolts well out of the playoffs and the final games of the season being on the road, there is a serious danger of simply going through the motions to get to the end.
By all accounts, Dwayne Roloson will start in net tonight for the Lightning. There's a chance Adam Hall will return to the Bolts lineup tonight (as he was practicing without the red jersey yesterday_ but don't hold me to that. He was scratched last night.