Goal scoring alone won't solve things; Tampa Bay Lightning at New York Rangers preview

Vincent Lecavalier (right) and Martin St. Louis (center) are rounded out by goal contributions from the likes of Benoit Pouliot (left) as well as others. - USA TODAY Sports

The Bolts have issues, but the leading cause of these issues is not goal production from the likes of Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier. Garon starts and the Southeast Division standings are suddenly very tight among three teams at the top.

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Scoring does not necessarily reflect leadership, though we know full well that Martin St. Louis is a leader for the Tampa Bay Lightning. We know Steven Stamkos is a leader, as he's being groomed with input and influence from St. Louis and team captain Vincent Lecavalier. We know Vinny is a team leader, and it's been debated before that the captaincy actually hurt his offensive production... Just don't question how much sway he has in the locker room or how much of a guiding force he is on the Lightning.

Scoring doesn't necessarily reflect leadership, but for what it's worth Martin St. Louis is on a pace to score 60 points this abbreviated season. With his point-per-game-plus pace (1.26 points), he would amass 103 points over a full 82 game season.

And Lecavalier? Vinny has cooled off since taking a Sami Salo slap shot off his foot earlier in the season, but his 17 points in 19 games puts him on a pace for 42 points this season, and would be 73 points in a standard 82-game season. That would be his best season offensively since 2007-08 - a full six years ago.

Stamkos is a league leader in goals and points, Marty is among the league leaders in assists and points, the Lightning have a potent mix of players who can contribute offensively - a far cry from recent seasons where the offense started and stopped with St. Louis and / or Lecavalier and / or Stamkos. And while the Lightning are in a rut, offensive prowess is not seen as the absolute issue hurting the team's play.

That's why I take issue with Gary Shelton's column in the Tampa Bay Times, where Shelton suggests that more goals from St. Louis and Lecavalier are necessary to spark the Lightning.

Even now, with Steven Stamkos' emergence as the team's primary goal scorer, the strength of the Lightning was it had all three players ready to fill the net. Together, they attacked in a swarm. They split up big moments like diners splitting a check.

Lately, however, that hasn't been the case.

St. Louis has now gone six straight games without a goal and has scored only one in his past 17 games. Lecavalier hasn't scored a goal in four games, and he has only two in the past 12.

All of which leaves the goal-scoring in the hands of Stamkos and, well, who?

How about Benoit Pouliot (6), Teddy Purcell (4), Cory Conacher (7), Victor Hedman (4), Tom Pyatt (4) and others? That's who.

I'm a long time reader and fan of Gary Shelton, and respect the hell out of the man, but it bothers me that either the above-and-beyond excellence of Steven Stamkos or the ability of the rest of the team to contribute is being played down in Shelton's piece. Stamkos isn't just the teams leading goal scorer, he's on top of the National Hockey League. Again. It's prolific. It's above the singular seasons of great play that Tampa Bay usually gets out of its star players in any given sport.

It also bothers me that offense is focused on when the team issues go beyond offense - puck possession, bad passes, zone entry, defensive lapses a currently anemic power play, goaltending woes (though I'm with Alexis Boucher - lay off Lindback). Is goal scoring really the issue here? Is goal scoring, specifically from Marty and Vinny, going to solve issues with the club?

There are many ills that can be pointed to, some are player based, some are coaching based, and some are just how the puck bounces. Lumping team fortunes on Vinny and Marty and goal scoring just seems to be missing the forest for the trees.

***

Mathieu Garon gets his third shot at the New York Rangers tonight and starts his second straight game for the first time this season. He's 0-2-0 against the Rangers, getting chased during his last outing at Madison Square Garden during the Rangers drubbing of the Bolts.

As Patti said yesterday, Sami Salo is out and Brendan Mikkelson is in on defense. The Bolts will skate seven defensemen and 11 forwards. Adam Hall and Pierre-Cedric Labrie will be the healthy scratches for the Lightning..

The Rangers balanced offensive attack has no player with more than 12 points this season. Rick Nash, Brad Richards and Marian Gaborik each have 12 points. Nash leads the team with seven goals in 18 games.

The Rangers are three points out of the playoffs at the moment. They're also a singular point out of the Atlantic Division cellar, currently occupied by John Tavares Islanders. Yet speaking of the standings, the Lightning, Carolina Hurricanes and Winnipeg Jets are all sitting atop the Southeast division with a paltry 19 points. All three teams will be in action tonight, with the former Thrashers playing the Devils and Hurricanes playing the Penguins. It puts additional importance on the Bolts opening road game as not only does the team need to rebound after two poor showings, but also needs to keep treading water in the points race.

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