So the Lightning are back on the east coast and a game is going to be played until a hospitable hour (east coast time), which should keep a few more fans awake to see the results of the contest. That factor in itself is great to know, as is the fact the Tripleâ
BREAKING NEWS: STEVEN STAMKOS HAS CLICKED LIKE ON A TWEET AND THEN REMOVED IT! STOP THE PRESSES AND DISTRACT THE FRANCHISE!
The fact there's a game tonight against the Ottawa Senators isn't so much a factor as is-he/isn't-he regarding Stamkos with yesterday's little Twitter "malfunction". I use quotes around that because of all the tweets Stamkos has had slip-ups on, he's twice had them on Tweets involving himself. Of all the remarks that could be accidentally liked, when the remarks are about yourself and your future it seems like a pretty deliberate slip up.
Now what type of affect does this hold on the roster of the Lightning? There's a morale booster that we'd all be focusing on squarely this morning - Ondrej Palat's return to the lineup - but instead the story playing out in social media and elsewhere on the web is the status of Steven Stamkos in Tampa. And we've been through this before, about two years ago with one Mister Martin St. Louis, but the rumors came very indirectly which led to a lot of speculation among the fan base that it was all false and made up... At least we fans were like that up until the resumption of play in late February 2014 (after the Olympics) and the lost performance by the Lightning team in those pre-2014 trade deadline games.
As team captain, Marty was straight with his locker room (if not the public) and shocked them by being honest and direct. Two years later, Steven Stamkos is team captain and ... well, we're going to find out just what the deal is by way of the results of the next few games if Stamkos' Twitter shenanigans has been talked about in the locker room. A motivated club is convinced that Stamkos' act was indeed the trolling it's been labeled as by some. An out-of-focus or edgy team is distracted by the charade. An unmotivated team in an integral divisional battle game tells us the worst. A status-quo Lightning, the same middling effort by the club, means there's been nothing set straight with a club that's been plying beneath what it's capable of for too much of the season that's nearing its halfway point.
It's your move, captain.
The Senators have been a sound club, to say the least, all season so far. They're 15-8-5 with 35 points in the standings and have been flirting with the top spots of the Atlantic Division for most of the 2015-16 season so far. Craig Anderson has been the man in the crease most o f the season for the Sens but his numbers aren't other-worldly like we've seen from some netminders this season (a 2.74 GAA, a .917 save percentage and a 13-7-3 record) but it's sound and stable. It's sort of needed to be too as ace-backup and dealer of puck-theft, Andrew Hammond (aka the Hamburglar) has been battling injuries. Hammond has only played in 4 games and gone 2-0-2 while posting a 2.42 GAA and .930 save percentage.
It's really offensive production by the Senators roster that is compelling the team. Erik Karlsson has 32 points on the season (6 goals, 28 assists). Left wing Mike Hoffman has 15 goals on the season, leading the team in that category with Kyle Turris next with 12 goals. Overall the Sens have seven guys with double-digit point totals and five of them are over 24 points.
You've wanted to go where the Lightning's offensive potency went, and the answer is Ottawa, Ontario. Though I do have to point out the Bolts have eight players who have reached the double-digit point total for the season (Stamkos, Nikita Kucherov, Victor Hedman, Valtteri Filppula, Vladislav Namestnikov, Alex Killorn and J.T. Brown), but only one has more than 20 points on the season (Stamkos).
Tonight will be a test on defense for Tampa Bay - stop the Sens offensive spark in order to contend. Hold the line, you got a chance... Oh, and slip one past Anderson or whomever makes it into the Sens crease for the game.