Ah, here we are! That special day of year where time springs forward! A temporal anomaly invoked by the government to both conserve energy and to maximize productivity levels for the agricultural establishment! You'll find that everything today and tomorrow happens an hour later than it was happening before hand... which gets a little awkward in the morning to start but, hey! Longer afternoons and a lighted evening! What's there to complain about with that??
Matinee hockey games on the day Daylight Savings Time goes into effect, that is what.
It's bad enough the NHL's schedule for its 30 member clubs is inconsistent enough as-is with deployment of matinee games throughout the season. Earlier starts vary in time of deployment from as early as noon to as late as 5 PM (yes, 5 in the afternoon isn't matinee status... It's also 2 hours before standard start times; I'm complaining about earliness here, give me a little)... The thing is, those start times are rare and certain start times are never employed in certain markets - when was the last time a game started as early as 1 PM or 3 PM at Amalie Arena in Tampa? - That it adds to the strangeness when games are played so early on road trips. Yes, a rare start time can make the game seem more like a special event, especially when the contest is one of very few games played at the hour while the bulk of the NHL will be playing much later in the day. Lightning vs. Blue Jackets isn't a premier league matchup though, not this season at least.
Now add to the fact there's a time-shift going on here today and this is just awkward. It's slated for 3 PM; it's actually 2 PM on a Sunday. The home team's audience is more likely to be invested in personal productivity or enjoying the midday world that spingtime affords the Tampa Bay and Florida area. That translates to spring training baseball, as MLB has ingrained itself over many generations as having games starting in the early afternoon.
You're not on Raw Charge to read about matinee baseball affairs though; you're here to read about the Lightning! This Bolts fan would like to make the declaration that he hates these matinee games, thoroughly, totally, and utterly. The fact we're getting one on the afternoon of a time-shift takes place adds to the sentiment of dislike.
A different kind of revilement has come into play for the Bolts the past three games, one tied to concerns and panic from some sources. The Lightning have stopped winning games in-a-row and are 0-2-1. They're also 9-2-1 in their past 10 games or 7-2-1 in their past 10 games... Does that dull concerns just a tad? The Lightning played a weak contest against the Philly Flyers last Monday, came back to Amalie Arena and fell in overtime to Atlantic Division rival Boston, and almost got shutout again against the Flyers on Friday. When added up directly, opposition has outscored Tampa Bay 8-3. That's not supposed to make you happy or add to contentment but it's also not the end of the season for the Lightning, nor proof the club should recall the entire Syracuse Crunch team and hope that some of those guys can score a few more tallies than what the current roster is doing for the Lightning franchise. Streaky play is streaky play and you shouldn't be content that the team has one point in three games played.... You also shouldn't take this as ironclad proof that coach Jon Cooper should be replaced and Steve Yzerman fired and Jonathan Drouin named team captain because all this is just absolute proof Steven Stamkos is leaving.
Seriously, calm down. It's not like the Lightning (or any NHL team) go undefeated in an NHL season. The season length is 82 games and a 9 game win streak is the anomaly here, not the fact the Bolts didn't extend it to infinity. That stretch was the longest winning streak in team history, which actually plays up Tyler Johnson's fluke/streak catch phrase.
Two losses and an overtime loss (a game played on the night after one of those two aforementioned losses) is not an Earth changing, fire-and-brimstone raining sign of end-times here folks. Nor should it be seen as a precursor to such moments. Losses happen, and if the breadth of the 2015-16 season should have proven anything, it's that Tampa Bay likely isn't going to match its 2014-15 regular season record of 50-24-8. Indeed, the club is now at 39-24-5 and expecting wins and overtime/shootout losses to be the extent of Lightning game results during the final 14 regular season games is kind of a reach.
NHL seeding for the playoffs in the Eastern Conference is going to be in flux through the final days of the season. Don't go overboard in reacting to non wins. They happen.
As for this afternoon's opponent, a grand tradition is taking place with the Columbus Blue Jackets, or at least it's grown to feel like a tradition due to how often it's happened. The Jackets aren't tanking after issues handicapped / restrained the club during the season, putting them at the bottom of the league. Oh, Columbus is still near the cellar of the NHL, they're just doing a hell of a lot better than they were for most of the season. Columbus is in 26th place in the overall league, tied with the Vancouver Canucks with 64 points. They're more competitive than they had been for so much of the season and praise should be laid upon (former Tampa Bay Lightning, New York Rangers and Vancouver Canucks) head coach John Tortorella for changing the locker room mentality and coaching practices in town. Columbus didn't exactly make a mistake bringing in Seth Jones either, though a defenseman isn't going to right the entire ship either. Jones has 15 points in 27 games since being acquired from Nashville for Ryan Johansen. It's a matter of practice or arguably just chance that Jones is minus-1 with Columbus - four points better than he was with the Predators (minus-5).
What was this about tradition though? That's not a shot on the club playing poorly regularly but more an acknowledgement that the Jackets have a tendency not to remain in a state of mire for the sake of a high draft slot. It seems like every time the club has a weak season; it finishes strong and thwarts landing the top draft selection status.
I can't say what to expect from this game; the Jackets took down both the Florida Panthers and Boston Bruins in recent weeks while they've stood well against the Detroit Red Wings too. Don't write them off.
One last note: Saturday night, the Lightning recalled forward Mike Blunden form the Syracuse Crunch.