Instead of stating this preview outright talking game for the competition, I'd like to touch on a different subject matter. It's a little bit of a reach, and with how the public has responded to other topics I've touched on in recent months, there's plenty of reason to assume this'll just be pushed aide.
You know the Lightning are on the cusp of advancing to the Eastern Conference Finals (and the Islanders will do their damnedest to thwart it), you know by way of public information that NBC, Rogers Sportsnet and TVAS will be covering the game - highlighting a contest between a non-traditional club and a tri-state area, storied past franchise. The matinee affair puts the contest in a different kind of spotlight, but a two pronged national focus will be undertaken. We'll be exposed to the big boys for the afternoon.
With the spotlight showing and a game of mass being what's going on, my request is simple but I make it widely to those who are going to be in attendance at 401 Channelside Drive on Sunday afternoon. For you dedicated season ticket members, for the boys and girls up in 306/307 as members of the Sticks of Fire supporters group, for all of you single-game attendees: After the conclusion of the anthems, as game nears its start and the opening faceoff, I'd like you to chant: Tampa Bay. I don't mean "Tampa" versus "Bay" like at Raymond James Stadium for Buccaneers games I mean chanting it as a three-syllable thing in unity. "Tam-pa Bay! Tam-pa-Bay!"
A contest like this is where you want to show unity, support and local pride. It's a game where the national attention is not only on but in a non-traditional market oh-so-often given the brush off because of that status. It's not just being a warmer climate that doesn't suffer winter but it's also the fact Tampa Bay, the Tampa / St. Petersburg media market, isn't near the same level as the New York, New Jersey, Connecticut tri-state area, or Toronto / province of Ontario, or Boston, or Detroit, or Montreal, Chicago, etc.
The Tampa Bay Lightning professional hockey clu8b has been thisclose four times, with three of them resulting in advancement to the Eastern Conference Finals. For all the crap we've drawn in stereotyping from traditional-but-close-minded media entities, having them left in a awe by what we can pull at Amalie Arena would be nice.
(To Sticks of Fire Support Group members: Though the chant "I Believe" is your known chant, it's not a chant of inclusion, it's not a chant that carries with understanding to a wider audience both in Amalie Arena or listening on radio/television. That stunts participation... And participation is why I'm pitching chanting "Tampa Bay" - to get the whole building repeating those two words/three syllables until after the puck is down and the game is go.)
I don't know how wide this request will go, I don't know how many will stand behind it... What I do know is that with the chant being common in other Tampa Bay sports, and with the fact it's simple... It's easy for the masses who didn't read this request to join in the chorus to show the world we're behind our boys and we're proud of what we have.
Another preview item I'm writing here isn't game related as-so-much a bit of a [something] toward New York Islanders fans (and players). It's a reflection on Friday's events but it's not a labeling of the team, it's not a denouncement of Isles faithful or anything but... You deserve better.
The Islanders franchise has it's storied past and I don't need to rehash it. In some ways the Lightning is comparable to the Isles because both franchises have been (...or should I say had been) centered in chiefly suburban markets. At the same time, there are so many elements that have played out the last few years that have left me dumb-struck to watch (as a former New Yorker - islander, in fact - as well as a hockey fan). To see a not-in-my-backyard stance by Nassau County against Charles Wang's (multiple) attempts to redevelop and renovate Nassau Coliseum in Uniondale was befuddling. As a hockey fan, it was a degree of frustrating because of the threat of relocation for other teams in situations like this and how it seemed the Isles were handcuffed with thanks to it being New York. The situation at Barclays Center, a much more urban locale, is frustrating in its own right as the team's base of fans are further east in such a heavily populated region of the United States. I don't know if or how many fans in Nassau County or Suffolk County have been stifled to attend games with location... I do know, however, playing a hockey game in a built-for-basketball arena within the five boroughs of New York seems counter to what you'd expect in such a populated area; to be not ideal in all-purpose use?
Don't even get me started on the Isles web site, which comes off more minor-league than NHL-level with thanks to ticket sales being pushed heavier than the club (or so it feels).
I'm not trying to smack the Islanders team; that's one great bunch of players who've proven they're a force to be reckoned with. While I could take shots at Justin Bieber for mixed-at-best conditions at Barclays Center on Friday night, it's a deeper deep set of issues at play here. I don't think Bruce Ratner's renovation of Nassau Coliseum is a cure for it either. I just know you folks deserve better, as do the guys who are suiting up to play Isles hockey.
All right, all right, let's talk a little game here: Bishop v-s Greiss, round five gets underway at the Amalie somewhere after 3:05 PM EDT. Greiss put up 20 saves in his overtime loss on Friday. He's given up 13 total goals in the series, coming on 129 total shots against him during that span. While Greiss has shown he's certainly capable of standing strong for the Islanders, his save percentage in the series is a lacking .899. Yet that's a testament toward this series! Bishop is even-steven in his numbers: 10 goals allowed on 100 shots faced in total, a .900 save percentage. That three-goal differential in total is huge in the end, but the closeness of the stats tells you this is anyone's ballgame.
Half of the games in this series have now been 1-goal affairs, though the games themselves were different animals: The back-and-forth, last-minute comebacks of game 3 and then the tight affair (plus Barclays Center issues) sojourn of game 4. It's by chance that the Bolts now have a 3-1 series lead. It's possible a close-contest goes out in game 5, but it's also likely we see everything the Isles have left (and then some) just for the right to go to game 6. Can Tampa Bay stave off that kind of assault/onslaught?
Here's another question to contemplate: Would the Lightning bring back close-but-still-questionable talent like Anton Stralman and J.T. Brown to participate in game 5 with thanks to being back at the Amalie? These (potential) last three games are at a more standard playoff pace of every-other-day and while the need for experience is there, the need for a wise return and not a rushed one is also there. While it's a big-big game for the Lightning, the team is not showing dire need for bodies on the bluue line or forward corps.