Game 24: Tampa Bay Lightning at Detroit Red Wings
The Tampa Bay Lightning lost to the Detroit Red Wings 4-2.
This was a well-played game by the entire team, and for all 60 minutes. They put in a great effort against their general manager's former team, and just didn't get the result that they'd wanted. Sometimes, that's how games go, no matter how hard a team tries.
Matt Gilroy probably had his strongest game as a Lightning player. He was pretty lost at the beginning of the season, trying to figure out Boucher's system. But once he started catching on, he's just gotten more confident every game. There's speculation that he may not make it to free agency next summer, and I think that's a good thing. It appears that he's finally found his NHL niche with the Lightning.
Another game, and another hot goaltender. There are only so much Lightning players can do against good goalies. Of course, shooting more might be a good idea (only 23 shots on Jimmy Howard?), but since when has this Lightning team ever been conventional?
The problem that most people probably haven't noticed that's likely causing the team the most issues is actually faceoffs. Particularly recently, faceoffs performance has been dismal. In this particular game, the Lightning won only 36% of all of the faceoffs. Their last game, it was a similar percentage.
This season, they're just not as strong in the faceoff circle has they were last season, and it shows. How can you expect to get a shot on goal if you don't have control of the puck? And, complementary to that, how can you expect to clear the puck from the defensive zone if you don't have control of the puck?
I think that once the Lightning figure out their faceoff issue - and perhaps shoot a bit more - then they'll start winning on a more consistent basis. They're close, very close, to returning to their winning ways of last season. They just need to tweak a couple of things to pop them over that line.
Overall team defense may always be an issue, as will neutral zone turnovers. However, they've improved when it comes to pointless penalties (Vincent Lecavalier's four-minute minor notwithstanding), and they've also improved when it comes to being mentally prepared for the start of the game. They just need to build on that.
The next game is 3 December versus the New York Rangers. Game time is 7 pm Eastern. If you're not attending the game, come join us. The game thread will go live at 6:30 pm.
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