Where goes Marty, so goes the Lightning (Bolts at Coyotes preview)
WHERE: Jobing.com Arena, Glendale, Arizona
WHEN: 9 PM EDT
MEDIA: Sun Sports (cable)
OPPONENT COVERAGE: Five for Howling
Where goes Marty St. Louis, so goes the Lightning. I wrote that last year around mid-season with his less-than-stellar goal production. I lamented:
Not only is speed and deftness an integral part of the St. Louis attack, but there is a fearlessness that has him crashing the crease or working intimately around the net.
That seems to be missing this season. The brakes have been applied.
Marty was caught up in the support role, per management requests. Feed Steven Stamkos, shoot from the outside and let Malone redirect. You could see it, game in and game out. It wasn't what Martin St. Louis usually had done in the past. He was not on his game (though he ultimately was producing at the same high point levels as in the past).
Oddly, going into tonight's game in Glendale, St. Louis has one less point than after 9 games last season. One less point... But one thing he does have back is permission to be Martin St. Louis, one of the most dangerous players in the NHL.
It was Wednesday night's game against Pittsburgh and his goal in the 3rd period that had the warm-and-fuzzys of nostalgia. This goal was so typical St. Louis that it could be a textbook case of why Marty is a star in this league:
And yet, this wasn't seemingly allowed under the regime of Rick Tocchet. No, Marty would hold up near the blue-line for other forwards to get into the zone. Marty was support staff. Severing the puck on a platter to Steven Stamkos, or Ryan Malone in early going during the season.
He was neutered. Not that his abilities weren't there. Not that his talent wasn't there. He was the set-up man and not allowed to be the offensive mighty-mite that Tampa Bay fans have known him for since his arrival via free agency in 2000-2001.
I could go on, this is deserving of it's own post -- difference between teams. But, to leave you with a thought: Marty has 5 goals on the season. It took him 9 games to tally that. Last season, it took him 20 games to reach his 5th goal of the season.
Point production might be the same as last season, but the difference is night-and-day.
The Bolts and Coyotes both had traveling yesterday. The Coyotes returned ot Phoenix after a game in Detroit on Thursday (winning 4-2). The 'Yotes, after the magic of last season, are 3-3-3 after nine games this season. While that stat looks like an absolute .500, it's actually .333 -- one third wins, two thirds losses (regulation and OT combined)..
The Bolts are no longer the top dog in the Eastern Conference, that title belongs to Les Habitants de Montreal. That's fine and good. 10 games in is not the time to get concerned about winning the conference championship. Too much of a road left to hoe.
The Bolts are 5th in the league with a 24.4% conversion rate on the power play. Phoenix? Not so hot. They're converting under 10 percent of their opportunities an are ranked 28th. On the other side of special teams, te Coyotes have an 82.9% penalty kill, tied with the New Jersey Devils for 18th in the league. The Lightning are killing off 90.2% of opposing power plays. They are ranked 2nd overall in the league with that stat, just behind Boston.
One final note (or two) for tonight: Simon Gagne is eligible to come off IR, but there is no indication he will today. He did not practice with the team yesterday. Also missing from practice was Dominic Moore, who is also on the mend.
Tampa Bay Lightning official team preview