Who is this team and what have they done with the Lightning?!
If I had to find a word for the Lightning under Barry Melrose's tenure as coach, I think the word would be disjointed.
The lack of cohesion was apparent, the lack of passion on the ice... and drive to actually play the game. To enjoy the game. It felt like, from a fan perspective, a much hyped package that just could not deliver anywhere close to the promise that was proposed to the fanbase.
The stigma of the roster anarchy will continue to haunt ownership and Brian Lawton for the rest of the season (if not beyond that) unless a clear sense of direction of what the Lightning franchise wants in players is found.
But what a difference a few games make.
It started with Colorado, and I noted that it was the start of a new season for the Lightning where Rick Tocchet had worked with players during their scheduled time off. The Colorado game results and the lack-of-effort in Atlanta didn't do as much harm as once was thought... Through the negatives and adversity, it looks like the Lightning have found... well, the Lightning.
Maybe I am speaking too soon on this, but the teamt hat I have watched versus the Penguins and Panthers the past week has not been the same club I've watched otehr times this season. There is a drive again, there is a cohesion... There's emotion and passion...
And there's a clear desire to win.
Things are not all gravy, don't get me wrong. Thsi team is not suddenly a bunch of world beaters... But as I watch the closing minutes of this Lightning vs. Panthers matchup at Times Palace, the Lightning are playing like sharks when there is blood in the water. A far cry from the comparisons to the days of Steve Ludzik.
Tocchet's talks, the return of Jeff Halpern, Jussi Jokinen's "wakeup call", Evgeny Artyukhin actually playing like he's on the North American continent once again... Mike Smith being stellar between the pipes, the return of Ryan Malone... It's all had a profound effect on this club.
Now will it last?
6-4 the final at Times Palace, the Lightning beat the Panthers for the 2nd straight day. Vincent Lecavalier had two goals, Martin St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Steven Stamkos and "Artoo" Artyukhin also contributed to scoring. An outstanding effort for a 2nd-game-in-24-hours matchup.