Now in January, the evidence is...still pretty much in favor of that hypothesis. Though Tampa Bay is in a playoff position at the moment owing to four more wins and one more OT loss than the Jackets (not to mention an excellent season from one Steven Stamkos, about whom much more shall be said presently), you still see the big wins, some very big losses, major questions on goaltending (though the Lightning, to their credit, have tried making a trade to adjust this), and they've dealt with having to adjust to their new coaches schemes and styles. Both teams have a middling to weak PK (80% for Columbus, 82% for Tampa), but Tampa does have the advantage of a much better power play at this time.
Hell, they've even both gotten smacked hard in blowouts by the Penguins this year, which is a funny bit of symmetry if ever there was one.
The Lightning certainly have some advantages right now overall, but in their last ten games, both teams are running about .500 - 5-5-0 for the Bolts, and 4-5-1 for the Jackets.
Tonight is the first game of the now annual "Dad's Trip" for the Jackets, and those trips have had some pretty good success in recent years as the players are looking to share the joy of a victory with their parents. It's also interesting that this year, the trip coincides with a swing through the Sunshine State, since back in 2008-2009, it was a big come from behind victory in Florida (followed by a close game in Tampa) that really seemed to get the team onto their feet for their playoff run.
Perhaps, if you'll excuse the pun, we should be hoping for lightning to strike twice...
|Game Time: 7:30 pm EST
|TV: Fox Sports Ohio (HD)
|Radio: 97.1 WFAN-FM
|Blue Jackets vs Lightning coverage|
|Opponent's Blog: Raw Charge
I will repeat, in my opinion, that it doesn't matter. We got Scott Arniel out of the deal, and anyone who has talked to him is likely to tell you that Arniel is exactly the right sort of coach for this club.
Of course, that said, I'm rooting for him to get the win tonight, and perhaps I'll feel a LITTLE bit of schadenfreude if the Jackets happen to put a hurting on Tampa Bay in the process. (And with a record of 7-2 against the East, and 4-4-1-1 against the Lightning in Franchise history, there's actually a pretty strong chance of that.)
Keys To The Game:
- Seen Stamkos? - With 33 goals and 61 point in 46 games, Stammer is shredding the NHL right now, though he's been on a bit of a slump in the new year, with just two goals and three assists in 2011. He's exactly what was advertised when he was taken in the 2008 draft - fast, dynamic, and able to score in clutch situations. He's also gifted with an excellent linemate in Martin St. Louis, and the Lightning have recently moved Steve Downie to his right side to provide a mix of scoring touch and pure nastiness. If there is one line the Jackets have to be aware of at all times, it is this one.
- #DanEllisProblems - After giving an ill advised rant about how difficult it is to be a multi-millionaire in today's economy, Dan Ellis found himself hoisted on his own petard when Twitter users began a meme that has followed him for the rest of this season. That's not the least of his worries, however, given that he's currently sitting on a .884 save percentage for this year - second worst among goalies with more than 20 NHL games played this year. (In fact, he's second worst only to injured Tampa goalie Mike Smith, with a .883) Dwayne Roloson came in after his trade to Tampa and delivered some stand out performances, but after back to back blowouts at the hands of New Jersey (!) and Carolina, Ellis is being put back into the net in attempt to get the Bolts back on track. The Jackets need to take advantage of a goalie in a bad situation, and look past his previous success against the Jackets with Nashville.
- Don't Trade Vinny - Despite missing part of the season with injury, and finding himself reduced in role to the team's second line center, Lightning captain Vincent Lecavalier is still a star player, and he's made even more dangerous with the addition of Simon Gagne on his line. He cannot be taken lightly.
- Watch Your Hands - As mentioned, the Lightning are deadly on the power play. It goes without saying that the Jackets need to stay out of the box tonight, and keep up the recent streak of power play scoring if and when they find themselves with the advantage.
- Speed Kills - The Jackets will have to match the speed of the Lightning, which will be a challenge, but the rise of Matt Calvert and Grant Clitsome has provided the team with some unexpected weapons of their own.
This is a big game for the Jackets, but a winnable game. If they can come out with the same level of determination as we saw in the back to back with Detroit this weekend, I think we're in for a fun ride.
Blue Jackets Information:
|Rick Nash||Derick Brassard||Jakub Voracek|
|R.J. Umberger||Antoine Vermette||Kristian Huselius|
|Derek Dorsett||Samuel Pahlsson||Chris Clark|
|Matt Calvert||Kyle Wilson||Jared Boll|
|Jan Hejda||Fedor Tyutin|
|Rostislav Klesla||Marc Methot|
|Grant Clitsome||Kris Russell|
Tampa Bay Lightning
|Martin St. Louis||Steven Stamkos||Steve Downie|
|Simon Gagne||Vincent Lecavalier||Ryan Malone|
|Sean Bergenheim||Dominic Moore||Teddy Purcell|
|Dana Tyrell||Nate Thompson||
|Brett Clark||Victor Hedman|
|Randy Jones||Pavel Kubina|
Tidbit: If you're not doing anything for lunch, get down to the North Market and grab some Clever Crow from their new stand. It's damned good. I'm a big fan of the roasted squash with sausage, or the house made chorizo.