Sunday, May 22, 2011

Lightning Notes

I am not superstitious, but there is something about the NHL playoffs that toys with a man's head.

I wanted to wait until the first round was over to write anything about the Tampa Bay Lightning's performance. That's exactly what I did, and it seemed to work out as they beat Pittsburgh in seven games.

Then in the second round, I wrote about it as it was unfolding and the Lightning did even better -- not merely beating the Washington Capitals but sweeping them.

Now we are four games into the third round, which is the Eastern Conference Final, and I had not written a word until a minute ago. The series has been one of dramatic ups and downs with Tampa Bay and Boston tied at two games apiece -- which is obviously not bad for the Lightning, especially after their impressive comeback yesterday, but they simply have not played as good as they did against Washington.

I found myself wondering if I should mention them in the middle of this series, to get some of that round two mojo going again...or if I should wait until it is over, just in case the secret is to alternate the rounds in which I say something mid-series with the rounds in which I say something post-series.

Obviously, I decided to go ahead and throw caution to the wind. I figured, since I am supposedly not superstitious anyway and am definitely not going to be on the ice, why worry? So here a few general notes on my team.

For starters, I can't allow the retirement of Fredrik "Freddy" Modin to pass without being noticed. The strong, fast Swede with a blistering shot played for Toronto before he played for Tampa Bay, and for other teams afterward, but those of us from the Bay area will always think of him as one of ours. During his six years here he tallied 155 goals and 152 assists, including the winning goal in Game Seven of the 2004 Eastern Conference Final. He played a huge role in the Lightning's Stanley Cup championship that year. Back problems forced him to hang up his skates a few days ago at the age of 37.

Since the Bolts are playing the Bruins this round, I have gotten to thinking about how cool it would be if they won the Cup and once again had Phil Esposito's name etched onto it as the team founder. If that were to happen, it would mean that Esposito's name is on the Cup as a Bolt just as many times as it is on it as a Bruin. That, combined with eliminating the Bruins from the race, would be good to throw back at those Boston fans who fall into the "obnoxious" category.

I have no analysis for how the Eastern Conference Final has gone so far. None of the games have had any resemblance to the others, and even the periods seem to be very different from one to the next. There has been amazingly good play and also amazingly sloppy play. After looking like Conn Smythe material through the first two rounds, Lightning G Dwayne Roloson has been pulled from the net twice. But on the other hand, Bruins G Tim Thomas hasn't exactly been stellar either, since the Bolts have scored five goals in three of the four games. The only thing I'm sure of is that this is the most helter skelter playoff series I have seen in many years, and if it keeps going like this it will be the most helter skelter one I have ever seen.

And in case you didn't hear about it, a bunch of fans did something cool today when the Lightning's plane left Tampa International Airport bound for Boston: They gathered and stood in the shape of a lightning bolt that the players could see while taking off. For a picture of it, go here.

And lastly: Go Bolts!

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