Sports Outside the Beltway

Thrown hockey stick leads to Colorado Avalanche victory

The Tampa Bay Lightning keep finding ways to lose hockey games.

Milan Hejduk was awarded the lone goal in a shootout when Tampa Bay goalie Mike Smith was penalized for throwing his stick as the Colorado Avalanche beat the Lightning 2-1 on Thursday night.

Smith’s stick came loose when he was making a save on Hejduk’s backhander. After discussing the play for several minutes, the officials awarded the goal.

“They huddled to make the decision to see if they felt the stick was thrown,” NHL senior vice president of hockey operations Mike Murphy said in a phone interview from Toronto. “And if a stick is thrown, as outlined in Rule 26.4, they can award a goal and that’s what they did in this case. There was a strong feeling that his stick was thrown.”

Tampa Bay’s players and head coach Rick Tocchet weren’t happy with the call. I didn’t see the play, so I can’t pass judgment. It has to be a tough year for Tampa area hockey fans.

Update- Here’s a video of the play

It is my opinion the referees badly blew the call. Puck Daddy has more.


FL Panthers win in Edmonton for the first time since 1996

Florida did this in spite of being out shot 41 to 16. The victory pushed the cats to above .500 for the season for the first time since game seven.

The win may not have been pretty, but I’ll take it. I stayed up to watch it on NHL Center Ice like I will do with tonight’s game against Calgary. It wasn’t till Radek Dvorak scored a empty net goal in the last five seconds of the game that I breathed easy. I all too well remember Florida’s blown 2-goal lead to Edmonton from last season.

Florida has won their last four games on the road. This road trip has three more stops, Calgary where the Panthers will face their former coach Mike Keenan, the Roberto Luongoless Vancouver Canucks, then arch nemesis Carolina. Florida has scored points in 8 of their last 9 games, that in spite of being seriously banged up. The team is down five forwards at present, most of whom are the teams leading scorers. David Booth, Cory Stilman, Richard Zednik, Nathan Horton. Which makes the team’s present run more incredible in my eyes. Now if the cats can win 2 of the last 3 road games, I may start seriously thinking of them as playoff contenders.

On a side note, Tampa snapped their losing streak by defeating Montreal last night. Unlike former coach Barry Melrose, I don’t wish the Bolts to lose. Except if they play Florida of course.


Continuing the plunge- TB Lightning lose to Buffalo 4-2

They have won one of their last fifteen games. From the Tampa Tribune-

Even when handed a gift, the Lightning find a way to fumble with the bow.

Tampa Bay was handed a pair of power plays on questionable calls late in Wednesday’s 4-2 loss to Buffalo, but came away empty to continue the team’s losing ways. Thomas Vanek scored twice, giving him 11 goals against the Lightning in the past seven meetings between the teams.

Tampa Bay lost its fourth consecutive game and saw its winless streak reach nine games (0-7-2), the longest stretch of games without a victory since Jan. 12-29, 2001. Overall, the Lightning have one victory in the past 15 games (1-10-4) as they sink deeper into the depths of the league standings.

Tampa is giving the rest of the NHL and hockey fans a textbook lesson in how not to win NHL games. A team needs more than one great scorer(Vincent Lecavalier) and top line. Goaltending and defense matter.


Tampa Bay Lightning lose 5th in a row

Is it too early to start a Rick Tocchet gets fired watch? From AP-

Richards netted two goals, including the winner on a power play 2:05 into overtime, and the Philadelphia Flyers sent the Tampa Bay Lightning to their fifth straight loss with a 4-3 victory Tuesday night.


The Lightning missed an opportunity to win with 16.3 seconds left in regulation when Ryan Malone was awarded a penalty shot, but his attempt went wide when Martin Biron just got a piece of the puck.

“I didn’t know he was going to go wide, but I got a toe on it” Biron said.

Malone hit the post on a breakaway and was given the penalty shot when Philadelphia forward Scott Hartnell threw his glove at the puck

So far the Lightning are 1-3-4 under Tocchet. They were 6-7-4 under Barry Melrose before he was fired. I don’t think that coaching move has worked too well, do you?

This game was very annoying to me. Because of the NHL’s television package, other NHL games are not broadcast on the night of a Versus game if the games are played at the same time. So I didn’t get to watch a banged up Florida kick the crap out of Washington. Such a great television deal you negotiated NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman.


Dainus Zubrus scores 4 goals as NJ routs Tampa 7-3

Before yesterday’s game the Devil forward had two goals for the entire 2008-09 season. From AP-

Dainius Zubrus had one of the best offensive games in New Jersey Devils history.

Zubrus tied a team record with four goals to help New Jersey win its season-high fourth straight game, 7-3 over the Tampa Bay Lightning on Sunday.

“I had chances,” Zubrus said. “Since I’ve played with Brian Gionta and Patrik Elias, I’ve had more chances than I had before. They just started going in.”

Zubrus, who entered with two goals this season, completed his four-goal effort in the third with a breakaway goal at 7:22 and on a shot from the slot with 5:22 left to play.

You give up seven goals to New Jersey, not exactly a scoring powerhouse. Someone try explaining to me why Tampa was considered a Stanley Cup contender before the season began?


Florida Panthers- A blah effort

That best describes the cats game against New Jersey last night. Florida out shot 24-19 but lost 3-1. Simple problem with the game- Florida let New Jersey control it. Some players looked like they were barely putting in an effort.

Sun Sentinel hockey blogger wrote-

He hasn’t been able to get this team going on a consistent basis — who can do it? — and in particular Nathan Horton.

He tried to take the pressure off Horton coming into this season. He made him a center to give him more responsibility. Still, no response. There are times Horton hustles and there are times when he appears to be going through the motions.

Horton alternates between being a terror and invisible. Last night he was the later.

Against New Jersey, Florida faced a third string goalie who probably belongs in the AHL. Tonight they play again in Boston. No rest, and against a goalie in Tim Thomas, who is playing brilliantly but has had problems with the cats in the past. Which Florida team will show up?

What does Florida coah DeBoer think of his team so far this season?

Nearly one-fourth through the season, DeBoer said the Panthers’ report card deserves a ‘C.’

I’d say more like a C- or D+

Scott Burnside at ESPN has his own ratings-

Tampa Bay Lightning: D-plus
Firing coach Barry Melrose 16 games into the season illustrates the state of flux in which the Lightning find themselves. Ownership and management can’t seem to decide what kind of team they want to be, both on the ice and financially, as the trade of minute-muncher Matt Carle to Philadelphia attests. There is plenty of time to turn this ship around given the talent in the lineup and the surprising play of netminder Mike Smith, but it won’t happen if everyone isn’t pulling on the same rope, which hasn’t been the case so far. The immediate question facing the team is whether new rookie coach Rick Tocchet has the personality to make sure that cohesiveness takes place.


Florida Panthers: D
New coach, new lineup, new promises … same results in South Florida for the bottom-dwelling Panthers. Rookie coach Peter DeBoer was hoping to rely on a rock-solid defense and goaltending to keep the young Panthers in the playoff hunt, but they’re 16th in goals against per game and 28th in goals scored per game. The Panthers have yet to win more than two games in a row at any point this season. Jay Bouwmeester had not scored through 17 games and will become the elephant in the corner as GM Jacques Martin will have to decide whether to move the franchise defenseman. Bouwmeester can become an unrestricted free agent in July and has showed little inclination to sign on for the long haul in Florida (and why would he?).

Which I find peculiar for several reasons.

1- The records of Tampa and Florida so far

Lightning- 5-7-6
Panthers- 7-10-1

Florida is playing mediocre this year, but not much was expected of the team. On the other hand some hockey analysts thought Tampa was at least a playoff team or even a potential Stanley Cup contender.

2- Burnside hyped Tampa before the 2008-09 season began. How can give the dismal Lightning a better than Florida considering their under performance?


Holding on for dear life- Florida Panthers defeat Tampa 4-3

Nothing comes easy for the cats.

The Florida Panthers are finding ways to win. The same can’t be said for the Tampa Bay Lightning.

Bryan McCabe scored twice in regulation and Nathan Horton had the lone goal in a shootout for the Panthers, who beat Tampa Bay 4-3 on Tuesday night.

Tomas Vokoun made 49 saves, and David Booth added a goal for Florida, which has won three of four following a six-game losing streak.

“We got some great goaltending,” McCabe said. “We were lucky. The score didn’t quite dictate how we played. We were up 3-0, but they were outshooting us and outchancing us.”

Tampa Bay, which trailed by three goals in the second period, tied it at 3 when Steve Eminger snapped a 63-game, goal-scoring drought with 2:51 left in the third

.Florida blowing a big lead has happened alot since I began watching the team. Last night was different, Florida won in a shootout.

Florida can’t expect their goaltenders to continue being miracle workers. 52 shots on goal is ridiculous. The Panthers also need to get some goal scoring from people other than their defensemen. Lets review the team’s leading scorers.

Wingers and Centers

David Booth 8
Nathan Horton 6
Cory Stilman 5
Richard Zednik 3
Stephen Weiss, Gregory Campbell, Rostislav Olesz, 2
Radek Dvorak, Anthony Stewart 1
Ville Peltonen, Bret McLean, Kamil Kreps, Wade Belak, Michael Frolik all zero in over 10 games played


Keith Ballard 2
Bryan McCabe 3 and he was hurt and missed nine games
Nick Boynton 2
Karlis Skrastins 2
Noah Welch 1

What I’m trying to say is Florida is getting rotten offensive production from the people who should be their scorers. McCabe is tied for 4th on the team in goals, two lines worth of Panther forwards have produced next to nil. If Florida isn’t to have another disappointing season, defensive players need to start clearing the puck out of the Florida zone and the underperforming forwards need to start putting goals in the net.


Tampa Bay Lightning fire Coach Barry Melrose

Just 16 games into the 2008-09 season, Melrose becomes the second head coaching casualty.

The Tampa Bay Lightning fired Barry Melrose after just 16 games in his return behind the bench, and associate coach Rick Tocchet will take over as interim head coach.

The Lightning, who made several key offseason acquisitions and got heralded Steve Stamkos as the top pick in the 2008 draft, announced the move Friday afternoon.

“This was a tough decision to make,” general manager Brian Lawton said. “Barry is a good man and we have a great deal of respect for him. We wish him nothing but success. However, the results were unacceptable and the players have to understand that we need to be better. Hopefully this change helps push them.”

The Lightning entered the season with high expectations, but find themselves 4-5-1 the past 10 games, including three straight losses. In the offseason, they had signed veterans Mark Recchi, Ryan Malone, Radim Vrbata, Olaf Kolzig, Adam Hall, Wyatt Smith, Gary Roberts and Vinny Prospal to help along a younger group with considerable potential.

The team has struggled despite the presence of All-Star center Vincent Lecavalier — the club’s career scoring leader who signed an 11-year, $85 million contract extension in July and was named captain in September — and Martin St. Louis, who has a team-high 12 points.

I just wrote yesterday that I couldn’t understand how anyone expected this franchise to contend for the Stanley Cup. Go read the post. I didn’t like the firing of John Tortorella either, and bringing in a coach 12 years removed from the game wasn’t a brilliant move. I think Melrose isn’t the main cause of Tampa’s problems, but the one who gets the blame for all of them.

Rick Tocchet is a interesting choice. Only 18 months ago Tocchet pled guilty to gambling charges. He’ll make it to the end of this season but if Tocchet is around next season I’ll be surprised.


How did anyone think Tampa Bay could be a Stanley Cup contender this year?

The Florida Panthers defeated the Tampa Bay Lightning last night, 4-0. That puts the cats at 6-8-1 for the season. Next up for Florida is the defending Stanley Cup Champs, The Detroit Red Wings, at home on Friday night.

Craig Anderson, who because of his strong performance against Anaheim, was given his second straight start. While Tampa only attempted 24 shots on goal, Anderson made a couple of spectacular save. Gregory Campbell collected two of Florida’s four goals. These in addition were the first goals of the year for Campbell.

Assorted Notes

*- Coach Pete DeBoer has already made it known Craig Anderson will start against Detroit. The days when Florida would ride their goaltender into the ground appear to be over. DeBoer has more confidence in Anderson than former coach Jacques Martin has ever shown.

*- Tampa was so lackluster last night that I can’t avoid shaking my head when reminded of how some hockey prognosticator thought the team could dream of winning the Stanley Cup this year.

Tampa could only manage 24 shots against a Florida team that has been giving up over 40 a game on a regular basis this season. All I see in Tampa is a one-dimensional offense mostly based around Vincent Lecavalier, a invisible man highly touted rookie Steven Stamkos who was barely involved in last night’s game, a team as shallow at defenseman as Florida aka where’s Dan Boyle these days?, and two goalies that would be backups most anywhere else in the NHL excluding Ottawa. Based on what I’ve seen so far this year, Tampa has little chance of making the playoffs and a Stanley Cup ride is pure fantasy.

*- Nathan Horton after scoring a goal and assist early in the game, didn’t play in the 3rd period due to flu like symptoms. You suddenly get the flu after 40 minutes of hockey? No wonder many South Florida hockey fans question Horton’s desire.


Tampa Bay Lightning fire Coach John Tortorella

This news had been rumored for months at least.

TAMPA, Fla. (AP) – John Tortorella was fired Tuesday as coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning, four years after leading the team to its only Stanley Cup championship. He had one season remaining on his contract.

The Lightning were 239-222-36-38 and made the playoffs four times in 6 1/2 seasons under Tortorella.

“This has been a very difficult decision because of everything that John Tortorella has meant to and done for this organization,” Lightning general manager Jay Feaster said in a statement.

“Torts came to Tampa and not only built the foundation under our club but he also changed the culture and raised the expectations, eventually leading us to the Stanley Cup in 2004. What he accomplished during his tenure in Tampa was nothing short of remarkable and our organization will always owe him our thanks, gratitude and deep respect.”

The firing came as no surprise. There has already been speculation about television analyst and former Los Angeles Kings coach Barry Melrose possibly replacing Tortorella.

If Tampa Bay replaces Tortorella with Melrose, the Lightning are going to remain in the Southeast Division’s cellar for some time to come. Melrose hasn’t coached in the NHL for over 10 years and I think is out of touch with the game today.

I’d like to see the Florida Panthers now hire Tortorella. The cats have been leaderless since Jacques Martin stepped down as coach almost two months ago. Martin, who is still the Panther’s GM, hasn’t hired a new coach yet. I say hire Tortorella, the listless Panthers could use the kick in the ass this firey coach would give them. Unfortunately I don’t think the Panthers will make that move. They’ll play it safe again with the head coaching job and miss the playoffs again.


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