With Tampa Bay seemingly playing their 100th pre-season game last night, I had a chance to catch the Bolts in action in Winnipeg against the Edmonton Oilers.
First off, I have to say that I am thankful that the Lightning dressed basically their entire regular season roster for the game. In the lineup for Tampa Bay was Vincent Lecavalier, Alex Tanguay, Martin St. Louis, Steve Stamkos, Victor Hedman and every other significant Bolt you can think of.
Here are my thoughts on the Bolts’ forwards from last night’s contest:
- Martin St. Louis is the heart and soul of this team. He never stops working, is always in the right position, is smart with the puck and makes everyone around him look better. He is, in my opinion, a shoe-in for Team Canada. In fact, when asked about St. Louis last night, Tocchet touched on how lucky Team Canada will be to have him in Vancouver.
- Playing center for St. Louis the majority of the game was Steven Stamkos. Stamkos makes the game look easy with his fluid stick-handling and lethal shot. It looks like his confidence has carried over from the second half of last season, just by the way he carries himself, both on and off the ice.
- Logging minutes with the aforementioned two stars was Ryan Malone. First, I have to say how impressed I was with Malone’s willingness to compete and stir it up in an exhibition game. He was intense from the outset and went to the net hard at almost every opportunity. His presence was a nice complement with Stamkos and St. Louis.
- The “second” line on the Bolts was centered by Vincent Lecavalier. He looks healthy, as compared to last season, and seemed visibly excited about the real games beginning. Additionally, he has demonstrated some nice chemistry with Alex Tanguay and that secondary scoring should be a big boost for the Bolts. “He’s a great player, great guy and I’m happy to have him,” said Lecavalier when I asked him about Tanguay’s addition to his left side.
- Speaking of Tanguay, he looked quite comfortable on Lecavalier’s left side last night. “I can’t believe he was still available,” Lecavalier told me after last night’s game in reference to the Bolts being able to sign the former Hab late in the summer. Tanguay’s addition now gives the Bolts two solid scoring lines for other teams to watch out for. “He brings a lot of depth to the team,” explained Lecavalier.
- Playing alongside Lecavalier and Tanguay for a significant portion of last night’s game was Steve Downie. Downie, as most people know, is a known head-hunter. He certainly brings an energy to the table and can handle the puck a bit, but he needs to cut down on his racing around the ice for the big hit because it takes him out of position.
- Of the Bolts’ depth forwards, one player stood out to me and that was Brett McLean. He was by far and away the most energetic player on the ice and sure looked hungry to make the team. To me, he stood out more than any of the team’s other depth forwards–well, maybe aside from Todd Fedoruk’s monster hit on Tom Gilbert.
Here are my thoughts on the Bolts’ defensemen from last night’s contest:
- Victor Hedman has the poise of a ten-year veteran. The 18 year old Swedish defenseman has a Pronger-esque presence on the ice and is confident in his decisions. Coach Tocchett seems to be awfully impressed with the youngster (he discussed his ability to play both the left and right defense spots last night), although in his post-game interview he did stress that Hedman has to cut down on his risky cross-ice passes.
- Hedman’s partner Kurtis Foster was a great pick up by GM Brian Lawton. He is not the fleetest of foot, but he possesses a lethal shot from the point (the main reason why he quarterbacks the power play) and makes generally smart decisions around the ice.
- Andrej Meszaros has the talent to be a far better defenseman than he is. He can skate, shoot and pass but lacks consistency. He seems focused for a few minutes then makes a terrible decision or two under no real pressure from the opposition.
- Meszaros’s partner last night was Mattias Ohlund. I will admit, I did not like the Ohlund signing in the summer (although most did) and I still don’t like it. Ohlund has lost a step in my opinion and his speed, or lack thereof, may be a big trouble point for the Bolts during the season–as they try and ease in Hedman with second pair minutes.
- Playing the left side on the team’s third pairing was Lukas Krajicek. Krajicek is a good skater and makes some nice outlet passes but does not bring too much else to the table. I don’t seem him playing any significant minutes this season and he will probably find himself on the outside looking in more often than not.
- Rounding out the team’s defense was off-season acquisition Matt Walker who plays a rough and tough game and brings a nice physical edge to the blue line. He isn’t as skilled as most of his teammates but he works hard and provides some much-needed toughness.
Here are my thoughts on the Bolts’ goaltending from last night’s contest:
- Mike Smith is a very athletic and solid netminder. He positions himself well and does not appear to mind a big workload. I asked Coach Tocchet about Smith’s willingness to play the puck even after last year’s concussion issues and he seemed happy that Smith did not seem to have concussion issues on his mind but hinted that he’d prefer Smith be a little more judicious when it comes to his puck-playing decisions.
Here are my thoughts on the Bolts’ coaching from last night’s contest:
- Considering this team has been on the longest exhibition road trip known to man, I was thoroughly impressed by the team’s work ethic all night. These guys seem to like Tocchet and were playing hard for him. There was also a bigger commitment to defense last night than I saw many times last season. So, it looks like Tocchet has these guys moving in the right direction.