The Lightning may have only won 13 games this season (fewer than any team in the Western Conference) and be ranked 12th in the Eastern Conference, but they’ve done well in southern California. They beat the Ducks 4-3 Friday night and beat the Kings 3-1 last night. In last night’s game, the Lightning scored two goals in 41 seconds at the end of the 1st period to give them a 2-0 lead. They went ahead 3-0 at 5:48 when Vincent Lecavalier scored his 17th goal of the season. At that point, Murray did what I would have done at the beginning of the 2nd period – he put Jonathan Quick in goal. Though Quick stopped all 15 shots he faced, the damage had been done and the Kings only scored one goal against Lightning goaltender Mike Smith.
Ryan Malone scored goals 98 and 99 of his NHL career on Friday in Anaheim, but didn’t get the hat trick in Anaheim or a goal in LA, so he’s still in search of his 100th goal. Maybe he’ll get that in San Jose on Wednesday.
This was only the second game I’ve seen Stamkos play live. I’ve watched the Lightning quite a bit on TV (to see Stamkos, the ex-Penguins on the roster, and to see if they’re going to perform pretty much as I expected this year – horribly), but I’ve only seen Stamkos play in two games live. Unfortunately, he did not play against Anaheim (he was benched due to the new conditioning program he’s doing). From what I’ve seen, it really doesn’t seem like he was ready for the NHL yet. It seems that he was rushed and pushed to be ready, since he was the number one draft pick. Perhaps they should have done what the Ducks did with Bobby Ryan (selected 2nd behind Sidney Crosby in the 2005 NHL Entry Draft). Ryan had played in a couple NHL games, but was essentially kept in the minor leagues until November 16, 2008. Since then, Ryan has had a couple games where he didn’t look great, but has been amazing overall. Ryan’s got 26 points in 26 games (putting him in 4th place for all NHL rookies in points, though he’s played 10+ games fewer than the top 3 rookies). He’s also scored a hat trick, has a +/- rating of 11, & has 32 hits. Stamkos (who has played in 41 of the Lightning’s 42 games) has only 15 points (tying him for 14th among rookies).
Clearly, the Ducks are a better team than the Lightning, which many will argue helps Ryan. Stamkos doesn’t measure up when compared with comparable team. The Blues have one fewer point than the Lightning (and have played one less game). Patrick Berglund of the Blues is tied for 2nd among rookies with 27 points in 36 of the Blues’ 41 games. Though I haven’t seen Stamkos play enough in person and television coverage can’t show you everyone on the ice most of the time, I still think it’s possible that he was rushed into the NHL and might have done better as a rookie in the 2009-10 season.
Oddly enough, I’ve seen the Lightning play in 3 games live (against the Penguins in December and their two games in southern California this month). They’ve got a perfect record when I’m in the building. Perhaps I should ask them if they’d like to take me to some of the arenas around the league I haven’t seen yet.