Steve Yzerman is a man after Bertrand Raymond's heart. How else to describe a GM who retains a core of French Canadian superstars to build on with Simon Gagne and the biggest coaching star to come out of the province in a decade?
The Lightning play the Habs tonight in the arena RDS would be happy enough to hand over to them this very evening. I don't think I'll be among those fawning over the Yzermen, but we still need a preview, right?
Boucher and Martin
It's possible that everybody has already forgotten that they wanted an experienced NHL coach. As Guy Boucher takes to the NHL bench for the second game of his career, it seems the fear that he might be the one who got away is now trumping all those years of growing coaches to no avail. Martin will be in tough tonight, though. Not only is Boucher riding in on a wave of good feeling, he is also a crafty coach, and one that can call Steven Stamkos' name.
St. Louis and Cammalleri
Two very good scorers, Two very effective offensive players. But Mike Cammalleri's deficiencies are known because he plays every other night on Quebec TV sets. The grass is greener with St. Louis, since he doesn't. Within the game, both players are now the ones who make their offenses tick. Cammalleri is the Canadiens most dangerous finisher and St. Louis the generator for the Stamkos powerhouse.
Hedman and Hamrlik
Two well known Lightning top 2 draft picks. Two touted big-framed juniors. Not that the Canadiens could have had Hedman. He remains an object of admiration. Hamrlik will also be in focus as he returns tonight. Both should be anchoring the defensive end for the respective teams. Hamrlik will look to find early 2009-10 form, but will be an improvement over Picard with a mediocre performance. Hedman will be battling age and experience to tie together a mostly offensive minded blueline.
Price and GF
Carey Price is in a delicate place. This season he has a win and a loss taken from games where his team scored timely goals and didn't. In order for his belief in winning to return, the conquer of the idea that the team must decide (i.e., score 3 times) must be banished. Last year against Tampa, Price played 3 times. Twice he played well, once pretty well and he came out with one win, the Lightning got points in every game. As demons go, the Lightning games represent them very well. performing well against another team with straight shooting stars and giving his team a chance to win will be s big step.
Little at all. The Lightning have only played once. The Canadiens twice. Neither team has played since Saturday. I don't know how the NHL schedule is made, but this seems a strangely long layoff given both teams have to be somewhere else within a night or two. Maybe there were Icecapades to accommodate? The media momentum is also split. The Boucher phenomenon is fueling the Lightning, while a single win has been enough to light the Habs fire.
Lightning the Habs covet
Big, fast, scorer. When Stu Cowan wrote on the draft, this is the kind of player he was no doubt lamenting. But players like this are hard to come by without losing for a season. He'll be as hard to pry from the Lightning as Lecavalier ever was.
A few years ago, I'd have written St. Louis. Gagne is 5 years his younger, though and is just as reliable as a scoring threat. One of the biggest Quebecois stars of the past decade really should have been on the Habs radar when they did their reshake.
Habs the Lightning covet
Guy Boucher owes a lot to PK Subban. An NHL job for a start. PK is the dynamic skating defenceman that every team wants. But teams dressing Randy Jones and Brett Clark just scream it a little louder.
Last season the Lightning dressed Lecavalier and 50-goal Steven Stamkos at centre. A pretty good one-two punch. Last year the Lightning missed the playoffs by a clear margin. Tomas Plekanec is that rare centre who can swing between offense and defence with ease and in the team-building blueprint, he's a valuable piece to teams who can't stop shedding goals.
Neither team will want to lose, but both can afford to for the moment. i don't think that will have stopped them getting their excuses all lined up:
If Montreal lose:
- Markov is injured
- Guy Boucher is a genius
- The Lightning were better rested
- The Lightning channeled the energy of their home province
If Tampa lose:
- Not in the rhythm of the season
- Boucher is a rookie coach
- Players are still learning system
- It's all written in Yzerman's plan
Impact of this result
I say that both can afford to lose. Of course they can, it's game 2 and 3 for the respective teams. That doesn't mean there won't be an impact.
For Tampa, I think a loss will be quickly swept away. They play Philly tomorrow and only ten fans will have watched it happen anyway (if you don't count their support in our province).
Auld will start the next game and may start to put a credible challenge in on Price. Martin will carry the loss until he faces Boucher again. Hamrlik and Spacek will be panned. And all the good feeling will be turned to bad.