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This is going to be a good hockey team



I know, they're 0-2-3. They matched the 1998-99 team as the only Tampa Bay squad to start a season winless in five games, and the team lost a franchise-record third straight overtime game. It has just eight goals. But I really believe this is going to be a good hockey team.

I'm not saying it will make the playoffs or anything beyond what we can evaluate right now. And I know I'm going to hear about this on this post and at the end of the season if things don't work out, but this team is so much better than it was even three games ago, the difference is notable. Paul Ranger has single-handedly settled the defense; I'm not saying it's great but it is a huge improvement. The goaltending is solid. All the team needs right now are goals, and it is not possible the top two lines will continue to be as lame as they've been so far.

I know, Marty St. Louis has just five shots, Ryan Malone eight. Radim Vrbata already is scratched.

Now, think about this. It's five games into an early season that really is Tampa Bay's training camp. I am discounting the trip to Europe. It was great for bonding but lousy for building the on-ice product. Too much travel, sloppy, though enteraining, games against non-NHL oponents. Don't bring up the Rangers, a different situation with a generally stable core of players.

Hey, I could be so wrong it's laughable. It's happened before. But the Lightning buzzed through one of the best defensive teams in the league, and if not for Eric Belanger covering up two open nets, Tampa Bay wins.

Geez, they had 30 hits (Steven Stamkos even got two), 59 total shots, including blocks and misses.

The key might be the mind-set of the players. If they get discouraged at the early lack of results, that's trouble. But there was enoughy chatter in the locker room after Saturday night's loss that it shows the players had some perspective. I don't think it was false bravado either.

I'm sure they are disappointed they have to wait three days to face the Thrashers. What this group needs now is games.

[Last modified: Sunday, August 16, 2009 4:38pm]


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