It's up to the core
With the sale of the team putting a stop to any trades, the Lightning is going to have to make do with the roster it has, at least until Oren Koules either buys the team or bows out. That means if the Lightning is going to have any chance to make the playoffs, it has to get a huge boost from its core players: Vinny Lecavalier, Marty St. Louis, Brad Richards and Vinny Prospal.
The trouble is, those guys are having just as much trouble scoring as the secondary scorers who can't seem to score. Consider this: In the 3-8-2 stretch in which the team is involved, Tampa Bay has 29 goals. Take out the six it scored in that strange game with the Flames and it is 23, an average of 1.76. That means no one is scoring but especially the big guns.
Vinny 4 is getting his points but he has just six shots his last three games and is minus-3 since Dec. 1. St. Louis has two goals in his last eight games. Brad Richards, a league-worst minus-23, has no goals in eight games and one in 11. After scoring 12 goals in his first 18 games, Prospal has five in 22.
No surprise, then, that the power play is 2-for-25 in its past eight games and 5-for-40 in its past 11. The MVP line has been anything but lately.
All this is even more startling because the team is finally getting some goaltending. Karri Ramo in his five starts has provided goaltending that gave the team chances to win.
So the bottom line is this, forget all the talk about the goalies, the youth and inexperience on defense. If this team is going to climb over six teams to eek out the eighth playoff spot or climb back into the Southeast race, the big boys have to be the stars they are being paid to be.
This is not to dismiss those offensively challenged players such as Jan Hlavac, Mathieu Darche, Chris Gratton, Jason Ward and Filip Kuba. But leaning on the core is inevitable as it has scored 68 of the team's 114 goals (60 percenet).
It worked the past two seasons when brutal goaltending did not keep the team from the postseason because the core, including defenseman Dan Boyle, dragged the team there. Can it happen again? There's more on this in Thursday's paper.