Tampa Bay Lightning
@ Atlanta Thrashers
Greetings from Atlanta, where the Lightning wrap up the regular season tonight against the Thrashers. Obviously, it’s the final game in the regular season series as well – the Thrashers have won five of the first seven games.
It’s been a long, difficult year for the Lightning and some of the team’s toughest losses have come against the Thrashers. But Atlanta has not had a cakewalk this year, either; the Thrashers have just four wins in their past 21 games and like the Lightning, will miss the playoffs.
So unlike the last two games, the Lightning won’t be facing a team needing to play a desperate game in order to keep its postseason hopes alive. That means that tonight’s game likely will come down to which team wants it more.
The Bolts will try to contain Ilya Kovalchuk, Atlanta’s best player. For most of Monday’s game at the St. Pete Times Forum, Tampa Bay did a solid job of keeping Kovalchuk quiet. But he got open late in the third and scored the eventual game-winning goal. Tonight, the Lightning must limit his chances for the full 60 minutes.
As I have mentioned throughout the season on this blog (and listeners to the radio broadcasts know that Phil Esposito and I talk about these keys all the time), special teams and goaltending will be important. If the Lightning can win those battles, they’ll likely win the game.
I’d like to thank all the fans for their support of the team during this very tough year. I can’t wait to talk to you again next season! Have a great offseason everybody!