Kevin (LBC): Has the absence of Vincent Lecavalier hurt the Bolts? Who has filled the void?
John Fontana (RC): First, let’s touch on the fact Lecavalier has played six games this season for the Flyers and recorded all of three points. He’s already been hobbled by an injury, so in that light – he hasn’t been missed. But Philly is a different system than Tampa Bay. So we can’t really go on his production or injury issues in Philly…
The only way Vinny’s absence has hurt the Lightning statistically so far as we’ve noticed is in the faceoff circle, and only to a degree. Lightning centers are performing face-offs in a non-discriminatory fashion as they had under other coaches – guys aren’t locked in to doing face-offs in certain situations. Veterans Valtteri Filppula (signed to replace Lecavalier in the lineup) and Nate Thompson are performing well in the circle (57.8 and 56.8 respectfully). Rookie Tyler Johnson is also wowing people (57.4%).
Steven Stamkos, the top line center for the team, is not. Stammer has a 40.6 faceoff percentage and has to work on it. Vinny’s faceoff percentage was never gangbusters good or bad, but he did the job.
Offensively, I think everyone is making up for Vinny’s loss. We’ve been lucky.
Kevin: Tampa Bay drubbed the Cats 7-2 a couple of weeks ago. Are you expecting more easy pickins or do you think Florida will make a better game out of it?
John: The Cats are playing the Bolts on the flip-side of back-to-back games. I don’t think anyone really expected the drubbing that occurred earlier this month – close games versus Boston, Chicago and Buffalo didn’t foreshadow the offensive burst.
If Florida doesn’t make a better showing, it will boggle minds and lead to a chorus of laughs from the hockey gods.
Kevin: We got the Sabres all nice and tired for you - you're welcome.
John: 45 shots on goal, that’s impressive guys. One shot got by Jhonas Enroth; that’s equally impressive, just not in a positive sense, gang.
On the other hand, we’re playing you on the flip-side of this back-to-back series. Was tiring Buffalo out so we could potentially run up the score the entire plan? Serving us a tuckered-out opponent, easy pickings, so we’d be tired on Sunday? You diabolical fiends!
Kevin: How much longer do you reckon Martin St. Louis can continue to contribute at this level?
John: Obviously there's no way to tell the future, but Marty's 38 now and shows no real sign of decline. He's playing as much time as he ever has and while his shots per game are down last year and this one, that's happening all across the Lightning roster. Barring injury, which no one can predict, there's no reason to think he won't continue to contribute for at least a few more years. This is especially true when you consider that his off-ice contributions are so important to the team. He really is the heart and soul of the team. It goes far beyond his on-ice production. It's his will, his authority, his competitiveness, and his work ethic.
You could see him as the next Teemu Selanne. Once his current deal is up, he could realistically sign one year deals every year and play as long as he wants to. 40, 41, 42... It’s really up to him. There's little doubt his work ethic and off season dedication to training are enough to keep him in shape to keep contributing. If Marty can play, he will.
Kevin: You have some GIGANTIC goaltenders. Is Anders Lindback as bad as his numbers would indicate?
Yes, yes. We get it. They're tall. That's going to become part of the Official Lightning Fans Drinking Game™ in short order.
As for performance, well, that depends on what numbers you're looking at. Lindback's overall save percentage is .839. His even strength save percentage is .902. Is he playing like a goalie with a true talent level of .839? No. That's the kind of play someone who can't hack it in the AHL puts up. Is he playing like a goalie with a true talent level of .902? Yeah, probably. I don't personally think he is truly a .902 goalie, but there's no question that his games have been fraught with issues. It doesn't help that in both the games he's played the team in front of him has been less than helpful. And for whatever it's worth, Ben Bishop wasn't playing as well as his numbers indicated. That's corrected significantly in the past two games. Now it's time to see if he can stop the slide and Lindback can take the next step.
Thanks go out to John and Clare for their frank answers to our questions. Check out Raw Charge for my answers to their questions, and keep LBC bookmarked for the game preview at noon and the GameThread, going live at 4:30 PM.