Kevin Kraczkowski, Litter Box Cats: 1) The Bolts seem to have switched gears and are now firing on all cylinders. Is it probable that they keep the pace up and finish with a top three seed?
John Fontana, Raw Charge: While my heart wants to go and start crowing about how the Lightning are playing and how they’ll take all comers, it’s waaaaaaay too early to say something like that. Yeah, it’s a sprint of a season, not a marathon… But we’re only going to be reaching an 8th of the season after the results of tonight’s game. Anything can still happen: injuries, slump, Guy Boucher’s scar becoming self-aware and devouring the team during an intermission, etc.
In the aspect of how the Southeast Division played last season, right now it sure looks like Tampa Bay is going to be a contender for a division crown and a top three seed in the East, but like I already said – way too early to get ahead of ourselves and assume such.
KK: 2) Martin St. Louis - how much does he have left in the tank?
JF: Well, you’ve seen him play and the stats he’s putting up… So I think the most accurate saying here is that Marty St. Louis has enough gas in the tank until such a time as he formally says he doesn’t and steps away from the game. He takes pride in his condition and how he plays (and making sure he plays in all conditions).
KK: 3) Anders Lindback seems to be working out thus far, and Mathieu Garon was spectacular in his only start of the season. Lindback is getting the start tonight - what's the book on how to beat him?
JH: Dude, like I’d tell you? Just teasing, I think it’s a little too early to say specifically what’s the key to beating Lindback, as we’re still assimilating to him. The most clear issue isn’t tied to him but the team around him: if the Panthers go into overdrive during the 2nd period, they’ll have a better chance of getting around Lindback. Exploiting what has been Tampa Bay’s Achilles heel this season (second period lapses) and attacking during the 2nd as much as possible. Raise the pressure, raise the shot count, keep coming and you’ll get past Lindy, as he can’t do it all alone.
KK: 4) The Flyers rolled out of Sunrise on a high - only to hit a brick wall in Tampa Bay. What's on the Raw Charge fanbase's collective mind? Did you expect this kind of success?
JH: I think what’s been on our collective minds hasn’t been the success as-so-much how it’s making it difficult to remain grumpy and aggrieved at the utter tripe fans went through from September 2012 until early this month with the lockout. The fans are impressed, and while some are enthused I think others are wary.
I mean, let’s be frank here: Tampa Bay’s last two wins were taking out opponents playing on the flip-side of their own back-to-back games. In a round about way, we need to send the Florida Panthers a fruit basket saying "thanks!" for wearing down the Ottawa Senators and Flyers (okay, not so much the latter but you get the gist, right?).
KK: 5) Can Steven Stamkos score 50 goals in 48 games?
JH: Unrealistic to even think he notches 30 at this point (3 goals in 5 games, 10 points). With how the team is playing around him, though, it’s unnecessary. Stamkos might be the name with the impressive scoring reputation, but Tampa Bay is rolling two top lines and getting scoring from all over. While teams are focusing on stopping Stamkos, it’s guys like rookie Cory Conacher, wing Teddy Purcell, Vincent Lecavalier, the aforementioned St. Louis, Ryan Malone, Tom Pyatt and the Bolts defense taking advantage of that.
Do we want to see Stamkos as nothing but a decoy? Certainly not… But If opponents focus on stopping Stamkos and other forwards are taking advantage of that (and the Bolts keep winning), it’s hard to see it as a big issue.
A special thanks to John for his "Raw Opinion" on tonight's tilt. Keep it dialed in here, and we'll see you in the LBC GameThread live at 7PM.