The Lightning can't hit with runners on. The Rays need better goaltending. Wait, that's wrong. I'm getting our lousy local teams confused. Back to the Bolts, and something I just can't get out of my head: Tampa Bay's Steven Stamkos and Marty St. Louis - or Marty St. Louis and Steven Stamkos - might finish 1-2 in scoring in the NHL.
This has to be a practical joke, right? No, it is not. Nor is this: Rays hitting coach Derek Shelton can now be seen in a video endorsing a training bat called the “Speed Hitter,” which Shelton promises will make you “the best hitter you can be.” The Lightning are buried, no chance at the playoffs, but they might have the top two scorers, provided Sidney Crosby, currently first, but injured, stays on the shelf and Stamkos and St. Louis, tied at three points back of Crosby, keep motoring. What a waste. It speaks to this season. Tampa Bay is third in hockey in scoring, and has nothing to show for it entering tonight's game in Montreal. The Lightning are the only team in the NHL that has scored more goals than it has allowed without being a postseason contender. Plus, Stamkos trails only Alex Ovechkin in goals, 28-27, so there's a chance Stamkos could lead the NHL in goals for the third time in four years, oh, and not be in the playoffs any of those three times. Nice. If this doesn't haunt this franchise, nothing will. Maybe this is best, no illusions, start over, get the high draft pick. Only I don't buy that. There's hardly ever anything good about not making the playoffs. I mean, there's finishing last, I suppose, getting that No. 1 pick. But Stamkos was just that … and what have the Lightning done with it? For historical comparison, let's look at other seasons where a single team has produced the top two scorers. It has happened 13 times since the NHL expanded before the 1967-68 season, and not once have any of those 1-2s not been on a playoff team. Not until now, maybe. Granted, this is a strike-shortened season. And many of those 1-2s played for juggernauts — Esposito-Orr with the Bruins in the '70s, Gretzky-Kurri or Gretzky-Coffey for the Oilers of the '80s or Lemieux-Jagr for the Penguins of the early '90s, multiple Cup winners all. And here's Stammer and Marty, atop a dead horse. It does speak to how mediocre the Lightning defense has been, despite veteran additions, and how mediocre the goaltending remains, with new arrival Ben Bishop letting in some softies. There's no easy way to prepare to be a No. 1 for the first time, is there? And there are those gruesome turnovers, even by veterans, like the Eric Brewer collection (what happened to that guy?) or Matt Carle or even Stamkos and St. Louis when they're not scoring. The coach has changed, from Guy Boucher to Jon Cooper, but the badness rolls on — top heavy, two top scorers and not enough around them. If I'm Stamkos, I'm going to take this personal one of these seasons. Marty should consider it, too. Yes, help seems to be on the way, some of these young forwards, and maybe Teddy Purcell and Vinny Lecavalier will stay awake next season, if Vinny is even here. Maybe Bishop and Anders Lindback, the two tallest goalies going, will push each other to something better. Don't forget young 6-8 defenseman Andrej Sustr. Does anyone else have the feeling that Lightning owner Jeff Vinik is secretly building an NBA team in case the hockey thing doesn't work out? The team that Lightning GM Steve Yzerman built this season wasn't good enough, or at least it didn't play like it. The goaltending doomed the Lightning again. Will it ever end? Until it does, you'll have silly looking stuff, though no more silly than an NHL team having the two top scorers, maybe two guys with postseason trophies, watching the playoffs. How stupid is that?