Game No. 28: Throwin’ haymakers

Don’t wanna see(n) Stamkos. 🙁

Tampa has hit a bit of a rough stretch over the last week or so, winning just two of their last five thanks to goaltending that makes the creasework in Edmonton look positively Vezina-worthy.

You might look at the 30 goals allowed in the last six games (!) and think that the defense has let Danny Ellis and Mikey Smith down. And with a blue line corps led in minutes by the still-learning Victor Hedman, who has occasionally looked well out of his depth, and the ghost of Pavel Kubina, you wouldn’t be far off. (Bonus hockey nerd points if you can name three other Tampa defensemen without looking, by the way. I got the next five but then again I’m the absolute worst.)

But seeing as Tampa is one of those appointment-viewing teams this year, I can tell you for sure that this run of futile work is almost entirely the work of Ellis and Smith. Comedy goals? You want ’em, they got ’em. Miscues aplenty? They have a bucketful they’d like to sell you. Worse mechanics than the least successful NASCAR pit crew? They wrote the book on it.

Now, look, I know what that forward group can do. Marty St. Louis has been dissecting NHL defenses longer than most of us care to remember (certainly he didn’t start in those Stanley Cup Finals), and Steven Stamkos’ shot does to opposing teams what the Death Star did to Dantooine. When Vinny Lecavalier is pretty much a distant third on your forward depth chart, you have a terrifying ability to score goals and do it by the bucketful. Simon Gagne, a two-time 40-goal scorer, is a deep, deep fourth.

Point is this: Calgary can occasionally score goals, especially against suspect netminders. So far this year they’ve hung five or more on Khabibulin (twice), Mason, Budaj, and Turco. Right now, Tampa wishes it had Marty Turco. But if you want the Flames to go and get in a slugfest with the Tampa Bay freaking Lightning, you are the dumbest human.

If the Flames have the juice to hang four or five on Dan Ellis (and these days, who doesn’t?), then Tampa can run at least six past a defense featuring Cory Sarich in a somewhat significant role. That isn’t something you want to see unless Tampa scores a boatload early and forces Calgary’s hand with regard to pressing offensively.

But hey, Olli Jokinen might get scratched for a guy who was a healthy scratch last time out, and had eight minutes of ice time in his previous games. So there’s that.

Oh and some guy on Twitter told me I’d be a fool to not link to this video. He was right.