Three games into the season and the Lightning are one of the 5 teams that still have a big fat shiny “0” in the loss column. Even more impressive is the way they’ve been winning, with solid defense. Wednesday nights 2-1 victory over the Florida Panthers marked the first time in 31 games that the Bolts won a game while scoring less than 3 goals. Last season they were 0-30-1 when not hitting the 3 goal mark. While that might not rank up there in impressive streaks like Cal Ripken or Brett Farrve’s consecutive game streak it is still impressive in a “hmmm I didn’t know that way” kind of like the Bucs never returning a touchdown or the Mets never throwing a no-hitter.
The key to the solid defense starts in net. Johan Holmqvist, who broke camp as the unspoken number one goaltender, has performed up to the potential that Coach Tortorella and the Lightning faithful had been hoping would come to fruition since he first donned the mask. After a strong camp he has posted 3 wins and a sparkling .945 save percentage in those 3 wins. With games scattered out over the next two weeks and Tort’s perchance for riding the hot hand it could be a while before Marc Denis finds some playing time.
Goaltending isn’t the only strength of the defense so far this season. Much like during the cup run of 2004 the entire time is buying into the program. Tuesday night’s effort saw 13 blocked shots by Bolt players. Those types of numbers are usually reserved for playoff match ups not weekday games in October.
The offense is on track with Vincent Lecavalier (who Martin Brodeur called “the best player in the league”) has 3 goals and Marty St Louis has 5 assists. It’s still two early to see how balanced the team will be, but it was nice to see Chris Gratton chip in a couple of goals.
It’s a long season and there are many games left to play, but one week in it looks like this years version of the Tampa Bay Lightning is exceedingly more well rounded than the last two seasons.