Lightning Season Ends Tonight In Atlanta
Hope For Future Is Tampa Bay Watchword
The Tampa Bay Lightning put the finishing touches on their season when they face the Atlanta Thrashers tonight at Philips Arena.
This is the sixth and last game between Tampa Bay and Atlanta this season, with the Lightning posting a 2-2-1 record in the season series.
Martin St. Louis
has wrapped up the scoring title for Tampa Bay with 80 points and has scored 30 goals, also tops on the team. He has been very successful against Atlanta this season, netting four goals and seven points in five games against the Thrashers this season.
broke the franchise record for goals in a rookie season when he scored just 36 seconds into the game against Washington on Thursday night. Stamkos has at least a point in 11 of his previous 14 games.
The troubles that the Bolts have encountered this season are well documented, but there are some positives to build on, too. The Lightning have found their first string netminder in Mike Smith
, who spent a good part of the first half of the season among the NHL leaders in save percentage and goals against average, before an injury ended his season.
Stamkos, as previously mentioned, has had a tremendous second half of the season and looks like the future star that Tampa Bay envisioned him to be when they selected him first in the 2008 draft.
On the blue line, Matt Smaby
has emerged as a candidate for a top-four defensive spot, along with mid-season acquisition Cory Murphy, who quarterbacked the power play successfully until injuries, too, ended his season.
Those are just a few of the reasons for optimism amidst the gloom, as Tampa Bay closes out a disappointing season.
Atlanta has also had challenges this season, but they are currently eight points ahead of Tampa Bay in the Southeast Division. After putting together a four-game win streak, the fortunes have turned and Atlanta enters the season finale riding a three-game streak of loses.
Forward Ilya Kovalchuk leads the Thrashers in both points, with 90, and goals, with 42. He is fourth overall in goals scored among all NHL skaters and tied for sixth in points in the league.