What a game last night. Between Milan Lucic's sudden energy, Andrew Ference rekindling an old, uh, "friendship" with Benoit Pouliot, to Daniel Paille showing the haters what's what as far as who REALLY should have won that 7th Player award, last night had it all. Did it drum up any newfound hatred for a team that will be a division rival next year? Not really, but that may come in time.
Tampa doesn't really have any hate-able players anymore. Weird.
+ The Ference-Pouliot fight:
Seriously though Pouliot hadn't fought since the LAST time he took on Ference. While Ference can't say the same, it's obvious there's no love lost here.
+ The Lucic-Aulie fight:
Look usually I am part of the "rah rah fights are extraneous to actual hockey" crowd but lord have MERCY it was good to see Lucic play with a little extra jump in his step, wasn't it?
+ Tuukka Rask was outSTANDING. After a little rough period last week, to see him bounce back like he did in last night's game was excellent. He had several highlight-reel saves -- and particularly his saves on Steven Stamkos -- that had the TD Garden rocking and rolling in his favor last night. His fifth shutout of the year brings his save percentage to 0.931 and his GAA to a whopping 1.94 -- only Craig Anderson is better in both categories, and he's played ten fewer games than Rask. Excellent.
+ Special teams last night performed quite well. The second-best PK in the league continued to prove its mettle, and though a power play goal was not to be had, the cycling by the first unit on a PP late in the game was really excellent to watch. Hopefully goals will come soon. (We can dream?)
- The minuses from last night are more nitpicks than anything. The defense still had some lapses, despite everything. Johnny Boychuk got beaten cleanly several times last night -- granted, both times were by elite, fast players, but his lapses still forced Tuukka Rask into action. Not terrible, but could be better.
- Brad Marchand has become a turnover machine and it's unclear what the deal is here. He had at least three in the offensive zone in the second period last night; he was weak on the puck as well, which is usually not a weakness of his.
- Although it was nice to see vindictive goal-scoring from true unsung hero Daniel Paille and the best German ever Dennis Seidenberg -- where are the goals from the top three lines? Goals are goals, but last night they came from guys who aren't relied on for their scoring, and that has to change.