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Uncertainty Reigns Supreme in the NHL, Exhibit A: Lightning vs. Sabres

On Saturday night, the Tampa Bay Lightning were dominated by the Chicago Blackhawks, winning 3-2 in overtime.

On Tuesday night, the Lighting dominated the Buffalo Sabres, winning 3-2 in overtime.

Did you see the difference there? Did you catch it?

Against Chicago, the Lightning had no right to win. Head coach Jon Cooper even said as much.

“I was looking for the police when we left the locker room,” he said, “because I thought we’d get arrested for stealing. We stole two points.”

And I’m sure Buffalo head coach Ron Rolston would have said as much had Buffalo escaped with a victory on Tuesday night.

The Bolts dominated them in the first two periods, outshooting them 10-3 and 10-7. It felt like Tampa Bay could have been leading the game 4-0 after two. Instead, it was 2-1 Buffalo heading into the third. And although things eventually came together for the Lightning in the victory, the Sabres did manage to steal a point. They may not have deserved it, but it was a much-needed point for Buffalo, their first of the season.

Unfortunately, that’s the way things are in hockey. A shot goes just wide, a puck takes a weird bounce, a goalie makes an incredible save. It’s not easy to score. Until it is. Sometimes the puck deflects in a way that puts the goalie out of position. Sometimes the goalie doesn’t see the puck go by him. It’s a bit of a random game.

But you could find examples in any sport of the more talented team losing out. Fortunately for the Lightning, that wasn’t the case against Buffalo, as they wound up tying the game in the third and scoring the game-winner in overtime.

But the important takeaway for the Bolts is this: On their season-opening three-game road trip, they came away with 4 points. Four out of six possible points. Two wins. One loss. An impressive start by any measure.

The Lightning now head to the Tampa Bay Times Forum for their home opener on Thursday night against the Florida Panthers. The game is the first in a stretch of seven straight on home ice for the Bolts. The Panthers, like the Sabres, are a team the Lightning have to beat if they want to be successful. Playoff teams beat bad teams, consistently. And so far, the Sabres and the Panthers aren’t looking too good.

Uncertainty Reigns Supreme
Mike Weber of the Buffalo Sabres may have walked out of the dressing room on Tuesday night hoping to help his team finally put some points on the board. He probably never thought it would have happened in a game that the Sabres were thoroughly dominated throughout by the Tampa Bay Lightning.
(Bill Wippert/NHLI via Getty Images)

You never know, though, a bounce here or a bounce there, and it could all go terribly wrong. It is crucial to try to eliminate uncertainty as much as possible and take advantage of the chances that arise in order to be successful

The point is, in a sport filled with such randomness and uncertainty, you have to be at the top of your game all the time to win.

Except when you don’t.

Notes:

  • Forward Tom Pyatt, after two consecutive scratches to open the season, left Tuesday night’s game against Buffalo with a broken collarbone, the team said. He is out indefinitely.
  • Pyatt’s injury, which will likely warrant a call-up from AHL Syracuse, actually helps the youngster Richard Panik, as far as playing time is concerned. Panik was scratched on Tuesday night in favor of Pyatt after the Panik-Tyler Johnson-Ondrej Palat line struggled through the first two games. Purcell played with Johnson and Palat against the Sabres, and we’ll have to see what Cooper decides to do with Panik now that Pyatt is out.
  • Rookie defenseman Andrej Sustr was also scratched, in favor of defenseman Keith Aulie, who sat out the first two games as a healthy scratch. Cooper said Sustr is not far off from being an everyday player, but Aulie deserved some playing time.
  • Defenseman Mark Barberio was also scratched against Buffalo.

Sorry there was no take for the Chicago game over the weekend. I was actually covering another sport on Saturday night and didn’t get a chance to see the game in its entirety. I didn’t think it was right to impart an opinion based off of highlights and secondhand information. We now return to our regularly scheduled programming.

What did everybody else think?

Taylor Gaines
Tampa Bay Lightning fan pursuing a career as a journalist at the University of Florida.
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