Category Archives: Sports

Covering the pro sports world in oh-so-many words.

Louis Domingue has served the Lightning well in a time of backstop need

When Louis Domingue was claimed by the Tampa Bay Lightning last season, I was taken aback because I recalled seeing the goaltender draw attention to himself by way of performances for the Arizona Coyotes. At the time, I thought he was due to become the eventual replacement for ‘Yotesgoaltender (and former Bolt) Mike Smith while also stepping into a slot of elitism that former Coyote (and Lightning alumnus) Nikolai Khabibulin once held.

What the hell put Domingue on waivers to begin with is a story I didn’t know. It’s a story I’m not getting into here. I’m getting into the now.…

With the injury to Andrei Vasilevskiy, Dommer has become the Bolts starting netminder. I can’t say everything has been perfect for him in net… in fact, I’ve seen a lot of fan criticism toward him. Comparisons to Marc Denis(who served in net during Lightning 2006-07 and 2007-2008; 54 games total, a tenure-average GAA of 3.62 and a .871 save percentage). That criticism was born in October, well before Vasy’sinjury, with Domingue’s return start and flop against the Coyotes.

Domingue’s season numbers aren’t perfect, but they’re a far cry from a liability. Credit goes to the team in front of him, of course, but as the last line of defense between the puck and the net, the man has done his duty. 18 game appearances and he’s 14-4-0 with a 2.95 goals-against average and a .905 save percentage.

Those might not be the common numbers of Vasilevskiy, Ben Bishop, or Nikolai Khabibulin, but they sure as hell are a sight better than Denis and many other backstops in Bolt history. They’re more comparable to Mike Smith, who tended the pipes for Tampa Bay in the down years of 2008 through 2010(numbers average). In fact, Domingue’s save percentage is more comparable to the Bolts first top-tier netminder in Darren Puppawho’s save percentage was consistently around .905, helping Tampa Bay make the playoffs for the first time ever in 1996.

Domingue was named as the second star of the week by the NHL on Monday, a pretty nice accomplishment for the man. It should also serve as a bit of a message to his critics (in Tampa Bay and in Arizona for that matter): Louis can do the job. In fact, it’s a missing aspect of Tampa Bay Lightning hockey that’s stood up by Domingue serving well: There’s a capable second goalie on the roster and the #1 netminder (Vasilevskiy in this case) doesn’t have to take the bulk of the starts.

And I do really mean bulk: Vasilevskiy played in 65 games last season; he was in net in 50 in 2016-17. Ben Bishop, Vasy’s predecessor and the all-time winningest netminder in Bolt history, served between the pipes 63times (2013-14), 62 times (2014-15) and 61 (2015-16) in his three full seasons with the Lightning. I point to these numbers because it’s a wear-down factor on the goalies. Start, start, start… They might be good, but too much work rubs down their ability. When kept fresh, elite men remain elite (counterpoint: they could also become out-of-practice by not participating in regular play, but that remains to be seen). Of course, elite goalies also have incredible drive: Vasysaid he was good to go after his foot-break.

Andrei Vasilevskiy returns to practice this week. I’m not sure if he’ll be back in the pipes in 2018, but it may happen. Until then, the Bolts continue to have a backstop worthy of the task.

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Filed under Tampa Bay Lightning

The Tampa Bay Lightning thrives while the Tampa Bay media look elsewhere in sports

Late this summer, before the NFL season was underway, the Tampa Bay Times did the Tampa Bay-media thing and played up the Tampa Bay Buccaneers season ahead. “Most talented offense ever?” discussion before a regular season game had been played seemed like… well, an attempt to raise expectations.

I’m not here to judge the Buccaneer season as it nears a conclusion, I’m here to ask about the Tampa Bay Lightning.

See, with that hype about the Bucs, there hasn’t been the same headline-priority work for the Bolts in the Tampa Bay media, at least not from what I’ve seen. All while the Bolts are doing what counters Tampa Bay college and pro sports teams most of the time: Winning and winning. And winning.

After Saturday night’s lop-sided victory over the Colorado Avalanche, the Lightning stood at 23-7-1 after 31 games of play so far. That’s a .742 win percentage and point percentage (the common average stat in the NHL with thanks to their point system). Despite injuries hampering the team (which has rendered the franchise impotent in years past – 2016-17 specifically) the club is still at the top of the pops, leading the NHL in points (47), wins(23) and goals-for (124).

Here’s another number of note: 23 wins is half of what the 2003-04 Stanley Cup Champion Tampa Bay Lightning amassed in 82 regular-season games. The club’s current 124 goals-for is just more than half the 2003-04 club’s season total of 245.

I’d also like to touch on Brayden Point’s Oh-my-God hat trick in 91 seconds of play (interrupted by an intermission). This was the fastest natural hat trick the league had seen in almost 30 years. [Author note: This did not happen in the 7-1 win cited in this piece, it happened in November and was one hell of a feat.]

Point is vying for the NHL lead in goals, everyone is lighting the lamp for God sake (including Ondrej Palat, who returned from injury to score his first and second goals of the season in the Avs game Saturday).

My question to the Tampa Bay Times is: Where’s the hype? Where’s the admission that the hockey team currently at play at 401 Channelside Drive renders the mediocre standard of Tampa Bay sports as null and void? Major League Baseball is one hell of a challenge and raising expectations with winning for the Tampa Bay Rays is asking MLB itself to change. The University of South Florida Bulls aren’t the nation’s top tier of college sports, nor the state of Florida’s for that matter.

And the Buccaneers… Oh, lordy, you’ve kissed the ass of one of the least competitive franchises in professional sports for too long. You’ve given priority to Jameis Winston’s transgressions as if they matter more than standard news affecting the masses… All while the Lightning is meh filler news fodder despite earning international interest for their contention in the premiere league of ice hockey.

The media questions that should be asked of relevance in headlines right now are:

  • Is this the best Tampa Bay Lightning team of all time?
  • Is Lightning hockey the most potent offense it has ever known?
  • Will the Lightning contend for Lord Stanley’s Cup?

51 games of NHL play remain. That’s one hell of a chore before the proverbial second season of the NHL begins. If the Lightning make the playoffs (which seems certainty with current play), they will have achieved the feat 11 times in 25 seasons of play (26 years of existence — but the 2004-05 lockout erases one season of play). That tops the Buccaneers 10 playoff appearances in 42 seasons.

One last question: Will the media give the Lightning a better dose of coverage with continued success? Sadly, that’s arguable. Prioritizing the status-quo of the sports that dominate national media is what will continue, even if the Bucs don’t contend and the Rays play as also-rans.

It’s a shame, really, because Lightning success gives a reason to take local pride. Damnit, this Bolts team is fantastic and I’m proud!

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Filed under Personal, Sports, Tampa Bay, Tampa Bay Lightning

Reacting to chatter of expanding the NHL playoffs

A season in professional sports is played with the intention of winning a championship. That’s basic sport, ain’t it? You play a regular season with the hope of making it to the proverbial second-season: The playoffs. To make it to the post-season, to contend during the marathon of the regular season, is an accomplishment unto itself, and to go further is the dream.

In the NFL with its short 16 game season, only 12 of the league’s 32 teams make it to the playoffs. In Major League Baseball, after the grueling 162 game season, only eight of the league’s 30 teams make it to the second-season. The NBA and NHL are both 82-game regular season leagues, they’re also passing 16 teams to the playoffs each season. The key difference is the NHL has 31 teams (and soon to be 32) while the NBA has 30.

The NFL and MLB formats make the playoffs a divine achievement by itself. The NBA and NHL have an open format to contention… And there’s talk in the NHL about expanding the contender option.

I cringe at the notion. Continue reading

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Filed under hockey, Sports

The bitterness of politics meets the cold of ice hockey

2018 election year campaign contest… Nikita Kucherov vs. Jack Eichel. Seeing I’m a Kucherov supporter, I’m sharing his ad here.

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by | November 1, 2018 · 3:40 PM

Just where did Rusty Fedotenko go? I’m glad you asked!!

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by | October 18, 2018 · 10:08 AM

Personal note: I’ve taken back “Boltsmag”

Just a heads up:

When I started blogging about hockey, the posts were published on Boltsmag.com. Upon me founding Raw Charge, I pointed the domain name at the new SB Nation site. All my archives are posted over there, after all. It’s been set up like that since 2009.

With the two-year anniversary of my resignation from the network and with me posting re-direct links to Raw Charge archived articles I wrote there, I’ve decided to redirect the Boltsmag domain name toward my hockey post category here on JohnnyFonts.com.

I don’t know if anyone even knows of the domain name, let alone uses it. If you do use that domain, this post should explain why you’ve landed on this blog site and not on Raw Charge.

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Filed under Boltsmag, hockey, Personal, Raw Charge

A visit from the 2018-19 NHL season

Twas the night before hockey In old Tampa Bay
With Lightning comes thunder…And sometimes, even rain!
 
The fans were all curious; what on Earth is the plan?
Could success still be found, without the jolly Yzerman?
On the verge was the end of 2018 —
A loss to the Caps brought fans agony
 
But forward they go without that much change
The roster’s success has brought little to complain
 
82 games will write a story, robust
Ending, perhaps, with names etched on The Cup…

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Filed under hockey, Tampa Bay Lightning

A quarterback alone cannot cure what ails the Tampa Bay Buccaneers

It’s a shell game at quarterback for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season with Jameis Winston and Ryan Fitzpatrick sharing time at QB. Not that they planned it, not that they intended it that way, and not that the Bucs have found success with either man behind center.

Oh, Tampa Bay is .500 after four games, leaving the door open for success or failure with 12 more games to be played. Hey, it’s par for the course so far. The downside being that last two games were losses. Sunday’s was a Chicago Bears blowout of Los Buccaneers, 48-10. One of the leading headlines Monday afternoon on TampaBay.com read that Jameis Winston will return to the role of starting quarterback full-time for the rest of the season and possibly longer. All by way of a loss and Fitzpatrick not solving every issue during play.

That does not, in any fashion, cure what ails the Buccaneers. Not remotely and offense-first hype from the Times (and from fans) is part of the failings. Continue reading

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Filed under football

That mascot Gritty is now a heralded PR SNAFU

One day after my little piece on that shitty thing called Gritty, I got a PR email regarding the mascot that seems to have a different take on how the public reacted toward Gritty than what really went on. Continue reading

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Filed under hockey, interweb

Philly’s Gritty monstrosity – A fitting declaration for a weak mascot

Mascots and pro sports are a way to rile up the fans in a good way, a caricature personality that associates with a sports team. Some of those mascots are fitting-yet-playful parody characters who embody the franchise, like Roary the Lion with the Detroit Lions of the NFL, Osceola (and his steed, Renegade) with the Florida State University Seminoles. Others are a more playful association, like Mr. Met for the New York Mets or ThunderBug with the Tampa Bay Lightning.

And then there’s what the Philadelphia Flyers unveiled today:

Now, I’m not a Philadelphia sports fan and never have been, I still take the Flyers franchise as a rival to the Tampa Bay Lightning (the Flyes were the Bolts first ever playoff opponent). I’ve never taken much to the 76’ers, or the Eagles, though the Phillies have earned a token appreciation simply by way of where they play spring training. All that said, nothing I’m about to say is intended to slight or put down Philly as a city or a sports town.

That said, what the ever loving hell?? Ugh! Continue reading

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Filed under baseball, football, hockey, Sports