Much like a kid who’s scared of the dark, I was actively avoiding tonight’s ‘contest’ in Tampa. Especially after hearing the hopeless Cory Schneider was starting tonight’s game, and for good measure coach John Hynes scratched Mirco Mueller for Egor Yakovlev, restoring the struggling Andy Greene to top-pairing duty in the process. Why would I bother watching this horror show? I already knew what was going to happen. Counting the playoffs and the bloodletting last month, we’d lost four straight times in Tampa by a combined score of 21-9 since April. Struggling team, struggling goalie against a Cup contender (even if they were playing with their backup goalie too) was a recipe for disaster.
Just seeing the reports and scores during the first period tonight was cringeworthy enough. This game managed to meet my below-average expectations and turned into yet another romp by the guys in white and blue. Arguably it was even worse than the 5-2 score suggested, but after Tampa got up 4-1 inside the first twenty minutes and 5-1 during the second period the Lightning hardly needed to do anything but turn on cruise control from that point forward. I hardly expected a team that’s come up small against Tampa and in general away from Prudential Center this season (now 2-9 on the road) to suddenly come up big tonight.
A big part of the reason I refused to watch is Cory himself, and not because of anger although I’m sure some fans are angry that he played well when it cost us draft position and now is a shell of himself when the team’s a playoff contender. It’s just become pitiful at this point to watch him, and sad – however you feel about Cory, it’s just sad to watch a career go down the drain. I don’t even want to cite the regular season record. Even if you include the playoff win it’s bad enough, but being 0-for almost twenty games on a team over .500 otherwise is astounding. It’s always tough replacing a legend and Cory unfortunately is another statistic in that hypothesis.
It’s doubtful whether Cory’s even an NHL goalie at this point. Considering there’s another three years left on his contract after this year, it’s not a problem that’s easily rectifiable. He needs to play but he needs to play in a no-pressure environment. Sadly waiving him and having him play in the AHL might be the only way left to get his game into gear, but even counting on that is dicey considering the first time something goes wrong at the NHL level all that progress gets thrown out. God forbid we ever played Cory at home, the boobirds would really come out of the woodwork. It will probably take a change of scenery for Cory at this point, but considering his contract that also isn’t an easy fix.
Not that our expensive backup goalie is the only issue with this team right now (you need only look at Friday’s disaster against the Isles for proof of that), but having a backup that wins zero games isn’t going to help. For goodness sakes even looking at these highlights annoy me, we were outshooting the Lightning at every point while falling behind 5-1, not that shots on goal is everything but still. It’s gotta be demoralizing for both player and team alike that always, always something seems to go wrong.
I just have no interest in talking about it anymore, or this lousy team. Tomorrow’s game in Florida is basically a must-win. You have to beat a Panthers team that’s also struggling with key players Roberto Luongo and Vincent Trocheck both hurt, otherwise this could turn into a long losing streak in a hurry with the Caps, Jets and Lightning (this time at home) in a three-game in four day stretch. Whoopee.