Connolly, Brett

NHL Game Night: 11-26-11 Panthers at Lightning

We might call this home-and-home Spanks-giving weekend for the Lightning to their down-state, little-sister rivals.

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Mathieu Garon made 24 saves on 25 shots for the victory. He would've had the shutout were it not for a puckhandling gaffe in garbage time. Still, we might be able to say we're officially in the window of another Mathieu Garon hot-streak. I can't recall when the Lightning ever had 2 goaltenders this streaky on their roster.

First Period
TB St. Louis (6), (Connolly, Clark), 2:07

Second Period
TB Pyatt (1), (Bergeron), 3:49
TB Stamkos (13), (Purcell, Tyrell), 6:02
TB Malone (5), (Stamkos), 10:35

Third Period
FLA Matthias (3), (Skille), 17:43
TB Stamkos (14), (unassisted), 19:01

Steven Stamkos, Nate Thompson, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. I loved that Stamkos added the 5th goal of the night for the punctuation mark to make sure there would be no silver lining for Florida. I'm a big believer in going out hard to get the first goal and the last goal, and typically what happens in between will take care of itself.

Unsung heroes were Tom Pyatt and Dana Tyrell. I was a little shocked that was only Pyatt's first goal, because he's dangerous on the forecheck almost every time out. And, Dana Tyrell is in full on junkyard dog mode right now. That third goal of the night scored by Stamkos was largely because Tyrell would not be knocked off the puck in the corner on the forecheck.

It's hard to know if this weekend is a turning point for this season, but I know Panther Nation (all three of them) were heading into this weekend very confident and ready to spread dirt on the 2011-2012 edition of the Lightning's grave. So, to scratch out a road win last night and then smack the taste out of the Panthers' mouths tonight was a major accomplishment, reaffirming the theological certainty that God still hates Panthers fans (especially Bill Lindsay).

Brett Connolly had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:34. He's typically good for one really dangerous offensive shift a game, but he had two tonight, and I suspect that in the second half of the season he may have a spike in production similar to the second half of Stamkos' rookie season. Granted, Connolly's a year older than Steven was, but with Connolly losing his draft year to a hip injury, experience-wise he's at about the same point at 19 as Stammer was at 17-18.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-22-11 Maple Leafs at Lightning

Nope, THAT was probably rock bottom.

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 6 goals on 21 shots for the loss before Mathieu Garon allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. 7 goals on 26 shots is pitiful. Was goaltending the reason for the loss? No. But you can't win with a save percentage that's an eyelash above .750. Can't do it.

I'm tired of puckhandling mistakes ending up in the back of the net. I'm tired of play acting leading to pucks ending up in the back of the net. These guys need to be playing a very stripped down very focused style right now, and not circus hockey. It's a zoo between the pipes every other game right now.

First Period
TOR Macarthur (7), (Gardiner, Connolly), 00:41
TB Lecavalier (9), (Stamkos, Malone)(PP), 8:38
TOR Connolly (3), (Kulemin, Franson)(PP), 17:56
TOR Bozak (3), (Kessel, Connolly)(PP), 19:22

Second Period
TOR Colborne (1), (Frattin, Liles), 17:45

Third Period
TOR Bozak (4), (unassisted), 3:07
TOR Lupul (11), (Bozek, Phaneuf), 4:28
TOR Crabb (3), (Frattin, Gardiner), 14:28

It was pretty pitiful to allow a goal right off the bat. Then the team responded and looked as good on the forecheck and on the power play as I think I've seen them this season up until Victor Hedman whiffed on what probably should've been a goal off a Marty St. Louis feed, and then took an unlucky 4 minute minor, and the wheels came off. And then the wheels came off again when Roloson once again showed why he should never stray from his net. It's embarrassing. I felt like I was watching a Brian Lawton/Rick Tocchet team, not a Steve Yzerman/Guy Boucher team.

The situation is not improving to any extent I feel comfortable with. I don't think huge changes have to be made, but I don't think the old, "The answers are in the room," is working. You can't tell me the guys in Norfolk are so bad that they aren't at least worth a look to see if they can inject some fresh blood and enthusiasm into the lineup. This team just looks flat at the start of every game and I honestly wonder how anyone could argue that things would be worse with Carter Ashton or Radko Gudas or Mark Barberio getting an opportunity. You can't tell me that Blair Jones and Bruno Gervais are so much better than those players that it isn't worth even considering, and I don't give a damn how far away the organization thinks Gudas and Barberio are. If you believe they'll bite as dogs they'll bite as puppies. What's the worse that could happen? They'd give up 7 goals to the Maple Leafs?

Brett Connolly had 1 blocked shot in 11:28.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-19-11 Devils at Lightning

Three goals down entering a third period is pretty much a death sentence in pro hockey.

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss, including a critical gaffe late in the game.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NJ Zubrus (5), (Carter), 1:09
NJ Elias (8), (Clarkson, Larsson)(PP), 6:05
NJ Clarkson (7), (Henrique, Kovalchuk)(PP), 17:44

Third Period
TB St. Louis (5), (Shannon, Kubina), 8:24
TB Shannon (1), (Downie, Brewer), 9:54
NJ Carter (2), (unassisted), 17:57

Ryan Shannon was the game's third star.

The game was essentially won/lost on special teams, and the back breaker was Clarkson's goal. You have to at least stay within 2 goals going into the third period to give yourself a chance at the pro level. Once you fall down by 3 or more, 99% of the time you're done for, no matter how valiant the comeback attempt.

Sad to see the third jerseys take a blemish on their record.

Brett Connolly had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:38.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-17-11 Penguins at Lightning

Clinical, workmanlike victory.

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 1 goal on 34 shots for the win. As badly unfocused as he was in Winnipeg, he was equally outstanding tonight. Very sharp. Moved very well. Probably should have had a shutout except for the sloppy, penalty-filled, choppy ending to the game.

First Period
TB Lecavalier (7), (unassisted), 8:38

Second Period
TB Connolly (4), (Moore, Bergeron)(PP), 4:08

Third Period
TB Downie (2), (Brewer, Stamkos)(PP), 2:04
TB Lecavalier (8), (unassisted)(EN), 15:49
PIT Kennedy (2), (Martin, Staal), 16:49

Roloson, Victor Hedman, and Vincent Lecavalier were the game's three stars.

34-18 still isn't a good shot disparity for the Lightning, and they definitely were outplayed in the first period, but this team gets the timely goal and save at home, and they've gotten the exact opposite on the road. It's a mystery as to why that is.

Brett Connolly had another goal and was -1 with 1 shot in 6:08. He was dropped to the fourth line to start the game and played sparingly, but was obviously effective in a smattering of power play shifts.

Blair Jones played 4:25. That's over $1,200 a minute for his night's work. I want Blair Jones' hourly rate, please. I'm sure the assistants run him through the gauntlet as a bubble guy when he's a scratch, and he's logged a lot of miles on buses with Springfield and Norfolk to get here, but still, it's nice work if you can get it.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-14-11 Lightning at Jets

Rock bottom?

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Dwayne Roloson allowed 4 goals on 22 shots for the loss before giving way to Mathieu Garon, who allowed 1 on 17 shots. Roloson got sidetracked with doing a little acting trying to embellish contact around his crease, which he is wont to do, and lost focus, in my opinion. At the point this team is at, extracurriculars like that can't be put before fundamentals. Can't be.

First Period
WPG Kane (6), (Byfuglien, Burmistrov), 4:51
WPG Byfuglien (3), (Kane), 13:02

Second Period
WPG Flood (3), (Stapleton, Little)(PP), 7:49
TB St. Louis (4), (Stamkos, Lecavalier), 10:47
WPG Ladd (5), (Oduya, Stapleton), 12:14

Third Period
WPG Stapleton (2), (Glass), 10:04
TB Stamkos (11), (Gilroy), 10:26

Steven Stamkos was second star. Small solace.

That's a team that the Lightning haven't lost to in 2 years. 12 straight games. And they got rolled. Now you're hearing accusations that there are passengers on the team, people are questioning the goaltender, and Boucher just can't seem to get any of his mind tricks to work. At some point, when coaching fails, the GM has to make a move on the roster, and if there are passengers, there need to be consequences. No one is entitled to dress and play in the NHL or pull an NHL game check. These last 2 games have been utterly embarrassing after the triumph of the Flyers win.

Brett Connolly was -2 with 2 shots in 14:43.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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