Cernak, Erik

NHL Game Night: 1-5-19 Lightning at Sharks

Lightning points streak snapped at 16. The sky is falling.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy was not good, allowing 5 goals on 33 shots for the loss including a back breaking soft goal to put the team down by two in the Third Period.

First Period
9:27 SJ Couture (16), (Meier, Karlsson)
10:01 SJ Pavelski (25), (Burns)
16:13 TB Hedman (5), (Stamkos, Palat)

Second Period
4:23 SJ Kane (13), (Burns, Karlsson)(PP)
4:53 TB Sergachev (1), (Joseph, Callahan)

Third Period
5:18 SJ Kane (14), (Dillon)
12:20 SJ Radil (6), (Meier, Burns)

All good things come to an end. I'm, of course, being facetious about the sky falling on a night the Lightning see a 15-0-1 run come to a halt. It's inevitable in a sport like hockey you're going to have a bad night every now and then. The important thing is to make sure one bad night doesn't snowball into a streak, and for that the Lightning have some clear areas in need of improvement. Faceoffs were terrible tonight. Goaltending was subpar. And, the overall energy and, in particular, lack of push in the Third Period was concerning.

Mathieu Joseph had a helper and was +1 with 3 hits in 10:23. Yet another game where Joseph's speed generated a goal, this time as Joseph scorched past a defender to create a 2-on-1 down low for a Sergachev goal.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot in 10:54.

Erik Cernak was -2 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 16:28... a very un-Cernak stat line.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-3-19 Lightning at Kings

Lightning throttle the corpse of the LA Kings to cap first half of 2018/2019.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory. There were times in the first 40 minutes he could've had a coffee break and it wouldn't have mattered because the workload was so light.

First Period
6:28 TB Kucherov (20), (Stamkos, Johnson)(PP)
7:53 TB Point (24), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
14:05 TB Callahan (4), (unassisted)

Second Period
0:25 TB McDonagh (4), (Point, Kucherov)
7:55 LA Wagner (4), (unassisted)
17:05 TB Stamkos (23), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
10:04 TB Joseph (10), (Callahan)
17:36 LA Doughty (4), (Kopitar, Brown)

Nikita Kucherov, Steven Stamkos, and Brayden Point were the game's three stars.

The LA Kings are the slowest hockey team in the NHL and they had zero chance against the Tampa Bay Lightning, especially after spotting them a pair of early power play goals. That team is a corpse of what it was a few years ago when they were competing for Cups. I thought Chicago was the saddest shell of their former selves. Nope. LA. Gracious, they couldn't even catch up to the Lightning to try to clutch, grab, and cheat even if they wanted to in order to try to keep it competitive.

The Lightning pull into the midway point of the campaign 12 points clear of the entire league, with a league leading +55 goal differential and a league leading 174 goals. Their win against the Kings extended a 16-game point streak that has started to feel like the unprecedented winning streak the Norfolk Admirals had the year they won the Calder Cup under Jon Cooper with a score of youngsters that now dot today's roster. It's historic. It's outstanding. It's thrilling...

It's also meaningless unless they win the Stanley Cup. There's a lot of plaudits to be thrown around about the way this team is playing and it has been a magical regular season thus far, but let's be real: Great teams require the validation of championships. Period. So, I think it's important not to overplay this regular season, which at most will give the Lightning potential home ice advantage in a prospective Game Seven playoff match-up. That's it. That's all they can win until we get to the back half of April and the real hockey season begins. So it's important for both the fans and the organization, top to bottom, not to get out over their skis about regular season play. It's nice. But it's just a warmup.

Mathieu Joseph had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 10:33. He wasn't really noticeable until garbage time set in for the Third Period, but how many players do you know that have the blow-by speed not only to beat Drew Doughty around the corner, but beat him so completely he had to try the Pavel Kubina praying mantis move in desperation?

Anthony Cirelli had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots in 16:50. He has now graduated from prospect status on the website with his 41st appearance this season.

Adam Erne was +1 with 3 shots and 4 hits in 11:52. Nearly had a couple of goals poaching in passing lanes and was generally effective all game long.

Erik Cernak had 3 hits in 17:46.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-31-18 Lightning at Ducks

Lightning outlast clutch-n-grab Ducks to complete 2018.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 36 shots to win a pretty pitched goaltending duel with Gibson at the other end.

First Period
6:06 TB Kucherov (19), (Cernak, Point)
17:08 ANA Ritchie (5), (Kase, Mahura)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
0:35 TB Point (23), (Kucherov, Hedman)

Brayden Point and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.

That win wasn't a Picasso, but after a couple of ridiculous wide open games, there were some things to build on in tonight's win. The opening frame was a troubling thing to watch, with the Lightning's passing a shambolic mess. But, from the midway point of the game on, I thought the Lightning's speed advantage started to turn the run of play in Tampa Bay's favor as they started winning the 50/50 puck battles and they started generating more and better scoring chances than the Ducks. By the time OT rolled around, it was advantage Lightning because their speed and skill superiority was on full display in the 3-on-3. It's not just that Tampa Bay ran the Ducks off the ice in 35 seconds in OT... it's that the Ducks never once possessed the puck in OT. Not once. Tampa Bay won the faceoff. Controlled it. Took Anaheim for a skate. Opened them up, and then surgically completed the deal with a laser stretch pass that gave Point the half step he needed for the partial breakaway goal. Clinical. Cold blooded.

May I just also say how farcical Western Conference hockey is? It feels like every time the Lightning jump in a plane west they might as well be hopping into a time machine back to the early 90's with the amount of obstruction that goes uncalled out there. It's like the two conferences are playing in different leagues by different rule books, like the MLB. Heck, why not just reinstate the red line over there in the Western Conference? Might as well. The AL has the DH in baseball. The Western Conference showcases the finest in skill-deficient lumberjack hockey. What's even funnier is that they think it's some kind of virtue to play that style. I shake my head.

The Lightning complete the fourth 10-game segment of the campaign with 64 points, putting them a full 16 points ahead of the minimum pace they'd need to make the postseason. Put another way: The Lightning probably need just 32 of a possible 84 points the rest of the way to make the playoffs (.381 hockey). The hellacious pace this team has put together in the first half have left them in an enviable position where they can spend the second half perfecting their craft, keeping veteran players fresh, and possibly even working in some additional reinforcements from Syracuse if they decide to do some diagnostic cups of coffee on some youngsters. They've got that house money to play with from hereon out.

Mathieu Joseph was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06. In the Third Period, it felt like his game started to turn the corner after a rough first 5 periods of hockey since returning from injury.

Anthony Cirelli had a blocked shot in 17:13 and he was 53% on 15 draws.

Adam Erne had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:40. I would've hoped he could string two nice impactful games back-to-back after starring down the stretch of the Montreal win, but he wasn't quite threatening in this contest.

Erik Cernak had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:51. Yet another strong performance for Cernak.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-29-18 Canadiens at Lightning

Erne's heroics save Lightning from another defensive holiday hangover.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the victory. This may be exciting hockey, but the coverage busts against the rush and off faceoffs aren't sustainable, and the team can't keep on counting on winning these 1980's-style high scoring games. Refocusing is needed across the board.

First Period
9:44 MTL Shaw (10), (Tatar, Kotkaniemi)(PP)
10:00 MTL Agostino (2), (Benn, Danault)
14:12 TB Gourde (11), (Erne, McDonagh)
17:07 TB Stralman (2), (unassisted)
17:35 MTL Benn (2), (Danault, Gallagher)

Second Period
7:55 TB Kucherov (18), (Hedman, Point)(PP)
8:33 TB Johnson (18), (Sergachev, Kucherov)
12:19 MTL Kulak (1), (Tatar, Danault)
13:11 MTL Shaw (11), (Lehkonen, Weber)

Third Period
9:36 TB Erne (5), (Stralman, Hedman)
18:58 TB Erne (6), (Gourde, Cirelli)

Adam Erne and Yanni Gourde were the game's first and second stars. One of these crazy, high scoring games you can excuse as an anomaly. Two in a row is an alarming trend. I'll just reiterate it: There needs to be a team-wide refocusing, because this isn't sustainable and it's not acceptable to be allowing this many goals a game.

With one more game to go in this 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning have already banked 14 insurance points on the year. They're more than a full 10-game segment ahead of playoff pace, meaning they could play just below sub-.400 hockey from here on out and still sneak into the postseason. That's great, mind you, but it's not an invitation for complacency.

Mathieu Joseph was -3 in his return from injury in 6:54 of ice time. Joseph is eight NHL appearances this season shy of graduation from prospect status on the site.

Anthony Cirelli had a helper, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 14:04. He was also 54% on 13 draws. Cirelli will retire from prospect status on the site in just two more NHL appearances this year.

Erne had 2 goals and an assist and was +4 with 3 shots in 10:47. His game gave you a full display of what this young player can provide the team from the faceoff dots down in the offensive zone — big body who was tough to knock off the puck on the cycle. Got a defender on his back boxing him out with the big body in front to jab home the rebound on his first goal. And then you see the hand skills with the wicked release on one-time on the pass coming out of the corner top shelf with a near perfect shot. Keeping Erne healthy and continuing to develop him as a contributor as this regular season wears on ought to be a priority for the team, because he's got the kind of game that travels well at playoff time and they don't have a ton of guys in the organization like him.

Erik Cernak had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:28.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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