Dotchin, Jake

NHL Game Night: 10-7-17 Lightning at Panthers

Travesty in Sunrise. And, no, I don't mean that the building was half empty on their opening night.

TB-4
FLA-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on a staggering 48 shots for the loss. Without Vasiy, the Panthers may have scored 10 goals tonight.

First Period
3:30 TB Kucherov (2), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
4:48 TB Namestnikov (2), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
12:18 FLA Dadonov (1), (Ekblad, Huburdeau)

Second Period
1:46 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Dadonov, McCann)
13:57 TB Point (2), (Palat)

Third Period
6:06 FLA Sceviour (1), (Haley, Barkov)
6:42 FLA McCann (1), (Bjugstad, Brickley)
8:34 FLA Trocheck (1), (Vrbata, Barkov)
14:12 TB Johnson (1), (Gourde, Point)

The score line doesn't depict what a squash this was, at all. Even the 48-30 shot disparity doesn't depict it, given half of the Lightning's shots came in the final frame. The team's top line pounced on Florida early to stake the club to a 2-0 lead and looked within an eyelash of making the game a laugher, and then took their foot off the gas and the whole thing went sideways. They spent most of the rest of the game looking slow and confused as they surrendered turnover after turnover and scoring chance after scoring chance until garbage time came and they began the quixotic quest for the improbable comeback. It's not good enough. In 120 minutes of hockey this season the Lightning have only played well in about... 35... of those minutes. It's unacceptable. I don't like the lower two lines. I don't like two of the three pairings. I don't like that the club overall doesn't seem to have a clue what to do with Jon Cooper's new tweaks to his system. Consider this a first test for the team's new leadership council, because a night like this is a rude awakening, and I'll be damned if I have to sit through another night where "Panther Territory" is celebrating like they just won the Stanley Cup (pathetic).

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 14:42. He's played well, but he needs to translate that into shots on goal for himself to take another step.

Jake Dotchin was -2 with 5 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 13:25. Good Lord, I hope this isn't the beginning of Dotchin turning back into a pumpkin.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 16:54. Tonight he got roughed up physically and mentally. Not going to lie. He had some nice moments but he also got targeted by Florida and had some bad turnovers to go along with some dubious decision-making from the point on the power play. Mind you, I don't know he should be getting power play time at this juncture of his development, but that's another matter.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-6-17 Panthers at Lightning

Still...

FLA-3
TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. He was clearly the difference in the game, allowing the Lightning to overcome an anemic opening 40 minutes while Roberto Luongo surrendered a couple of soft goals at the other end of the rink.

First Period
6:33 TB Palat (1), (Point, Hedman)

Second Period
0:25 TB Point (1), (unassisted)
12:21 FLA Brickley (1), (Petrovic)
17:47 FLA Pysyk (1), (Vrbata, Trocheck)

Third Period
0:59 TB Namestnikov (1), (Stamkos, Killorn)(PP)
6:38 TB Kucherov (1), (unassisted)
14:30 FLA Huberdeau (1), (Dadonov, Yandle)
19:46 TB Palat (2), (Point)(EN)

Brayden Point, Anton Stralman, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Really a very mixed bag on the night, with slightly more good than bad. The team looked flat and got outpossessed by a wide margin in the first 40 minutes of the game, and it took some great play by Vasilevskiy and some soft play by Luongo to keep the Lightning from getting run out of their own barn. I think it starts from the backline where I simply didn't like the pairings with Jake Dotchin being scratched. If Jake's still paying his penance to Coach Cooper, I hope it's paid in full soon, because playing Girardi top pair isn't sustainable and playing Sustr at all isn't either. Sustr, in particular, did not cloak himself in glory in this game.

Through the first two frames, I thought only the Palat/Point/Gourde line showed up to the rink, but they were joined by the top line of Namestnikov/Stamkos/Kucherov that started to come on in the Third Period. I'm really heartened to see Brayden Point have a good opening game. With Tyler Johnson off the scoring lines and nearly invisible, the Lightning's ace up their sleeve is Point. I suspect he can have a breakout season and help give the Lightning the two balanced lines they need.

So, all in all, I think the pieces I think the Lightning need to really have a strong season (Vasilevskiy, Point, and to a lesser extent the returning Stamkos) had a good opening night with the exception of the exiled Dotchin. Hopefully the Lightning can get him back and playing as well as he did at the end of last season, and that'll push Girardi down to third pair with Coburn and Sustr to the press box, which I think will soothe a lot of defensive ills.

Yanni Gourde was +1 with 2 hits in 13:36.

Gabriel Dumont was 67% on 6 draws in 9:01.

Mikhail Sergachev was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots in 16:03. I like that he's being mentored on a pair with Stralman and tonight was mostly what I'm hoping to see from him as a rookie. The Lightning need quality minutes more than hefty offensive production, and while I hope that ultimately Sergachev lands closer to 18 minutes on a game to game basis, this was a good start to his Lightning career.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-30-17 Lightning at Predators

Lightning close preseason in style.

TB-3
NSH-2 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the OT victory.

First Period
5:49 TB Killorn, (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
10:46 NSH Salomaki, (unassisted)(SH)(PS)

Second Period
13:51 TB Killorn, (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
16:07 NSH Sissons, (Josi, Fiala)

Overtime
1:02 TB Kucherov, (Stralman, Stamkos)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's first star.

Not going to say this game wasn't without its flaws, but after several mediocre performances against Florida, this team needed a result to cap the preseason. That's what they got tonight, via the play of their biggest guns.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:48.

Yanni Gourde had 2 hits in 14:50.

Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 3 shots and was 80% on 5 draws in 8:25.

Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48 in his preseason debut off suspension.

Mikhail Sergachev was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 20:33.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-26-17 Lightning at Panthers

Lightning fan snarky question of the night: Things Better Attended than a Panthers Preseason Game in Sunrise, FL? Go!

TB-2
FLA-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 32 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
0:42 FLA Huberdeau, (Barkov)
5:57 FLA Huberdeau, (Barkov, Trocheck)(PP)

Third Period
7:35 TB Callahan, (Girardi, Namestnikov)
12:56 FLA Brickley, (Pysyk, MacKenzie)
18:57 TB Kucherov, (Point, Sergachev)
19:38 FLA Trocheck, (Barkov, Huberdeau)(EN)

Things are getting down to the nitty gritty now. This was pretty close to the opening night lineup with the probably exception of a couple of the forwards who played tonight and the absence of the suspended Jake Dotchin.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:12.

Alexander Volkov was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:14. He may very well be the old "last cut" of camp, which is surprising for a guy who had a very slim resume coming into this camp.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and 2 penalty minutes to go with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:50. IMO, the best scenario for the Lightning is for Sergachev to settle into a role where he plays a reliable ~18 minutes a night, and he looks like he may be capable of giving the team that.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Tampa Bay Extends Jake Dotchin on Two-Year Deal

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have re-signed defenseman Jake Dotchin to a two-year, one-way contract worth an AAV of $812,500, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced today.

Dotchin, 6-foot-3, 210 pounds, made his NHL debut with the Lightning on January 21 at the Arizona Coyotes last season. He recorded 11 assists with a plus-10 rating in his first NHL campaign. Dotchin was second on the team for plus-minus (Kucherov, plus-13), and ranked fourth among Bolts blue-liners in average ice time with 18:25 per contest.

The Cambridge, Ontario native skated in 35 games with the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League prior to joining the Lightning, recording four goals and 13 points. He returned to the Crunch for the post-season and played in 19 games in helping Syracuse to the Calder Cup Finals. He recorded six assists and was a plus-8 during the playoffs.

Dotchin has played in 157 career AHL contests, all with the Crunch since 2014, recording 11 goals and 44 points, including six power-play goals. He has played in 22 Calder Cup Playoff games, in 2017 and in 2015.

The 23-year-old was drafted by Tampa Bay in the sixth round, 161st overall, of the 2012 NHL Draft.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 6-13-17 Crunch at Griffins

Crunchning Death Star runs aground in Grand Rapids.

SYR-3
GR-4

Grand Rapids Wins the Series 4-2

Mike McKenna allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
14:09 SYR Gourde (8), (Conacher)

Second Period
0:18 GR Ford (8), (Nosek)(PP)
7:51 SYR Taormina (5), (Bournival, Lynch)
11:50 GR Callahan (6), (Street)
18:10 SYR Gourde (9), (Masin, Taormina)

Third Period
3:50 GR Bertuzzi (9), (Frk, Nosek)
12:41 GR Frk (5), (Lashoff, Nosek)

Yanni Gourde was the game's third star.

It's a painful way for the season to end. The Crunch were 20 minutes away from forcing a somewhat improbable Game Seven encounter before the wheels finally came off. It's been a special team and a special, likely one-off, moment in time for Syracuse. The Crunch are likely to have a youth movement next season, particularly at forward. This veteran laden team will likely move along to the NHL, in a few cases, or to other teams/leagues in quite a few others. The big upside of this run for the Tampa Bay Lightning? In my opinion, it's a lot of quality minutes in pressure situations played by defenseman prospects like Slater Koekkoek, Jake Dotchin, Dominik Masin, and Ben Thomas.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-17-17 Marlies at Crunch

Five unanswered goals, and the Crunchning Death Star sets course for the Eastern Conference Finals.

TOR-3
SYR-6

Syracuse Wins the Series 4-3

Mike McKenna allowed 3 goals on 17 shots for the victory. Sweet, sweet goal support!

First Period
6:26 SYR Dumont (3), (Thomas, Brodeur)
17:37 TOR Griffith (2), (Moore, O'Reilly)
18:57 TOR Leipsic (4), (Oleksy)

Second Period
11:03 TOR Johnsson (6), (Kapanen)
13:30 SYR Taormina (2), (Peca, McGinn)
15:14 SYR Erne (3), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)

Third Period
0:08 SYR Peca (4), (Dotchin, Koekkoek)
18:19 SYR Conacher (4), (Gourde, Condra)
19:29 SYR Gourde (2), (unassisted)(EN)

Matthew Peca, Gabriel Dumont, and Jake Dotchin were the game's three stars.

Syracuse's playoff life was in doubt for about a three and a half minute span of the Second Period tonight. Down 3-1, the team looked to be in potentially dire straits. Then the comeback started, and five goals later the Crunch had made their statement. This team may just win it all. How'd they do it? After leaning heavily on their veterans for most of this run, the Crunch youth have started to chip in on the scoresheet, making an unbelievable deep team even more lethal.

Matthew Peca is starting to build a legacy in these playoffs as a big goal, big game player. If you're wondering how we celebrated his game winning goal, assisted by fellow Bolt Prospects Jake Dotchin and Slater Koekkoek: Chad had to go take a cold shower, I smoked a cigarette, and Tim demanded the misses, "Now go fix me a sammich!" We were happy/excited.

Syracuse will play the Providence Bruins for the AHL Eastern Conference crown. Providence was actually the fourth seed in a very deep and very talented Atlantic Division. It'll be a very tough series for the chance to advance to the organization's third Calder Cup Final of the Yzerman/BriseBois regime.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-13-17 Marlies at Crunch

Crunchning Death Star thrives on imperial home ice.

TOR-1
SYR-5

Syracuse Leads the Series 3-2

Mike McKenna allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory in the kind of bounceback game you need from your goaltender in playoff time after the odd rough outing (which happens in a long playoff run).

First Period
8:26 TOR Oleksy (1), (Findlay, Clune)
11:24 SYR Peca (3), (Condra, Racine)

Second Period
3:18 SYR Vermin (4), (Conacher, Gourde)
9:25 SYR Lynch (1), (Walcott)

Third Period
1:35 SYR Racine (1), (Gourde)(SH)
16:22 SYR Dumont (2), (Condra, Bournival)(EN)

McKenna, Slater Koekkoek, and Gabriel Dumont were the game's three stars.

With the chips down the Syracuse Crunch brought their best effort to the rink tonight in an absolutely critical Game Five tilt in a tied up series. Mind you, this series should be over right now were it not for the Crunch's late game collapse in Game Three, but that contest is water under the bridge at this point. Now Syracuse gets Jake Dotchin back from suspension heading into a potential closeout game. It's never easy to finish off a good opponent on the road at playoff time, but champions typically find a way.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

AHL Playoff Game Night: 5-9-17 Crunch at Marlies

Late game collapse points to trouble for Crunch.

SYR-3
TOR-5

Syracuse Leads the Series 2-1

Mike McKenna allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the loss. Man, Syracuse could've really used a couple of more timely saves in this one.

First Period
11:44 SYR Erne (1), (Froese, Taormina)

Second Period
1:54 SYR Froese (3), (Taormina, Peca)(PP)
10:07 TOR Johnsson (4), (Kapanen, O'Reilly)(PP)
13:52 TOR Johnsson (5), (Greening)

Third Period
9:05 SYR Condra (4), (Koekkoek, McGinn)
18:04 TOR Leipsic (3), (Nielsen, Kapanen)
18:22 TOR Grundstrom (2), (Griffith, Oleksy)
18:37 TOR Kapanen (2), (unassisted)

The Crunchning Death Star ran into their first serious technical problem before Game Three learning of a 3 game suspension to Jake Dotchin for a late hit thrown in Game Two. Dotchin ended Tampa Bay's regular season playing like a NHL top-four defenseman, and losing Dotchin for the lineup for a key stretch of this series is a troubling problem for the Crunch defensive corps. They really need to get one of these games in Toronto and tonight they came within two minutes of pulling off the task before the bottom fell out. Now Toronto has momentum and an opportunity to knot the series up, putting some serious pressure back on Syracuse's shoulders while they're still without Dotchin's services for two more games. Game Four looms large.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-9-17 Sabres at Lightning

Lightning end a season of disappointment with an abundance of hope.

BUF-2
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the victory. He was solid as a rock again today, making situational saves when needed and staying sharp despite long stretches where he had very little work. One of the biggest reasons for the Lightning missing the playoffs this season was subpar goaltending the first two-thirds of the year that came from the weird limbo situation that Ben Bishop was in. Once Bishop was moved out at the trade deadline and Vasilevskiy clearly moved into the number one role, Vasilevskiy played outstanding. He justified the opinion of a lot of people that he's the best emerging young goaltender in the game.

First Period
13:56 BUF Carrier (5), (Nylander)

Second Period
5:59 TB Point (17), (Hedman, Dotchin)
12:20 TB Coburn (5), (Namestnikov, Killorn)(SH)

Third Period
11:17 BUF Kane (28), (Gionta, O'Reilly)
18:36 TB Point (18), (Kucherov, Stralman)
19:59 TB Hedman (16), (Stralman, Point)(EN)

Brayden Point, Vasilevskiy, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

You never know what you're going to get in a game like this where there's nothing on the line after Toronto eliminated the Lightning last night with a late, come-from-behind win. I was pleased to see a pretty good overall effort from the Lightning, particularly for the first 40 minutes of the game, which I think in part stemmed from a smart decision by Jon Cooper to start Vasilevskiy and treat this more like a normal game. They were pretty sound defensively the first 40 minutes and, probably feeling a little more free with things settled in the standings, I thought showed more free-flowing offensive creativity. With tee times beckoning in the Third Period, I thought there were stretches it got a little too much like a QMJHL game with matching line rushes at both ends, but all in all I think the Lightning really closed the season strong and in style. Were it not for the heroics for Linus Ullmark in Buffalo's net, the Lightning could've easily put 7 or 8 goals on the board tonight.

The Lightning ultimately finish 2 points shy of a playoff berth with 94 points. Remember how we keep harping on that 96 point number? Yep, that's the number that would've gotten them in. There's no mysticism about it, and the Lightning learned a painful lesson this season about early season complacency. The good news, I'm happy to say, is that it seems that the team understands what happened, and after their first summer of rest in a long time seem ready to return next year with a renewed team identity and a chip on their shoulder. That's not to say there won't be changes to the roster. There are warts on this team, and players on the roster who either have plateaued as players or simply can't cut it on an elite-level NHL team. I trust that Steve Yzerman will make the changes necessary to address those issues, and have a lot of hope in my heart seeing the emerging young talent on this team.

Going into next season, you can see the Lightning have five forwards in particular that look to me to be capable of being among the NHL's best. Steven Stamkos, returning from injury, obviously is already well proven as an NHL superstar and Nikita Kucherov added himself to that echelon of players with his 40-goal, over a point-a-game campaign this year. Beyond those two, you saw two other players who I think have the capability of becoming top-10 NHL scorers: Jonathan Drouin and Brayden Point. Drouin's talent is undeniable, and it remains not a question of "if" but rather "when" he makes that transition to being a 30 goal, 80+ point a year player. He could've had 4 goals easily today were it not for Ullmark's heroics. Point, on the other hand, came into this year with significantly lower expectations as a guy who was selected outside of the top-60 in his draft year who wasn't even expected to make the NHL roster this year. Had he not missed a month with a broken paw, he would've topped 20 goals this season and something about his rookie campaign gives me all the same feels that Brad Richards' rookie campaign in Tampa Bay did as a third round pick who played like a high first rounder. Rounding out this group is veteran Ondrej Palat, who has looked lost at times over the past two seasons but down the stretch of this year started to look like the two-way beast of a player he's shown he can be. Those give on the Lightning's forward corps give me the belief the team will be dynamic offensively next year.

The defensive corps is a bit more unsettled, but Victor Hedman made a serious campaign for the Norris Trophy down the stretch of this year in finishing second in the NHL in points among defensemen. I wouldn't bet against him winning it next year, and what we saw in Hedman's game this season was the checking off of the last boxes he needed to in order to transition to becoming a great NHL defenseman. Namely, the rise of the Lightning power play this year can be directly traced to the rise of Hedman as a legit power play threat. Maybe that's the silver lining of Stamkos' injury. With Stammer out, the Lightning became a much more "left handed" power play with things primarily playing off of Kucherov's triggers in the right wing circle. Hedman at the center point fed into that change from a "right handed" power play, and he started to really sharpen up his shot and improve his distribution skills. We always knew he was a wizard off the rush, but Hedman learned to thrive in the more stationary/lateral third-ice game of the power play. Supplementing Hedman is stalwart righty defenseman Anton Stralman and the found money that was youngster Jake Dotchin. Anybody who tells you they saw the rise of Jake Dotchin coming is either a (bleeping) liar or has a time machine. One of the magical things in sports is that sometimes a guy just "gets it" out of the blue and comes out of nowhere to become a good player. That was Dotchin this year. Those three form half of a solid NHL defense corps, and with two righties already nailed down, the job of filling out the rest of the Lightning blueline becomes a lot easier for Steve Yzerman to deal with. Lefties are a lot easier to come up with. Righties are rare as hen's teeth.

And then there's Vasilevskiy. Russia's answer to Carey Price. Mark my words: as talented as the Lightning are there will be other clubs in the NHL that will have better skaters and more skill... and the Lightning will have the answer in the form of Andrei Vasilevskiy. Watching him become what he looks destined to become is going to be fun.

Luke Witkowski had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:25.

Greg McKegg played 10:51.

Dotchin had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 17:07. I'd be interested to know if he draws any attention from the Canadian hockey program as a potential IIHF World Championships player.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:13 and was 63% on 8 draws. He will be headed back to Syracuse to help the Crunch in the playoffs, which Syracuse clinched a spot in today.

Yanni Gourde had 1 shot in 16:35 and was 40% on 10 draws. What a weapon for Syracuse to be getting back into the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 4 hits and 1 blocked shot in 13:01. The stat line looks ugly, but I thought he played a whale of a first 40 minutes in the game. The whole reason Drouin could've had 3-4 goals in this game was that Erne was absolutely dealing on the forecheck and was super-creative distributing once he forced Buffalo to turn it over. He needs to follow up this stretch run with a strong playoffs for Syracuse. He'll enter next season on the roster bubble, and if he approaches the task with the proper intensity and focus he can help this Lightning team. He has obvious size and strength and surprising explosiveness and skill. The fact he can work so well with Drouin like he did today speaks to the upside he has. He's not some bogus faux power forward plugger. He's got the tools to be a serious scoring line contributor in this league. You all saw the flashes of it over the last month.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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