Gourde, Yanni

NHL Game Night: 10-21-17 Penguins at Lightning

This feels different.

PIT-1
TB-7

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots for the victory. He's been lights out all season, but lately he's been putting together the stats to match. Really want to terrify an opposing NHL GM? Remind them Vasiy's only 23 years old. You're welcome.

First Period
1:36 TB Kucherov (9), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)
14:16 TB Stamkos (3), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)(PP)
19:59 TB Gourde (1), (Coburn, Point)

Second Period
0:30 TB Point (4), (Palat, Gourde)
5:58 TB Stralman (1), (Sergachev)
7:12 TB Kucherov (10), (Stamkos, Killorn)

Third Period
10:32 TB Sergachev (3), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)(PP)
18:18 PIT Guentzel (3), (Rust, Letang)(PP)

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

I wasn't able to watch the game, so rather than comment on the particulars of this game I want to frame the performance of these first nine games of the campaign and offer some overall perspective.

The Tampa Bay Lightning missed the playoffs by one point last season partly because of injuries, partly because of a bizarre goaltending situation, but probably most of all because the team just didn't seem to have the maturity to approach every game with the necessary urgency. After several years of success, the club seemed to think its bona fides alone were necessary to win hockey games, often discarding good habits and taking shortcuts on the way to being dead last in the Eastern Conference in February before a late season charge nearly punched their postseason ticket. Fresh off that disappointment the Lightning rebuilt their leadership council this season with Stamkos and Ryan Callahan returning from injury and Dan Girardi and Chris Kunitz added into the mix in free agency. Still, through the first two games against the Florida Panthers, this team didn't look like it had learned its lesson as it headed into a games against league royalty like Washington and Pittsburgh that looked like colossal landmines on the schedule.

Seven games later the Lightning are 7-1-1-0. This feels different.

I'm not going to sit here and tell you tonight's drubbing of the defending Stanley Cup champions alone means the Lightning are ready to hoist the hardware themselves. Certainly, an objective observer will point out Antti Niemi hasn't exactly cloaked himself in glory in either of his encounters with the Lightning this year. But, with wins against a bevy of other quality opponents and a team that seems to have found a steely eyed determination and cold blooded professional, it's hard not to consider the Lightning as one of the early season contenders from the East. The only times I've seen this from the Lightning were the second half of the '03-'04 season when that team followed their leadership council of Dave Andreychuk and Tim Taylor all the way to a Stanley Cup, and the 2011 playoff run where Vincent Lecavalier and Martin St. Louis applied what they had learned from that run and came within an eyelash of winning it all before going down in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals to Boston. The current Lightning core never quite seemed to have the maturity and experience to fully grasp the level of intensity it takes to really and truly be great in all three zones day in and day out. Close, at times? Sure. But, it took the embarrassment of last season and the realization they've probably reached about the midpoint of their Stanley Cup window to get to this point. Now, they look like a team willing (and fully able) to do what it takes. This feels different, and I like it.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit in 11:15.

Yanni Gourde had 1 goal, 1 assist, and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes and 4 shots. He was also 33% on 9 draws. It was just a matter of time. If he's putting up 4 shots a night, he's a 20 goal scorer this year, I think.

Gabriel Dumont had 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:18. He was also 38% on 13 draws.

Jake Dotchin was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 3 hits in 12:52.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 16:56. Now we're getting close to the workload I think he needs to get to for the Lightning to really hit the higher end of some of its season's goals. When you're in a game that has nearly 40 minutes of garbage time, clearly there's no better time to let a young horse like Sergachev get plenty of reps. He did well with them, I see.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-17 Lightning at Blue Jackets

Let there be kittens!!!

TB-2
CBJ-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy posted the 43 save shutout, his first of the season. The shot totals allowed were high, but I think the Lightning were good at limiting the quality scoring chances Andrei actually faced, with many of those shots coming from the perimeter or from really bad angles. When the good chances did come, I thought Andrei's positioning looked flawless and it just didn't seem like there was any way Columbus was getting anything tonight. Vasilevskiy's performance was so strong he even overcame the jinx of the TV broadcast flashing a graphic prematurely awarding him the shutout with 33.7 seconds still left in the game.

First Period
17:48 TB Sergachev (1), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)

Second Period
15:37 TB Sergachev (2), (Kucherov, Stamkos)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

Kind of an odd game. If all you saw was the box score, you'd see that 43-21 shot disparity and assume Vasilevskiy had to stand on his head. I didn't really feel like the game was ever really out of the Lightning's control. They were pretty efficient in the first 40 minutes and throughout the game really limited Columbus to throwing the puck toward the net from low percentage areas. Now, mind you, that's a recipe for surrendering some greasy goals and getting bitten by puck luck. You don't want to make a regular habit of that. But the Lightning still, I thought, had the lion's share of the real scoring chances.

Tampa Bay clinches the successful opening segment of the season and at least one insurance point already in the bank. Two game left to go in this opening ten game segment and the Lightning have a chance to bear down and really build up a nice glut of insurance points in the standings right away.

Yanni Gourde had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on 4 draws in 18:04. That was his best game of the season, and he did everything tonight but find the back of the net. I was surprised he didn't get third star. I love the volume of shot attempts for him (7). If he keeps that up, the production will follow shortly.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 57% on 7 draws in 12:06.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 shot in 12:35. I'll be interested to see how the Lightning use him whenever they switch back to a six defenseman alignment. I thought he played well tonight.

Sergachev had his first two NHL goals and was +2 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 12:49. He's putting up numbers, which I wasn't expecting and might be a little bit of a mirage. Either way, I think any inkling of sending him back to juniors (which, I never thought was a real possibility) seems out the window at this hour.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-17-17 Lightning at Devils

Budaj's rusty start costs the Lightning a point.

TB-4
NJ-5 (SO)

Petr Budaj allowed 4 goals on 34 shots and 1 goal on 3 shots in the penalty shot session for the Shootout loss. His first and third goals allowed were pretty putrid, and indicative of a guy who hasn't really played competitive hockey in about a month. He started to shake off the rust in the Second Period and got a lot sharper as the game wore on. There's a cautionary tale to the coaching staff about sneaking him a few more starts in there somewhere.

First Period
2:45 NJ Stafford (2), (Hischier, Butcher)
7:33 TB Namestnikov (3), (Kucherov, Stamkos)
12:21 TB Palat (3), (Johnson, Sergachev)(PP)
16:19 NJ Palmieri (2), (Hall, Henrique)(PP)
19:08 NJ Gibbons (3), (Santini, Wood)

Second Period
14:02 TB Kucherov (8), (Stamkos, Sergachev)
17:23 TB Stamkos (2), (Gourde)

Third Period
15:54 NJ Stafford (3), (Hischier, Severson)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- NONE
NJ- Palmieri

Nikita Kucherov and Steven Stamkos were the game's second and third stars.

The result stinks, but honestly I thought this was a strong performance by the Lightning. Against a young, fast team the Lightning seemed to get stronger as the night wore on even though they were on the downside of the back-to-back. All things being even they probably deserved the second point, but when your goaltender surrenders soft goals, you tend to lose in the end equation no matter how well your skaters play.

Tampa Bay now sits on 11 points with 3 games to go in the opening segment of the season, and are thus just 1 point away from clinching being on playoff pace for this segment.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 18:50. He was also 38% on 8 draws. Strong forecheck to produce the Stamkos goal. Still needs to shoot more.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 13:37. Thought he had some struggles with New Jersey's speed, but didn't make any really awful mistakes from it.

Mikhail Sergachev sneezed out 2 helpers and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 13:38. Life is good when the coaches shelter you on shifts with the Kucherov line in front of you.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-16-17 Lightning at Red Wings

Lightning ride Vasilevskiy to glory.

TB-3
DET-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The team was flat as a pancake the first 6-7 minutes of the game and Vasilevskiy absolutely held them in the game and made several timely saves over the course of the game to allow them to get the 2 points. The big gunners will get the attention, but Vasilevskiy's been the truth so far this year.

First Period
9:15 TB Johnson (3), (unassisted)(SH)
10:56 TB Kucherov (6), (Hedman, Stamkos)(PP)

Second Period
2:30 DET Abdelkader (2), (unassisted)(PS)
16:02 DET Green (1), (Abdelkader, Tatar)

Third Period
1:47 TB Kucherov (7), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)

Nikita Kucherov and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. Vasilevskiy was robbed.

The Lightning flat out didn't play to their standard tonight. The team came out flat and their breakouts looked patently terrible. It wasn't to the level of the debacle in Sunrise, but the sloppiness passing the puck and the weakness and indecision was palpable and concerning. Thankfully, they were able to engineer a road win with goaltending and special teams. I'm happy they were able to get the 2 points and I fully understand you have to win some games like this over the course of 82 games because you're not going to have your A game every night, but Cooper needs to make it clear that slipping by playing like that isn't acceptable. They've showed us they're better than this.

With 4 games to go in this 10-game segment of the campaign, the Lightning need just 2 points for minimum playoff pace. As noted after the last game, this is a prime opportunity for the Lightning to build up a huge cushion right from the jump this season, and after missing the postseason last year it's a chance the club should leap at.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes and 2 blocked shots in 7:01. His most memorable moment was taking a penalty, so that's not good.

Yanni Gourde was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:46. He was also 29% on 7 draws. In some ways this might've been his best game of the year. He looked incredibly strong on the puck in the offensive zone for such a small man.

Jake Dotchin had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:50. I feel like he's getting closer to being the player we saw down the stretch of last year, which is needed.

Mikhail Sergachev had 1 shot in 8:37. Team low in shifts. He'll make a decent play here and there, but can't seem to string two or three of them together right now. I would've hoped he'd have flashed a little bit more at this point, but it's early. The Lightning really need Sergachev or Koekkoek to progress significantly between now and March though if they want to be ready to achieve some of their bigger goals.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Syndicate content