Johnson, Tyler

NHL Game Night: 10-26-13 Sabres at Lightning

Lightning end the home stand with another two points the hard way.

BUF-2
TB-3

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory.

First Period
12:48 TB Johnson (3), (Filppula, Carle)(PP)

Second Period
12:58 BUF Flynn (2), (McCormick, Leino)

Third Period
12:46 BUF Vanek (4), (Foligno, Girgensons)
14:09 TB St Louis (6), (Stamkos, Gudas)
15:55 TB Palat (3), (Johnson)

Ondrej Palat and Martin St. Louis were the game's first and second stars.

I Tweeted (I have one of those now) Friday night that beating teams like Chicago is nice, but it doesn't do you any good if you drop points to teams like Buffalo and Florida. The Lightning responded really well in terms of effort tonight, but ran into a quality, experienced, franchise goaltender in Ryan Miller, who made them work hard for their win. The First Period was a clinic, and most of the Third Period was, as well, but Miller had the forcefield up and denied numerous quality chances by the Lightning. The Sabres capitalized by taking advantage of some sloppiness by the Lightning in the Second Period and an ill-advised Radko Gudas forecheck in the Third Period coupled with a sleepy Stamkos backcheck to build a 2-1 lead late in the Third Period.

What you had to like is that Gudas and Stamkos made great plays to atone for their mistake, setting up St. Louis for the tying goal. And, then, Jon Cooper decides, "What the hey?" He puts Palat/Johnson/Panik back together and they reply by getting the winning goal.

14 points in the first 10 game segment of the season is 2 more than what I thought they needed to set pace. It's wonderful. It should prove to them, athletically, they're capable of competing at this level. But, being athletically good enough doesn't get you to the playoffs. To get to the playoffs, you've got to consistently master the grind of the season and churn out those points. You got the minimum 12 you needed in the first segment? Awesome. Now you've got to do it seven more times to get to the tournament. And, that challenge starts immediately in South Florida tomorrow.

Gudas had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:11. Minutes were down a bit with the Lightning rotating 7 defenders.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:03. In the offensive third he looked dangerous. In the defensive third he looked... also dangerous (in a bad way). I saw improvement tonight and I'd be less scared to put him out the next game than I was after the Boston opener. He can be a useful player for the Lightning if he can just develop into an average player in the defensive zone. He showed the offensive instincts tonight.

Tyler Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist, 3 shots, 1 hit, and was 55% on draws in 21:09. I think that stat line and that ice time figure pretty much sums it up.

Alex Killorn played 17:33. I'm a little worried, given the nature of his game, that he's not getting shots although he's working very hard on the forecheck.

Palat had the game winning goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 15:25. He's magical with the puck. He's responsible without the puck. He's the straw that stirs the drink on whatever line he plays. You wonder if Cooper will start to creep his minutes up now that Palat seems to have his legs underneath him in the NHL.

Richard Panik had 4 shots and 1 hit in 13:39. He's become the man on PP2 in front of the net and showed good hands deflecting pucks all night. You get the sense his breakthrough could come at any time. I say, why not tomorrow?

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-24-13 Blackhawks at Lightning

Some things you just have to see to believe.

CHI-5
TB-6

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.

First Period
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)

Overtime
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. Victor Hedman was robbed, I tell you.

You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.

And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.

Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?

Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.

And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.

Key takeaways:
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.

My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.

Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.

Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.

Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.

Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-13 Bruins at Lightning

Lightning crap the bed.

BOS-5
TB-0

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 17 shots for the loss before being lifted for Anders Lindback, who allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. It wasn't the goaltending tonight.

First Period
1:32 BOS Krejci (1), (Lucic, Iginla)

Second Period
4:37 BOS McQuaid (1), (unassisted)
14:52 BOS Bergeron (2), (Smith, Eriksson)
15:47 BOS Kelly (3), (Marchand, Soderberg)

Third Period
0:34 BOS S. Thornton (1), (Paille)

Shots were 23-22, so it's not as if Boston made the Lightning look like a Junior A team. My suspicion is that a lot of the mistakes made tonight are correctible, and Jon Cooper will get a lot of practice time this coming week to drill those lessons into his club. -5 for Victor Hedman and -3 for his pairing partner Sami Salo says a lot.

Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:06. So much is made about how tough Jarome Iginla is. Gudas more than held his own fighting Iginla tonight. I think he re-upped his badass certification with how he handled himself in that scrap.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:17. He was also 36% on draws. He made some plays tonight, but unfortunately found himself working at times with the 4th line wingers, who you might classify as "Bluetooth", because Crombeen in particular is hands-free.

Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:04. He was ineffective.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:19. His ice time is creeping up because he deserves it. He's looking for confident handling the puck and that's the difference, to me, between Palat being a 3rd liner that you can spot on a scoring line, and Palat being a 4th line player. He looked very smooth with the puck tonight, to go along with good defensive play without it.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:15. He was a silver lining tonight after looking awkward, at times, against Minnesota. He was poised and really passed the puck well.

Richard Panik was -1 with 3 shots in 14:01. I'm very frustrated with Panik because he's close to making some impact plays, but he always seems to have a hole in his stick, overskate the play, etc etc. At a certain point potential is irrelevant if you don't apply it to make plays.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:00. I don't know whether Boston was simply unwilling to oblige him, but down by 4 or 5 goals I would have expected the team's enforcer to do something. With Thompson and Gudas getting jumped, you wonder why Labrie didn't force a Bruin or two to dance to send a message.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-17-13 Wild at Lightning

5-2-0. Nice. Daddy likes.

MIN-1
TB-2

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. Another near shutout for the University of Maine product. He's been damned good, and that instills a lot of confidence in the team in front of him.

First Period
14:02 TB Johnson (2), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
11:05 MIN Koivu (1), (Niederreiter, Suter)
14:56 TB Stamkos (5), (Carle, Gudas)
19:42 TB Salo (1), (unassisted)

Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.

Solid, solid performance against a very good defensive team. The Lightning really played a smart game, in many cases well beyond their years. To be at 5-2-0 at this point is outstanding. I have 12 points as the target for the first 10 game set of the season. Sitting at 10 points right now, the Lightning have 3 games to try to put at least another couple of points up to make the first 1/8th of the season a verifiable success. It's an outstanding spot to be in, although two challenges lie ahead with Boston and Chicago on their way. Bear in mind, though, if the Lightning get into January in contention for a playoff spot, they're going to be in great shape. Cooper's teams have a penchant for playing well in the second half of the year when it's winning time.

Radko Gudas had a helper, 3 hits, and 6 blocked shots in 16:30. I'm surprised his minutes total was that low, because he looked like he was everywhere tonight, including throwing a massive hip check that drew a retaliation penalty from Minny.

Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 shots, and was 69% on draws in 17:34. It was his best all around game in a Lightning uniform thus far, including some excellent defensive work in the neutral zone.

Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:08. He made a great one-on-one play to beat a defender wide to set up one near goal and set up Stamkos on a 2-on-0 that nearly resulted in another goal.

Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. It was also Palat's finest game in a Lightning uniform thus far. Defensively, he was strong as always, but we saw Palat also at his best in the other two zones, as well. On the forecheck, he sat on the puck well late in the game protecting the lead, and I finally saw one of the aspects of Palat's game that I like the most, which is puck savvy in the neutral zone to carry it out of danger and into the offensive zone. The more he does that, a la Filppula, the more he's a keeper.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 14:11. I thought this was one of Andrej's rougher nights. He was a little Bambi-legged in the First Period and had a couple of giveaways in the D zone. It was an uncharacteristically green performance from the talented rookie.

Richard Panik had an assist and 2 shots in 13:27. He had his moments on the forecheck and the chances are still coming for him. Sooner or later he will pot one and the floodgates will open.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-15-13 Kings at Lightning

Lightning learn from their mistakes, pummel the Kings.

LA-1
TB-5

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Kind of sad he didn't get the shutout, but then again, that Kings goal that got waved off absolutely shouldn't have been. Another solid game by Bishop overall. When he's playing well, he's incredibly hard to beat down low. Block the long shots, challenge the stuff in tight and let Bishop work his angles and his mechanics. It's a Brodeur-esque recipe for success with Bishop.

First Period
0:19 TB Malone (1), (Salo, St Louis)
12:44 TB Purcell (4), (Palat, Carle)

Second Period
16:22 TB St Louis (3), (Stamkos, Sustr)

Third Period
10:27 LA Voynov (1), (Frattin, Stoll)
12:40 TB St Louis (4), (Malone, Stamkos)
18:39 TB Palat (2), (Purcell, Johnson)

Martin St. Louis, Victor Hedman, and Bishop were the game's three stars.

You hold your breath and wonder how a young team will respond when they have a disappointing loss like the Lightning did to the Pens. Credit to the coaching staff and the leaders in the locker room for having the team ready to roll tonight. That's the kind of response you like to see, and it portends good things. 3 games into the home stand, the Lightning are 2-1-0 and now have 8 points overall for the season with 4 games left to go before they seal the opening 10 games of the season and move back out onto the road. I had about 12 points being the target for what they needed out of the first 10 game segment of the season, so another big win Thursday against Minnesota would put them in great shape to meet or exceed that goal. Now you just need the team to feel confident but not get too high after stomping a pretty good team. Understand, that Wild game is potentially a very, very big game. Win that and you're playing with house money when you're playing against the likes of Boston and Chicago. Lose it, and you're a little bit behind schedule (it would've really been nice to get points out of the Pittsburgh game).

Radko Gudas had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 6 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:18.

Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +2 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:07. He was also 64% on draws.

Alex Killorn had 6 shots and 1 hit in 14:28. He absolutely undressed one of the game's best in Drew Doughty off the rush for a near goal.

Ondrej Palat had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:17. That's a man who maximized his minutes. He made the quick play to head man Purcell on Purcell's great one on one goal and was the man on the spot getting a choice chance that he buried off a flubbed Kings clear.

Andrej Sustr got his first NHL point, a helper, and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 16:37. That's where I'd like to see his ice time settle down: 14-18 minutes. Somewhere in there.

Richard Panik had 1 shot and 3 hits in 12:49. He had a goal, were it not for Killorn laying across the goal line to keep the puck out. You feel for Richard on that one. You really do.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 hit in 9:56. I counted at least 3 decent scoring chances for Nacho, but his 4th line got caught on the ice too long on LA's only goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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