Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 1-6-18 Lightning at Senators

Sloppy Lightning embarrass themselves in Ottawa.

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OTT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 33 shots for the loss. I was surprised Cooper didn't pull him to try to spark the team after a disgraceful First Period where they played so poorly in front of him. They finally ran into a night where Andrei didn't bail them out from their biggest mistakes.

First Period
4:48 OTT Dzingel (12), (Stone)
5:51 OTT Duchene (10), (Ryan)
17:04 OTT Smith (4), (Karlsson, Oduya)

Second Period
0:26 TB Hedman (5), (unassisted)
1:41 TB Koekkoek (4), (Kucherov, Killorn)
15:57 TB Gourde (12), (Sergachev, Johnson)(PP)

Third Period
10:44 OTT Stone (17), (Brassard, Chabot)
14:57 OTT Pageau (6), (Karlsson)
17:08 OTT Dzingel (13), (Karlsson, Stone)

When you gift a team, no matter how low they are in the standings, goals off of stupid mistakes, you can get embarrassed like this. The self-inflicted wounds tonight were numerous, including horrible turnovers that led to Ottawa's first goal and game winning goal and a clean faceoff loss that yielded Ottawa's back breaking insurance goal. There's your margin of victory right there. All things the Lightning could've controlled.

Slater Koekkoek had a goal, 4 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:19. Made a dynamite shot joining the play late to score the second goal for the Lightning. All-in-all did nothing to hurt the case for more games.

Yanni Gourde had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots in 16:31. He was only 14% on 7 draws, though. I don't think the Lightning are using Gourde to his highest and best by playing him at center, and if the Lightning could acquire a third line center and move Gourde back to wing, I think they'd get some nice results out of it. Tonight was Gourde's 41st game of the season, so he graduates from prospect status on the website.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 blocked shots in 20:51. Pretty awful start to the game with the turnover that immediately spotted Ottawa a goal. I'm thinking he might want to burn the tape of this one.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper on the goal that tied the game, but was an ugly -4 with 2 penalty minutes to go with 3 shots and 3 hits in 15:59. He also graduated from prospect status on the website in tonight's game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Opinion: Lightning at the Halfway Mark

Forty games into a historic 2017-2018 season, let's take a moment to pause, step out of the moment, and take stock of where the club is. Sitting halfway through the campaign expectations for the team, which missed the postseason just a year ago, are sky high for good reason. Not only is the Lightning atop the NHL standings a full 13 points ahead of the pace they need to be in order to make the postseason, but the team leads a bevy of organizational and individual statistical categories.

Let's pump the breaks on prematurely planning a Stanley Cup championship parade, though. There's still half of the regular season and the postseason left to play, and as good as the team is, it's not without blemishes. How General Manager Steve Yzerman addresses those blemishes (or doesn't) and how any potential changes alters team chemistry (or doesn't) will have a lot to say about whether the team lives up to its perceived potential. So, with all of that in mind, let's look at how the team got here, what its weaknesses are, and what might happen next.

NHL Game Night: 12-29-17 Flyers at Lightning

Lightning lose sloppy game, and possibly their backup goaltender.

PHI- 5
TB- 3

Petr Budaj allowed 4 goals on 33 shots for the loss before exiting with what appeared to be a significant left leg injury caused by an accidental collision with a sliding Scott Laughton. I thought the fourth goal exposed some of Budaj’s athletic limitations, but he actually played a very good game before the unfortunate injury. I’d expect Louis Domingue recalled for what may be an extended stint from Syracuse. He’s had NHL experience with Arizona and is a bigger goalie who fits what Frantz Jean teaches. I think he’ll do a good job for Tampa Bay if he gets the call. Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 4 shots he faced in relief.

First Period
7:27 TB Stamkos (16), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Second Period
6:56 PHI Simmonds (12), (Couturier, Voracek)(PP)
10:03 PHI Gostisbehere (8), (Simmonds, Giroux)(PP)
15:37 TB Point (16), (Palat, Kucherov)
19:48 PHI Couturier (18), (Giroux, Konecny)

Third Period
1:53 PHI Manning (4), (Giroux, Konecny)
8:58 TB Johnson (10), (unassisted)(SH)
19:27 PHI Filppula (9), (Voracek, Couturier)(EN)

Tyler Johnson was the game’s third star.

Not much to love about this game. The Lightning got outpossessed and outworked and Philly earned the goals they manufactured with the elbow grease expended. Other than Point, nobody in blue appeared to have any jump and only the fluke luck of Provorov’s broken stick on Johnson’s SH goal game them a chance to net points at the end, which they frankly didn’t deserve tonight.

Slater Koekkoek played 8:09. If you blinked you might’ve missed him.

Yanni Gourde was -1 in 16:14 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 42% on 12 draws. I think you want more from an energy guy like Gourde in a game like this.

Jake Dotchin was -1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 13:12. I’m surprised his IT went down against this opponent. I wonder if fatigue was an element of that.

Mikhail Sergachev had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:53.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-19-17 Lightning at Golden Knights

Lightning come up snake eyes in first trip to Sin City.

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LV-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He was, in my mind, uncharacteristically average tonight in a game where the team in front of him really needed the bail out.

First Period
7:43 TB Stamkos (13), (Hedman, Kucherov)(PP)
19:13 TB Namestnikov (14), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)

Second Period
10:07 LV Neal (17), (Perron, Theodore)(PP)
18:21 LV Marchessault (12), (Perron, Theodore)(PP)

Third Period
4:42 LV Haula (13), (Theodore, Perron)(PP)
16:08 TB Hedman (4), (Stamkos)
19:57 LV Theodore (2), (Marchessault, Haula)(PP)

Whether tonight was because of a flu big running through the team, which led to Tyler Johnson and Jake Dotchin being late scratches, or a couple of long nights on The Strip, that was the Lightning's worst effort since the debacle in Boston. That they had any opportunity at all to steal a point after Fleury's gift of a soft goal at all was mildly remarkable. The team just played a very lightweight game. Soft passes and over-stickhandling leading to a bevy of turnovers coming out of their own end and they just didn't have the puck enough to merit a victory. How they managed 38 shots on Fleury I have no clue because it seemed like they barely had the puck and what little they did they were either turning it over, icing it, or chipping it up the boards just to relieve the pressure.

With that said, awfully ticky tack call on Coburn that led to the GWG. Gallant had a minor hissy fit on a prior call on Engelland that was an absolutely appropriate call and he was rewarded with the make up whistle. In the grand scheme, the Lightning probably deserved the result they got, but in that moment that call was mildly atrocious.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:50. Didn't have a great First Period. Didn't seem to see the ice much thereafter.

Yanni Gourde had 1 blocked shot and was 44% on 9 draws in 21:33.

Mikhail Sergachev had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:11. If he's ill, that's a fair excuse, but he was brutal tonight coming out of his own end. His turnover that led to his penalty that led to Vegas' third goal would've gotten a lot of rookies benched (if not demoted). There's a line where confidence with the puck bleeds over into utter stupidity. Sergachev leapt over that boundary a few times tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-14-17 Lightning at Coyotes

Halfway to the playoffs.

TB-4
AZ-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory. Fairly typical Vasilevskiy game. Made the odd situational save early to allow his team to run out to a lead and then handled his business through garbage time to the finish line.

First Period
11:30 TB Namestnikov (13), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
12:11 TB Point (14), (Palat, Johnson)

Second Period
6:11 TB Kucherov (22), (Hedman)
11:28 AZ Keller (12), (Stepan, Perlini)(PP)

Third Period
0:31 TB Johnson (8), (Point, Stralman)

Brayden Point, Tyler Johnson, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

That was men against boys. It was a 4-1 game, and that's with Antti Raanta playing a pretty darned good game. It could've been a lot worse for Arizona. The Lightning got 46 shots on goal and a slew of scoring chances. Arizona just doesn't have the level of organization and confidence to deal with the speed, skill, and precision of this Lightning team. They had no chance. None. It's a far cry from the Lightning's trip to the desert a year ago that seemed to all but bury the team's playoff hopes about 50 games into the campaign or so.

The win tonight kicks off the fourth 10-game segment of the season with a win. Good start. And, it happens to give the Lightning 48 points, which puts them halfway to the minimum 96 points you target to make it to the postseason comfortably. Again, it's a remarkable contract to where this team was the last time they were in Arizona a year ago.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:21.

Yanni Gourde had 3 shots and was 40% on 10 draws in 16:26. He's traded spots with Johnson moving down to third line center.

Jake Dotchin was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 21:48 of big time ice time. That's a nice number. Dotchin being able to eat minutes just makes the Lightning so incredibly good.

Mikhail Sergachev was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 17:37.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-12-17 Lightning at Blues

Vasilevskiy spooks Blues, then releases the kittens.

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STL-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Pure Vasilarceny. Tampa Bay got loose at times in the final 40 minutes of the game giving up way too many odd man rushes, but you saw the Vasilevskiy phenomenon in effect. World class snipers like Tarasenko trying to cut it too fine pulling shots wide of the net left and right because Vasiy had crawled up into their heads and built a condo. The really great goaltenders do that. Vasiy is on his way.

First Period
19:15 TB Point (13), (Johnson, Killorn)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
13:37 TB Kucherov (21), (Sergachev)
19:38 TB Johnson (7), (Point, Hedman)(EN)

Vasilevskiy and Brayden Point were the game's first and second stars.

I'm not going to tell you that was the Lightning's most picturesque win. But, it's illustrative of how a really good team with skill and goaltending manufactures a road win even when they're not all the way on their A game.

The Lightning's win tonight completes the team's third 10-game segment of the campaign, which was another success. Now sitting at 46 points this year, the Lightning have banked a staggering 10 insurance points heading into segment four of the season, and they're just two points away from hitting the halfway mark of the minimum they need to comfortably make the postseason. It's all lovely and impressive, and they'll get until the next morning skate to enjoy it, because after that the mantra is clear: flush it and move on. Twelve in ten? Now do it again.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 10:36. Not surprising that in a close game the staff curtailed his ice time.

Yanni Gourde had 1 hit and was 56% on 9 draws in 15:07. He's one of the guys who didn't have his most effective night tonight.

Jake Dotchin had 3 shots and 6 hits in 18:32 in a heavy game that favored his style of play. The ice time numbers are trending in a good direction.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in a pretty hefty 21:30. He had some turnover issues tonight, so it wasn't a clean game, but his possession numbers have been pretty strong the past few games. Tonight, although he only got 2 shots through, he had 10 total attempts to lead the team. That's some fancy stat-age for you all.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-9-17 Jets at Lightning

Lightning play really well and eventually get the payoff.

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TB-4 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the win. He had long stretches of inactivity so it was hard to stay sharp, but I'm sure he's thanking his stars his guys bailed him out after that soft third goal.

First Period
1:21 WPG Copp (4), (Lowry, Tanev)
18:57 TB Gourde (9), (Point, Johnson)(PP)

Second Period
16:39 TB Sergachev (7), (Johnson, Palat)
18:02 Connor (10), (Morrissey, Wheeler)

Third Period
7:02 WPH Ehlers (13), (Trouba, Laine)
8:51 TB Kucherov (20), (Dotchin, Stamkos)

Overtime
0:36 TB Point (12), (Stralman)

Brayden Point and Mikhail Sergachev were the game's first and third stars.

I think both teams treated this one like a measuring stick, and if that's what it was then I'd say the Lightning have to feel pretty good about it. That's not just because of the result, but because this was a game where the Lightning were able to nullify Winnipeg's size and speed and really controlled the balance of the play. The Lightning held Winnipeg to just 11 shots through 40 minutes and just 20 shots on the entire evening. That's a pretty astonishing stat given Winnipeg's firepower and lends credence to the view that Amalie Arena has become one of the real fortresses in the NHL this season. Still, the Lightning had some adversity in this game falling behind on a bad early shift, giving up a goal late in the Second Period on a pretty wicked deflection, and then giving up the lead in the Third Period on a pretty soft goal. And, again, this team showed its resiliency.

What a novel concept winning an offensive zone faceoff to manufacture Kucherov's tying goal in the Third Period. Lather, rinse, repeat. Please.

Tampa Bay's win gives them 12 points in this 10-game segment, making it 3 for 3 successful segments on the year. The Lightning get one more game in this segment to try to build up their cache of bonus points from 8 points to a possible 10.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 11:36. It was a mixed bag. I thought he made some decent plays in the offensive zone but got caught flat footed once or twice defensively. He can fly, but I don't think he adjusted to Winnipeg's speed as quickly as his teammates did.

Yanni Gourde had the power play goal and was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 50% on 10 draws. He played a really strong game. He's arguably the team's best forechecker and when he can get some shots on goal like he did tonight, I think he's such a valuable player.

Jake Dotchin had a helper and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 18:05. Coming off the injury you might've expected them to bring him into the lineup slowly, but 18 minutes is a fairly big number. He makes a difference for the Lightning because when he can fill this much time he helps regulate Girardi and Stralman's ice time and gives them a chance to play roles they can help the team the most in.

Sergachev had a goal, 3 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. He obviously scored a filthy turnaround goal. Just to go on a skate like that in the offensive zone and try that took some chutzpah for a rookie. But, on top of that, 19:23 of ice time is a really nice number. If he and Dotchin are giving this team 18+ quality minutes moving forward, it makes Yzerman's deadline shopping list a lot less pricey.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-7-17 Avalanche at Lightning

Lightning unceremoniously dispose of an inferior opponent.

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TB-5

Peter Budaj allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the win. The second goal he allowed was as soft as you'll see through the five hole on a shooter coming in on the rush, but he closed the door the rest of the way.

First Period
1:21 COL Landeskog (10), (MacKinnon)
1:46 TB Stamkos (12), (Namestnikov, Johnson)
13:36 TB Kunitz (5), (Girardi, Paquette)
18:22 COL Johnson (3), (Andrighetto)

Second Period
8:09 TB Namestnikov (12), (Johnson, Stamkos)

Third Period
4:57 TB Killorn (3), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)(PP)
16:41 TB Point (11), (Gourde)(SH)(EN)

Steven Stamkos, Vladislav Namestnikov, and Budaj were the game's three stars.

Colorado's terrible, and although the Lightning allowed them to hang around with some odd man rushes and a soft goal in the First Period, they ultimately disposed of them without much drama. The shot totals were fairly even, but the possession was 2:1 Lightning and the chances were significantly in the Lightning's favor, too. Three point nights for Stamkos and Namestnikov, and the juggernaut keeps rolling.

With two games remaining in this ten game segment of the season, the Lightning have rebounded well and now just need 2 of a possible 4 points to clinch a successful segment. As poorly as they were doing to start the segment, that's fairly remarkable.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 3 shots in 13:19.

Yanni Gourde had a helper on the EN goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots. He was also 63% on 8 draws.

Mikhail Sergachev was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 14:17.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-2-17 Sharks at Lightning

Lightning get a measure of redemption after the Boston debacle.

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TB-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. I honestly thought Vasiy wasn't as sharp as he normally was tonight. He got the benefit of a few posts and didn't have the greatest rebound control, but 85-90% Vasilevskiy's still good enough to get you wins if you play well in front of him, and that was the case tonight.

First Period
16:58 SJ Goodrow (1), (O'Regan, Carpenter)

Second Period
0:27 TB Kucherov (18), (Palat, Point)

Third Period
1:39 TB Johnson (5), (Palat, Sergachev)(PP)
5:49 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)
11:01 TB Conacher (2), (Killorn, Gourde)
13:37 SJ Braun (1), (O'Regan)
15:37 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)

Tyler Johnson, Nikita Kucherov, and Ondrej Palat were the game's three stars.

Great response by the Lightning tonight after sleepwalking their way through too much of the game in Boston. They used their speed to overwhelm San Jose for all 60 minutes en route to posting a 43-27 shot advantage and a 5-2 win. San Jose's goaltender, Martin Jones, was far better than in his last outing against the Lightning and managed to hold the Sharks in the game for 40 minutes, but the Lightning just had too much possession and eventually wore out the slower Sharks, with odd man rushes being the outcome as their defense crumbled in the final frame.

Tyler Johnson potted two goals on a long shoot in from Ondrej Palat off the corner boards timed to let Johnson use his speed to get the loose puck in front of the net for a jam in goal and on a rebound off a Victor Hedman scramble. The common thread in the two goals: Johnson playing a simpler game that is tailored to his strengths. I think his struggles over the past couple of years stem partly from him trying to play a style of game that isn't him. When you play with guys like Palat and Kucherov for so long, I think it's easy to get caught up and think you're some kind of dangling, creative playmaker with amazing handles. That's not Johnson. Johnson's gifts are that he has blazing speed and a great shot. That's two pretty boffo gifts if you're going to pick two out of the hockey hat, and that's why it's been frustrating to see Johnson pass out of shot opportunities or try to make an extra stickhandling move or toe drag for much of this season. When he plays a north-south, shoot-first style of game, he's a good NHL scoring line player. His speed scares the hell out of defenders and creates space for his linemates and his shot is heavy and hard to control. So, if he keeps playing the style he played tonight, the results will follow.

The underrated part of tonight's game was the disgustingly good passes by Palat on Johnson and Kucherov's first goals. Have mercy.

I'll be the guy to put some negative sauce out there: Braun's goal came off one of many faceoff losses. The Lightning only lost the faceoff battle tonight by a modest 49-51 margin, but the team is 28th out of 31 teams in faceoffs. It's not as big a deal right now, but it will be come playoff time. I still would contend to you the Lightning lost the Stanley Cup three years ago to Chicago largely because the Blackhawks were able to generate cheap possession and nullify the Lightning's athleticism advantage by winning a ton of offensive zone faceoffs. The fact that this hasn't been solved, along with the team's quixotic quest to find RHD seemingly since the day Dan Boyle dropped a skate on his wrist, might be the two most frustrating parts of being a Lightning fan over this last decade to decade and a half. This is a problem that the organization needs to remedy if the team is serious about winning a championship. I can't put it any more bluntly.

The Lightning's win tonight put them at 6 points after 6 games of this 10-game segment of the season. They still need 6 of a possible 8 points the rest of the way to clinch a successful segment and avoid dipping into their insurance points. Tough, but it looks a lot more do-able after tonight's effort.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:36. It was a quiet night for him, but a quiet night with 14+ minutes is a good thing. It shows he was steady and earning more shifts.

Yanni Gourde had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot. He was also 57% on 7 draws. Still wish he'd get more shots for himself.

Mikhail Sergachev had a helper and 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. I'd have to go back and look at his game logs, but I feel like that was a season high in ice time for Sergachev, and it came in a fairly quiet game for him. Again, that's a good thing. It means he was steady and earning those shifts, just like Koekkoek. Remember, it's really important for at least 2 of these 3 young prospect defensemen (Dotchin being the third) to develop into an ~18 minute a night player by the end of the regular season, thereby helping to regulate the minutes of older vets like Coburn and Girardi at more manageable levels. Tonight, on paper, was a welcome step toward that.

OK... I went back and checked, and indeed it's Sergachev's season high in ice time. It's only the second time so far he topped the 18 minute mark. Good on him.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-28-17 Lightning at Sabres

Release the kittens!

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BUF-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy had about as pedestrian a 34 save shutout as you can imagine. Buffalo was largely kept to the perimeter and had very few legit scoring chances all game. Vasiy surely deserved that defensive performance in front of him after having to play Superman against the Caps last time out.

First Period
16:29 TB Sergachev (6), (Johnson, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
12:08 TB Girardi (1), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Vasilevskiy, Mikhail Sergachev, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

Kind of a boring game. Both teams played a fairly well structured defensive game so there weren't a ton of chances and certainly a paucity of odd man rushes, too. The Lightning did have the big possession advantage in the First Period that they turned into a power play and the eventual game winner. They also manufactured the insurance goal on a long shot through a tough screen by Stamkos in front. Both goals, really, were nothing flashy. Meat and potatoes shots through traffic that glanced off Buffalo defenders and in.

With all that said, it's a win the Lightning really needed to have. They now have 4 points through 4 games of this 10-game segment of the season, meaning they still need to collect 8 in the last 6 games to have a successful segment. Yes, the team has a ton of insurance points already banked if need be, but you don't want to dip into those. You want to stay on that .600 or better track the rest of the way. Steady does it.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots and 2 hits in 9:42. Looked nice and active again in the First Period. Got nailed to the bench the rest of the way for some reason.

Yanni Gourde had 2 shots and 2 hits in 19:53.

Sergachev had a goal and 1 shot in 12:38.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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