Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 1-8-17 Lightning at Penguins

Better effort. Crushing result.

TB-2
PIT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)

Third Period
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)

For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-5-17 Predators at Lightning

Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.

NSH-6
TB-1

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.

First Period
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)

Second Period
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)

Third Period
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)

The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.

The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.

Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.

Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-3-17 Jets at Lightning

Lightning crumble under Jets forecheck.

WPG-6
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 33 shots for the loss. He made a lot of big saves on odd man rushes and breakaways, but at the end of the day his 4th goal allowed to Byfuglien, which was extremely soft, ended up being the critical margin (empty netter excluded) as soft goals often are.

First Period
7:25 WPF Scheifele (16), (Laine, Enstrom)(PP)

Second Period
3:43 TB Peca (1), (Namestnikov, Killorn)
4:30 WPG Ehlers (11), (unassisted)(PS)
5:19 WPG Trouba (2), (Perrault, Wheeler)
14:44 WPG Byfuglien (5), (Morrissey, Wheeler)

Third Period
3:26 TB Palat (7), (Johnson, Kucherov)
9:28 WPG Ehlers (12), (Laine, Trouba)
12:22 TB Kucherov (14), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:29 TB Kucherov (15), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
18:37 WPG Laine (20), (Scheifele, Ehlers)(EN)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's second star.

The Lightning were by far and away the better team in this game for the first 24 minutes of hockey before the bottom dropped out. The other 36 minutes were absolutely embarrassing as Winnipeg's forecheck ran roughshod over Tampa Bay and revealed a lot of coverage and puck moving mistakes. It's disappointing.

The Lightning now must defeat Nashville in the segment four finale to avoid digging their season playoff pace deficit of 4 points any deeper. This Winnipeg game was very winnable on paper and would've given the team a chance to trim their deficit. Now there's a very real possibility the hole will be even deeper at the season's midway point, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. I mean, I could complain about the dubious nature of the Ehlers penalty shot goal given it wasn't really a clear breakaway and more of a partial break, in my view, but I can't muster outrage against the refs considering the team allowed themselves to get run over the rest of the night.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:57. His lack of development this season has been an unfortunate impediment for the team. They desperately could use a big, consistent, mobile puck mover. Koekkoek has all the athletic tools to be that, but it just hasn't settled down and come together for him yet.

Matthew Peca scored his first NHL goal and 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:33. He was also 50% on 10 draws. His goal showed off one of his strengths coming up from the NCAA out of Quinnipiac. He's very dangerous off the rush and his wrister coming in off the wing for the score was beautiful. I say it again: he's really helped replace a lot of what the team could have lost with the Point injury.

Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 12:03. He had a very impressive debut despite the inauspicious stat line. Clearly, you can see the athletic gifts he brings to the game. He's a very good skater for such a big game with a surprisingly strong, swooping stride, and he's a very good offensive player from the hashmarks down. He had a chance on a rebound he overskated and nearly set up Bournival for a goal on a nice move peeling out of the corner but was a little off on his pass. He's going to be an NHL'er. There's little doubt of that. You could see that in tonight's game. The question is whether he can put all of his gifts together consistently to becoming a scoring line contributor.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-31-16 Hurricanes at Lightning

Lightning get key, clinical win.

CAR-1
TB-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 22 shots for the win. After stealing the point against Toronto, he might be due to go on a little hot streak here.

First Period
7:35 TB Boyle (10), (Kucherov, Hedman)(PP)
19:50 TB Drouin (11), (Kucherov, Palat)(PP)

Second Period
13:22 TB Killorn (12), (Peca, Hedman)
15:20 CAR Aho (7), (Slavin, Teravianen)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Jonathan Drouin, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Kucherov were the game's three stars.

With points at a premium after lacking the gas to deal appropriately with Toronto, the Lightning made sure they took care of business against a beatable Carolina club. It may have cost them Brian Boyle as the injury bug continues his rampage unabated, but the Lightning got another key win tonight. With 2 games left to play in this 10 game segment of the season, Tampa Bay needs 2 points to clinch a successful segment with the possibility of trimming 1-2 points off their season playoff pace deficit hanging out there as a real possibility.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 9:47.

Matthew Peca had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 2 hits in 12:05. He was also 50% on 8 draws. His style of game is helping to alleviate some of the stress from the injury to Brayden Point

Yanni Gourde was scoreless in 8:12.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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