Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Day: 12-4-16 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.

TB-0
CAR-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)

Bishop was the game's third star.

The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.

Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.

Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-3-16 Capitals at Lightning

Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.

WSH-1
TB-2 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)

Third Period
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
WSH- Kuznetsov
TB- Point, Boyle

Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.

There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.

Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.

Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.

Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-29-16 Lightning at Blue Jackets

The desperate search for rock bottom continues.

TB-1
CBJ-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.

First Period
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)

Second Period
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)

Third Period
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)

You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.

What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.

I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.

Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 11-27-16 Lightning at Bruins

Boston continues to be a house of horrors for the Lightning.

TB-1
BOS-4

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss. 3 of the 4 goals Bishop allowed were not 10-bell variety opportunities. Soft? No. But, when you need a goaltender to give you a chance in a game, those are 3 stops he needs to make. Let's get real here: the Lightning should be playing the hot hand with Vasilevskiy right now. That's not to say Vasilevskiy's the starter and destined to park Bishop on the bench forever. Remember back in December of 2003-2004 when the Lightning hit a rough patch offensively and eventually dragged Khabibulin down into the rut with them? The Lightning switched to John Grahame as the starter for a little while and eventually broke out of the slump collectively. No one was saying John Grahame was better than Khabibulin at that time, but it was a needed shake up at that time. Same thing here. The Lightning need to ride Vasilevskiy for a week or two, in my honest opinion.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:24 BOS Moore (6), (Miller, Spooner)
12:30 BOS Backes (5), (Bergeron, Krug)(PP)
17:33 BOS Hayes (1), (Krejci, Schaller)

Third Period
9:43 BOS Patrnak (13), (Krug, Marchand)
17:21 TB Hedman (5), (Nesterov, Point)

This is where Tampa Bay's sleepy effort against Columbus really hurts. Tampa Bay has never had much success in Boston, and back-to-back losses now put the Lightning in a spot where they need to get at least 9 of the next 14 possible points just to stay on playoff pace (assuming they burn their insurance point they had coming into this 10-game segment of the year). It's an uncomfortable spot to be in when you have .643 hockey just to stay on minimum pace.

Brayden Point had a helper and 4 shots in 18:46 of ice time. He was also, unfortunately, just 33% on 9 draws in the game, as well, with Brian Boyle not taking draws because of his injury.

Slater Koekkoek was -3 with 1 shot in 13:59. Got caught in no man's land off a faceoff loss on Moore's game opening goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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