Koekkoek, Slater

NHL Game Night: 1-18-18 Golden Knights at Lightning

Hedman-less Lightning see Vegas manufacture a laugher.

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Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss. He hasn't been making the big situational saves necessary to help the team climb into games lately like he was earlier in the season. Case in point: tonight Vegas' second goal on the knuckler that handcuffed him from the point. That's a save he's got to make for his team in that spot.

First Period
0:56 LV Neal (19), (Engelland, Perron)
16:03 LV Schmidt (3), (McNabb, Haula)

Second Period
10:18 TB Palat (8), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
17:43 LV Perron (10), (Engelland, Theodore)

Third Period
0:18 LV Karlsson (24), (Marchessault)

Credit to Las Vegas, they manufactured an easy road win tonight in workmanlike fashion. The first goal of the game by Neal and the final goal of the game by Karlsson that salted it away both came in the opening minute of a period and both came off faceoff losses by Vladislav Namestnikov. So, they built two goals and that and one Vasiy might want back on the Schmidt goal turned this from a pretty even game (shots were 30-29, although the broader possession stats were uglier for Tampa Bay) into a laugher.

Slater Koekkoek was -2 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:31. Throw the minuses out, because they both came on the goals off the faceoff losses. I thought Slater played a decent game.

Jake Dotchin had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 5 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:24. The big test is obviously Koekkoek's to take with Hedman out, but Dotchin's got a little something to prove with Hedman out, too, and I don't think he did anything to hurt his stock tonight.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 1-7-18 Lightning at Red Wings

The Dominguenator drinks a tall glass of sweet, sweet Red Wing tears.

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Louis Domingue allowed just 2 goals on 36 shots for this first victory in the Lightning uniform. Thought he played a simple, efficient game. He made some really important situational saves on a 2-on-0, on a partial breakaway, and on a pair of 5-on-3 scenarios and just bought time for the Lightning skaters to get some opportunistic goals.

First Period
8:56 TB Girardi (3), (Namestnikov, Gourde)
14:11 TB Johnson (13), (Girardi, Palat)

Second Period
3:10 DET Nyquist (14), (Bertuzzi, Zetterberg)
19:00 TB Gourde (13), (Killorn, Namestnikov)

Third Period
3:06 DET Abdelkader (7), (Mantha)
13:42 TB Kucherov (27), (Stamkos)
16:05 TB Gourde (14), (Palat)

Yanni Gourde and Dan Girardi were the game's first and third stars. Domingue was robbed.

That wasn't a Picasso. At times in the Second Period it wasn't even Dogs Playing Poker. But, under the circumstances, that's a big character win for the Lightning under some harsh circumstances. They'd been challenged by their coach after last night's debacle in Ottawa. They were playing the fresher team and were on the downside of a back-to-back. And, contrary to the crying from the Detroit side of the aisle, the refs in this game were borderline ridiculous giving the Wings a pair of 5-on-3's and ignoring a plethora of infractions by the Wings. Detroit also tried to goon this one up at times and were really taking runs and the Lightning and I thought Tampa Bay's smallish forwards showed a lot of bravery and really answered the bell when challenged. Brayden Point bloodied Dylan Larkin for boarding linemate Ondrej Palat and Yanni Gourde beat the tar out of Tomas Tatar and, I think, sent a message that while these weren't big heavyweight bouts these little guys are not going to be taken advantage of. And the Lightning were opportunistic, even scoring the big insurance marker on the rare clean offensive faceoff zone win. Ten straight wins over Detroit are sweet, really sweet.

Having been a captive to the Detroit broadcast tonight, I could write a novella about what I think about how they comported themselves tonight. Rather than do that though, I'll point something out to their producers. Your franchise's struggles against the Lightning began almost the exact moment you hired Darren Eliot off the Atlanta Thrasher-Jets bread line. Coincidence?

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:56.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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

Sloppy Lightning embarrass themselves in Ottawa.

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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.

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