Bounces don't go the Lightning's way.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He played well. It's hard to be upset considering the first goal he allowed was off a great cross ice feed from Crosby and the second was a centering feed that bounced off Hedman and in. Most nights that effort gets Bishop in the winner's circle.
6:53 PIT Kunitz (12), (Crosby, Letang)
8:27 PIT Sutter (5), (Crosby, Jokinen)(PP)
18:17 PIT Kunitz (13), (Malkin, Crosby)(EN)
J.T. Brown was the game's second star.
There's nothing to be ashamed of in tonight's effort. They held their own against an elite caliber team and just didn't get the bounce or two they needed. I'll take that effort 9 games out of 10 and take my chances that the bounces start to go my way. The unfortunate thing is that the loss is going to make it really difficult for the Lightning to get 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season, now needing 7 of 8 possible points in the next 4 games. That's the problem with losing streaks like on the Lightning's West Coast swing. They really cut your margin of error down dramatically.
Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:59. His delay of game penalty in the Third Period led to Pittsburgh's insurance goal and, as usual, he just isn't strong along the wall in his own end. He's got to improve there. Period, point blank.
Tyler Johnson was -2 with 1 shot and he was 62% on draws in 18:58. That stat line doesn't tell the tale. The kid line matched up head to head against the Crosby line all game long and they held their own. Crosby set up Pittsburgh's first goal, but they got nothing else until the empty netter at the end, and the balance of play between the two lines was surprisingly even. That's incredibly impressive for three rookies.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots and was 29% on draws in 15:01. QUIT TAKING OFFENSIVE ZONE PENALTIES! That is all.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:52. I'll echo my comments about TJ with regard to Palat and add that both Palat and Johnson were also outstanding on the PK.
Brown had 4 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:10. He worked himself into quite a few good chances and set up 1-2 others for his teammates. He's a little snakebit right now, but that will pass with time.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 14:31. He had a partial breakaway and a couple of other quality scoring chances. Sooner or later, he's going to put up a multi-goal game, I'm fairly certain. He's very dangerous, and I would actually like to see him spotted in Panik's place on the kid line just to see if a little more polished finisher on that line can yield some dividends.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 18:05. He was on the ice for Pittsburgh's first goal, but that was a superstar play off the rush by Crosby. Beyond that, he also held his own. Nothing to be ashamed of.
Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:27. He had maybe the chance of the game on his stick at the end of the Second Period all along in front of Fleury and target visioned it right into Fleury's chest. Ploof. I don't know how the Lightning can breath confidence into him at this point, but I do know that kid line is generating chances for Panik and they're not going in because he's the most snake bitten at all. Given its been feast or famine in the goal department since Stamkos' injury, I'm very serious that Cooper should consider spotting a finisher like Kucherov on that line if these late game situations come up where the Lightning are scrambling to find a goal.
Vinny's return drowned out by the Hedmania.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the victory. He had the shutout working until just under 3 minutes left in the game when he was hung out to dry for two quick ones. It would've been nice for the team to stay focused and get that shutout for Anders, who has been playing better of late. He had a solid, workmanlike performance tonight, including stopping Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot (on a terrible call on what should've been treated as an excellent play by Victor Hedman).
9:15 TB Hedman (5), (Thompson, Johnson)
12:16 TB Palat (4), (Hedman, Sustr)(SH)
5:00 TBL Hedman (6), (Purcell, Filppula)(PP)
18:07 PHI Lecavalier (9), (Schenn, Streit)(PP)
18:47 PHI Mark Streit (1), (Giroux)
19:26 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)(EN)
Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. Palat was robbed.
Obviously there was a very strange dynamic at play with Vincent Lecavaier's first game back in Tampa since leaving the organization. That probably contributed to a strange First Period where neither team played terribly good hockey. The Lightning had more possession, partly because of some awful turnovers by Philly, but the Lightning also got away with some mistakes that could've gotten a lot worse for them had Philly been on. Coming out of the First Intermission, though, the Lightning took the game by the throat and dominated for the next 37 minutes of the game before some late stumbles that made the game more interesting than it should have been. I have no doubt that Jon Cooper will be pleased with the 35-21 shot advantage in the contest, and I also have no doubt he'll enjoy using those last 2 Flyers goals in garbage time as a teaching tool for his young team about making sure they finish off games. Actually, the more I think about it, Jon Cooper is probably pinching himself his team only gave up 21 shots and precious few scoring chances with Radko Gudas still out of the lineup.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Victor Hedman basically took over the middle part of this game. On both sides of the puck he was everywhere. Defense. Offense. He was the best player on the ice. I'll remind everyone that in the year he was drafted, some scouting services like Red Line Report went so far as to say Hedman was a prospect with potential that exceeded even that of Steven Stamkos from the draft class previous. It takes longer for defensemen to adjust to the NHL than it does for forwards because the position demands more maturity and a more cerebral approach than playing forward. If Hedman's starting to lift up to the lofty potential that scouts saw in him when he was drafted, watch out. If he becomes a true, dominant #1 NHL defenseman it can completely alter the landscape of the team's future for the better.
With back-to-back wins over the Rangers and Flyers coming off Bishop stealing a point in Anaheim, the Lightning checks into the 5th game of this 3rd 10 game segment of the season with 5 points, 7 shy of the 12 you want, at a minimum, in every segment. They're still a little off pace, but it's a strong recovery from the disastrous trip to the West Coast. Pittsburgh on Friday is a tall order, but if they can get a point or two out of that game, you have to like how they've kept their wits about them after their first real adversity of the campaign.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 14:28. I'll give Barberio credit. Yes, he made 3-4 mistakes in his own zone, but he seems to be getting away with them, and we all know he's pretty darn good in the other two zones.
Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +3 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:28. He was also 57% on draws. His speed created the capping empty net goal in the game, and his kid line continues to consistently be a bright spot for the team regardless of how the rest of the club is performing.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and was 40% on draws in 17:09. Quit taking minor penalties. Bloody hell, you're a Harvard graduate. You're allegedly smarter than this.
Ondrej Palat had a shorthanded goal and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:12. My man deserved a star tonight. His work to hustle the Flyers under extra attacker duress created the pass/bobble that led to Johnson's empty net goal. That one of those hidden assists you don't find on the scoresheet, but it'll be there when the coach's evaluate this game.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:08. He was absolutely robbed blind on a bid in the First Period by Ray Emery. He was less of a factor after that.
Nikita Kucherov had 6 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:56. Yes, he got the goal in his first game, but that was just a decent game for Kucherov overall. Tonight, he was a whole other step above that even if he didn't get the result on the scoresheet. He had 5 scoring chances by himself, should've had a 6th on a breakaway where I think his eyes got a little big and he bobbled away the puck, and he set up 1-2 more scoring chances for linemates like Purcell passing the puck, too. I'm not sure I've ever seen a prospect come up and be this quick/decisive with the puck, offensively. He gets the puck and it's either immediately gone via a pass or gone full steam on a hard shot on net. Earlier in his career there might've been the critique that he overhandled the puck, which is a typical Russian stereotype, but I haven't detected that at all in this callup. Additionally, he seems very motivated to stay in the NHL and he's backchecking like a mad man. That last part has to make the Lightning organization the most excited of all. They've really gotten Nikita to buy into playing on the other side of the puck to win back possession and help keep it out of the back of his own 4x6, and that's how a good player becomes a championship caliber player. If he keeps playing like he did tonight, I don't see how he could, in all good conscience, be sent back down to the AHL. That's how good he was tonight.
Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:01. I loves me some Andrej Sustr. I have to think he's one of the bigger reasons for how well the Lightning performed defensively tonight, absorbing some of Gudas' share of the ice time and looking incredibly poised doing it. The Flyers are a team that likes to run at people and that can rattle young players. There was no shrinking violet under pressure by Sustr tonight, though. He moved the puck smartly regardless of whether he was going to take a bump or not. Very mature.
Richard Panik was +1 with 1 hit in 14:02. Honestly, I thought he was a bit of a passenger tonight on the line with Palat and Johnson. You'd like to see him catch up to Palat and Johnson's level of play and start contributing, because if he does that line will go from good to great in a hurry.
Tampa Bay celebrates Marty1k Night in style.
Ben Bishop stopped all 37 shots he faced for the victory. There was no doubt the Lightning were loosey goosey defensively in the First and Second Periods, due a lot to the absence of Radko Gudas, but Bishop is the big eraser of mistakes. His First Period glove stop on Stralman will make highlight reels, for sure. Another night where U of Maine Justice was served.
2:12 TB Kucherov (1), (Purcell, Brewer)
3:10 TB St. Louis (9), (Filppula, Hedman)
3:12 TB St. Louis (10) , (Filppula, Sustr)
16:52 TB Purcell (6), (unassisted)
18:59 TB Purcell (7), (St. Louis, Alex Killorn)
Life is good when you have a true number one goaltender. You give Bishop a few goals of support to work with and he's going to get you across the finish line on most nights. The Lightning did a decent enough job keeping the really heinous odd man rushes and breakaways out of their game, and even though they were loose in their own end and allowed a ton of shots, it was enough. All that said, I wouldn't want a steady diet of it and I hope Gudas returns very, very soon.
The Kucherov goal was a nice story, especially on this website, but it was gravy and not meat and potatoes. The meat and potatoes story of the night was that Marty and Purcell each had a pair of goals. Those two getting on track is what has to happen for the Lightning to stay in the hunt until #91's return. Silky smooth hands by Martin St. Louis on his two breakaway goals. I'd expect nothing less if the Swedish Battletank, Fredrik Modin, made the trek down to the game, as he did tonight.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. He's not going to ever be confused for Scott Stevens in his own third, but if he cuts down the really poor turnovers, the Lightning may be able to live with him.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 18:38 and was 75% on draws. Home cooking agrees with Tyler's faceoff percentage.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +3 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 14:13. He was also 25% on draws. It's a decent stat line, but the number of penalties he's taking won't cut it.
Ondrej Palat had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 19:23. Excellent on the penalty kill. Excellent on one or two occasions carrying the puck for entry into the offensive zone on the PP. He's quietly a backbone type player on the lower lines.
J.T. Brown was +2 with 2 shots and 3 hits in 16:45. His speed allows him to be very active in the play and he's got a quick release that he isn't afraid to use. He's been a nice fit getting some scoring line and PP minutes.
Kucherov scored his first NHL goal on his first NHL shot on his first NHL shift. Efficiency. He was also +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:31. You got a taste of his talents tonight, with a quick, hard release on his goal and a quick, crafty setup to Teddy Purcell that nearly amounted to a helper. That was the good. The nitpick side points out he got away with one offensive zone penalty that sprung Purcell on his first goal and he probably got away with another offensive zone penalty later in the game. I don't know if the refs had great dinner reservations they didn't want to miss, but both teams got away with bloody murder in the offensive zone in the second half of tonight's game.
Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 21:44. He recovered from a pretty terrible shift early in the First Period to have a decent night lugging big minutes in Gudas' absence.
Richard Panik had 2 shots in 14:35.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 5 penalty minutes in 0:38 of ice time. He left the game with an upper body injury after his second shift.
In the wake of the rash of injuries suffered in yesterday afternoon's game in Boston, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced they recalled RW J.T. Brown and D Dmitry Korobov from Syracuse of the AHL. Brown and Korobov are two of the team's older, more tenured prospects in the system and both will look to get an opportunity to test their progress against NHL competition. Here's what to expect from each player:
Lightning fans should be a little familiar with J.T. Brown given he had a short 5-game stint with the Lightning in the 2011-2012 campaign after signing as a free agent out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Brown has exceptional speed, above average skill, and willingness to stick his nose in on the forecheck despite possessing a slightly built frame. He looked to have a spot in Tampa Bay heading into the 2012-2013 season before the lockout and injury problems took his career track on a detour. Playing in Syracuse, Brown has since adopted to more of a two-way role playing on a checking line with Mike Angelidis in last year's deep playoff run, and in a complimentary winger's role as his alter ego, "J.T. Brownov," playing alongside Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov on the Crunch's top line so far this year. His grit and heavy shot are assets on that line. Brown's selection may mean that Alex Killorn will slide over to center and also signals that Jon Cooper may choose a more defensive-minded, two-way approach to dealing with the team's post-Stamkos injury reality.
Dmitry Korobov (pictured) will be looking to get his first taste of NHL action after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2012. Prior to joining the Lightning organization, the Belarusian Korobov gained a significant amount of experience playing for Dinamo Minsk in Russia's KHL. Last year, Korobov played on the top-two pairings for Syracuse for much of the season, and with Syracuse's youth movement along the blueline he's taken on an even greater role this year with the Crunch. Standing at 6'3" 230 lbs, Korobov's most obvious assets are his size and strength. He does not shy away from the physical game and does enjoy pursuing the big hit. He also has underrated puck-moving skills as demonstrated by the 22 points he put up with Syracuse last year to go along with a very solid +20 rating. Like Radko Gudas, Korobov is a fan of the hip-check. Korobov's weaknesses are that his skating, while adequate, sometimes suffers from sloppy footwork in his stop-starts and pivots and like any young defenseman, his decision-making sometimes isn't 100% spot-on. With the Lightning's lack of depth at this particular position, and Mark Barberio and Keith Aulie already struggling to begin with, Korobov has a golden opportunity right now to move up the depth chart quickly and make his case to stay in the NHL.
Unfortunately, some real Stammergeddon in Boston.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He actually played quite well, which sadly will be overshadowed by everything else that happened today. With that said, though, goaltending just became that much more important for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
17:09 BOS Bergeron (6), (Eriksson, Krug)
17:29 BOS Paille (2), (Campbell, Bartkowski)
19:01 BOS Iginla (4), (Lucic, Krejci)(EN)
For those who missed it, Steven Stamkos ran into one of the goalposts behind Anders Lindback in the Second Period and broke his right tibia. He is out indefinitely and early scuttlebutt ranges from Stamkos being out until as early as February or as long as 9 months. In addition, Sami Salo and Keith Aulie also left the game with injuries. Shortly after Steven Stamkos was stretchered off the ice, Boston struck for 2 goals while the Lightning were still in a state of shock. Really, the game wasn't even secondary at that point, given everything that had transpired. It's a shame, because after a rough First Period the Lightning looked poised to possibly steal a point or two, but Boston remains a house of horrors for the club.
What happens next? How do you replace Steven Stamkos?
You don't. You don't replace one of the three best forwards in the league and the NHL's most consistent goal scorer. You can't. You invariably have to take an even more disciplined team approach to defense and you have to rely even more on your goaltending to try to help win games. Unfortunately, if Sami Salo is also down for any period of time, that's an even more difficult task to pull off.
How do you score enough goals to win?
There are four players, on the immediate roster, that will be counted on to step up. One, in particular, should be looked to the most. It's time for Teddy Purcell to become a star. Whether he moves to the top line or not, whether he stays at wing or moves to center, Teddy Purcell will be asked to become one of the offensive leaders of this team. Supporting his efforts, the Lightning need more goals from three youngsters who are capable of ~20 goals a piece, talent-wise: Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, and Tyler Johnson.
Who gets called up? How do lines shuffle?
There might be zero changes to the roster. There might be several. The Lightning have a high degree of flexibility, and also there are a lot of variables without knowing the degree to which Salo and Aulie are hurt. At forward, you could see the Lightning attempt to roll with what they have. Purcell and Alex Killorn have both played center in earlier lives and could conceivably slide back into that position. Expanded roles for Panik and Connolly could also be in the offing. If not, the two most obvious recalls would be Vladislav Namestnikov or Nikita Kucherov. Namestnikov, obviously, would be a 1-to-1 replacement at the center position. He's not a 1-to-1 replacement for Stamkos as a goal scorer though, as Namestnikov is more of a playmaker as a finisher. If a sniper is more desirable, Kucherov better fits the bill. Another, more improbable, option could be the emergency recall of Jonathan Drouin. Emergency recalls of junior players have been done in the past, such as when Calgary recalled Sven Baertschi a few seasons ago. The emergency recall rules are very narrowly defined in terms of when they can be used and very strict about when the recalled player must be returned to junior. An early read of the rules indicates it requires 2 players to already be up from the minors on emergency recall and that it requires the player to be returned to junior immediately once players get healthy again. With Pyatt already on IR, Stamkos about to go on IR, and Salo and/or Aulie possibly about to go on IR, there might be enough of a MASH unit developing to allow an emergency recall. However, the allowable duration of Drouin's recall would be questionable and the Lightning would also probably want to limit his emergency recall to under 9 games to avoid burning a year of his contract. So, recalling Drouin is probably a longshot at best, but in moments like this all options should be on the table.
On defense, with Matt Taormina currently injured, the outlook for recalls is bleak. The Lightning may well be stuck with increasing playing time for Andrej Sustr and/or Mark Barberio in the absence of any good alternatives. Were the injuries to be extreme enough, the Lightning could conceivably sign JP Cote to an NHL contract or consider cup-of-coffee auditions for the likes of Dmitry Korobov, but these scenarios seem less likely than the Lightning attempting to move forward with the defensemen they have.
How do the lines shake out? Again, there are a ton of options. My thought, upon further reflection, is Teddy Purcell almost has to go up to the top line to play with Martin St. Louis, whether that's with Filppula or Killorn at center or Purcell himself moving to center. From there, the second line almost has to become even more of a kid line, featuring Filppula, Johnson, or Killorn at center and likely featuring Connolly, Palat, or Panik on the wings. I don't foresee a return to the scoring line ranks of Ryan Malone, but we shall see.
Radko Gudas had 5 shots, 7 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:48.
Johnson had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:12.
Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 23:07.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:02.
Sustr had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:43.
Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 18:22.
In closing, in an attempt to cheer up our readers, I'll leave you with the tale of another injured center, who went on to found a hockey franchise in Florida, who was abducted from a hospital room in Boston. It's one of the funniest hockey stories ever told, and involves plot line elements like Bobby Orr, a broken hospital bed, and a block of smelly provolone cheese. It seemed oddly appropriate to be retold today. Enjoy, and get well soon, Steven Stamkos.