Goaltending makes the difference.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 24 shots for the loss. At the end of the day, he's simply not an NHL goaltender. Winnipeg has a decent NHL goaltender in Pavelec, and that was the difference between winning and losing tonight. It was an incredibly tough spot to put Cedrick in starting him after the coaching change and the Lightning got about what I expected from it.
14:02 WPG Little (5), (Wheeler)
02:35 WPG Byfuglien (6), (Wheeler, Little)(PP)
06:20 TB Stamkos (22), (St. Louis, Salo)(PP)
09:35 WPG Enstrom (3), (Ladd, Little)
05:01 TB Conacher (9), (Brewer)
Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.
Now we move on to the elephant in the room, which is the question of who will be the next Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let me make this plain: it would be incredibly foolish to select anyone other than Jon Cooper to coach this team. If there is any prejudice against AHL coaches because of Guy Boucher's inability to sustain the success he had early in his tenure, it should be tempered by the fact Cooper has achieved far more in his AHL career than Boucher ever managed. Where Boucher's Hamilton team fell in the AHL Finals, Cooper has won a Calder Cup with Norfolk and set historic records in the process He also, against all odds, has Syracuse in first in the Eastern Conference despite losing his best players to callup. He's done so without teams flush with top-60 draft picks, either. Take a look at the players the Lightning have brought up from Syracuse. Other than Panik, none of them were selected in the top-60, and Conacher and Johnson were undrafted free agents. And yet, they're in the NHL. Why? Partly because Jon Cooper has taught them to play the game the right way, and to maximize the talent that they have. Indeed, they are the living embodiment of Jon Cooper's resume. They backcheck well and are defensively responsible. They play with physical edge. They hustle their bags off. Above all, they're winners.
They, along with young stars Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, are the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And there are even more of Jon Cooper's players on the way up to the NHL. Brett Connolly, at a minimum, will join the team, and there are several others who will also be knocking on the door as well. If the next few years are destined to be played out by Jon Cooper's kids, does it not make sense that Jon Cooper should be the one to lead them? Not an NHL retread. Not another team's AHL coach, who does not nearly have the same record as Cooper or the unbelievable rapport Cooper has with the organization's young future stars. And with Andrej Sustr on his way to Tampa Bay next week and a top-10 pick looking to be in the offing this June, who better than Cooper, who we gave the monicker The Rookie Whisperer last year with Norfolk, to break them into the pro game?
My deep hope is that Steve Thomas being behind the bench tonight in Winnipeg along with Boucher's assistants was a tell. I hope it's a clear indicator that Jon Cooper is on the way. And, if he is, I have no doubt the future is very bright and the Lightning will be back as one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference very, very soon.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:27.
Tyler Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:47. He was also 47% on draws.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:30. Holy God is he hard on the puck though. You better bring a SAM missile if you want to knock him off of it once he's got it.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:13.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 19:51.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 5:04 before leaving with the dreaded upper-body injury.
Cory Conacher had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots in 14:24.
That's seven Tampacuse players. Plus Aulie. That's over a third of the team's skaters. This is such a no-brainer decision, and it needs to be made correctly tomorrow before the Lightning can begin to climb again toward greatness.
Same garbage. Different day.
12:49 OTT Silfverberg (8), (Methot)
14:29 OTT Gryba (1), (Turris, Methot)
17:01 OTT Latendresse (4), (Silfverberg, Zibanejad)
19:50 OTT Alfredsson (7), (Wiercioch, Gonchar)(PP)
11:37 TB Johnson (2), (Brewer, Panik)
13:53 TB Johnson (3), (Carle)
18:01 TB Purcell (7), (Hedman, Salo)
19:39 OTT Alfredsson (8), (Turris, Greening)(EN)
Tyler Johnson was the game's third star.
It was like a replay of the Toronto game. The Lightning came out strong. They had some chances and some zone time in Ottawa's end but couldn't cash in. Brain farts turn into goals. One or two goals become a four goal lead for the bad guys. Next thing you know the team's in garbage time where it seems like the veterans have checked out and only the Tampacuse kids are doing work. It's something that needs to be corrected. There's still 17 games left to go, and if veterans are already mentally checked out and making tee times, they need to be gone from this organization at the deadline. Period. Point blank.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 5 hits in 18:37.
Johnson had 2 goals and was +1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 16:10. He was also 70% on draws. He's doing everything he needs to do right now to ink his name onto Tampa's roster for next season.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +2 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:45. He was impactful in his return to the team, hitting a post in the First Period, being active physically, and getting a helper in the final frame. It was really fun to see Palat/Johnson/Panik getting to play together in the NHL and they looked like their chemistry definitely translated to the show.
Ondrej Palat was +1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:21.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:54.
End of the road?
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Anders Lindback relieved Garon and allowed 1 on 8 shots, but left with the dreaded lower body injury in the Third Period. It's unfortunate considering how well Lindback has played of late.
06:56 TOR Lupul (3), (Kadri, Gunnarsson)
00:52 TOR Phaneuf (5), (Gannarsson, Kadri)
06:53 TOR Bozak (8), (Kessel, Fraser)
07:22 TOR Kulemin (4), (Kadri, Lupul)
07:44 TB Gudas (1), (Labrie, Crombeen)
17:02 TB Conacher (8), (Johnson, St. Louis)
It's hard not to wonder if that Second Period was the death knell for the season. The team actually didn't look that bad, especially in the First Period when Stamkos' line was sort of having their way. But, the passes were just not crisp tonight and that led to turnovers around their own blueline that led to goals against. It's a tale as old as time.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 15:03.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:26.
Ondrej Palat had 3 shots and 4 hits in 14:07.
Radko Gudas had his first NHL goal/point and was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:46. Well done young man.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had a helper for his first NHL point of this season and he was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 9:14.
Cory Conacher had the goal in front of the home area crowd and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:56.
When/if Steve Yzerman makes the decision the playoffs are too improbable for the Lightning, one wonders if players like Johnson, Palat, and Gudas may be ticketed back for Syracuse to get another taste of a deep AHL playoff run in preparation for next season.
Dammit, they're making me love them again.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory.
06:38 TB Palat (2), (Tyrell, Salo)
13:55 PHI Talbot (4), (Meszaros)
17:03 TB Pyatt (6), (Johnson, Hedman)
15:21 PHI Giroux (9), (unassisted)
09:25 TB Purcell (6), (Aulie, Stamkos)
19:57 TB Stamkos (21), (Killorn, St. Louis)(EN)
Ryan Malone and Anders Lindback were the game's first and second stars.
I know they're probably going to just break my heart, but this team is suddenly fun to watch again. The speed and enthusiasm all the young players are bringing to the table has become infectious. And, more to the point, the way the team played in the second half of this game sure did give the impression this team may have finally figured out how to win a close game. There was one forechecking shift by the Thompson/Crombeen line in the Third Period that was as fine a shift as any by the Dingman/Cibak/Afanasenkov line circa 2004.
Alex Killorn had a helper and a shot in 16:16.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +2 with 2 hits in 12:12. He was also 100% on draws again.
Ondrej Palat had the game opening goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 10:24.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and a big 7 hits in 14:51.
Cory Conacher was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 11:09. He almost had a very cool assist late in the game that was called back for playing a puck above his shoulders. Really close play.
And the kids shall lead them...
Mathieu Garon allowed 1 goal on 22 shots for the win in his return from injury.
10:54 TB Johnson (1), (Killorn, Conacher)
06:35 TB Palat (1), (Salo, Johnson)
12:55 TB Thompson (6), (Crombeen, Carle)
03:54 TB Purcell (5), (St. Louis, Hedman)
06:21 CAR E. Staal (13), (Semin)
Lightning fans got a nice little taste of the future tonight. These are quality players the Lightning have brought up from Syracuse, and they have the ability to join with some of the young talent the team already had to be a very competitive and exciting team moving forward. The rest of this year is an opportunity for those players to learn on the job together and lay a foundation for success next season.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 16:33.
Johnson had 1 goal and 1 asisst and was +2 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 8:56. He was also 100% on draws. It was a magical night for the young man, getting his first NHL goal.
Ondrej Palat also got his 1st NHL goal and was +1 with 3 shots in 9:16.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 6 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:03. He's exploded on the scene like a supernova.
Cory Conacher had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 12:30.