Determined Lightning outclass Ottawa.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He had next to no work for the first half of this game, so when Ottawa made their push toward the end of the Second Period he looked a little shaky, particularly on his rebound control. He collected himself and made some key saves at the start of the Third Period to keep the Sens at bay and eventually allow the Lightning to cruise to the win.
2:36 TB Namestnikov (1), (Palat, Stralman)
6:45 TB Stamkos (3), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)(PP)
15:27 OTT Neil (1), (unassisted)
8:02 TB Killorn (4), (Filppula, Garrison)
18:03 TB Filppula (3), (Point)
The Lightning showed me something tonight after a bit of a clunker last time out against Colorado. They came into this game... maybe not grumpy... but certainly determined to get the bad taste of that match out of their mouths. They completely dominated the First Period and most of the Second Period to build a 2-0 lead. In the future, you'd hope they'd build up that 3-0 lead to make things easy on themselves, but they did give Ottawa a couple of power plays that allowed the Senators to build some momentum and make a game of it cutting the lead to 2-1. The Lightning showed composure, though, and eventually reasserted their dominance and eventually turned the game into a laugher.
Side note: Stamkos' power play goal was a textbook example of what I was clamoring for last season and what Washington does so well: create a pressure point with Kucherov and Namestinkov on the opposite side of the ice from Stamkos' circle, and allow Steve to drift to the open spots/seams for easy goals away from the play. That's how you make this power play unstoppable if you don't have a quality righty point man who scares people.
Halfway through the opening 10 game segment of the season, Tampa Bay has a brisk 8 points. They need just 4 over the next 5 games to stay on minimum playoff pace. When you get off to a hot start like this, though, it's a perfect opportunity to put the hammer down and bank some insurance points to cover any potential bumps in the road as the season drags on.
Brayden Point had a helper and was +2 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:35.
Clunker to cap opening homestand.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 16 shots for the loss. First goal was a breakaway where the shooter got their own rebound. The second was a perfect tip. The third was a crazy bounce off the corner boards. The fourth was a perfect shot by Soderberg. I can't throw Bishop under the bus for this.
19:35 COL Duchene (1), (MacKinnon, Tyutin)
19:08 COL Duchene (2), (Wiercioch, Grigorenko)
7:53 COL Martinsen, (Colborne, Wiercioch)
12:22 COL Soderberg (2), (Duchene, Zadorov)
Colorado played about as good a game defensively as they're capable of and the Lightning were just a hair off offensively and that was a recipe for frustration tonight. Then you had a badly bouncing puck result in the breakaway for Colorado's first goal and another crazy bounce off the corner boards result in their third goal, so they had some luck to go with their other two goals, which were opportunistic. I can't really get overly upset about a little bad luck considering the Lightning stole 3-4 points in the first few games of the homestand. Chalk up tonight as things evening up and move on. Things have gotten a little stale with this many home games stacked to start the year, so it's probably a good thing the team is going to hit the road now and shake things up a little bit and do a little more team building. That should be a good thing.
Brayden Point had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:34.
Lightning thieve a win, twice.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 31 shots before mastering his five-hole problem to stop 5 of 6* in penalty shot session for the SO win. He's still not completely on top of his game, but he's rounding into form.
2:38 FLA Sceviour (2), (MacKenzie)(SH)
6:18 TB Killorn (3), (Kucherov)
16:21 TB Palat (1), (Stamkos, Drouin)
5:26 FLA Trocheck (2), (Jokinen, Smith)
15:52 FLA Matheson (1), (McKegg, Demers)
19:54 TB Stamkos (2), (Hedman, Filppula)
TB- Drouin, Point
Overall, the Lightning probably didn't deserve the points tonight, but considering the travesty that unfolded in the Shootout, I can't say justice wasn't served. First off, let's repeat this as many times as it takes for the Lightning to get it into their heads: hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. Tampa Bay is playing this unsustainable game of taking periods off and they're managing to escape with their lives, but eventually this will catch up to them. Their puck management and overall effort level in the Third Period was shambolic, and their performance on the 4-on-3 power play in the Overtime session was nothing short of an absolute embarrassment. It took a perfect Steven Stamkos one-timer from an impossible angle with the extra attacker for the Lightning to get a point in this one. That's a one in a million shot. You're not getting another one of those "Get Out of Jail For Free" cards this year.
Once the game got into the Shootout, the NHL once again reasserted its long-standing unstated policy that the Tampa Bay Lightning can, will, and almost always will be shafted if a play goes to video replay. I never in my life thought I'd see a call worse than when Zdeno Chara batted in a puck at his eye level in Boston and the league dared to say his stick wasn't above the crossbar. That used to be the gold star standard of awful video replay decisions, besting a prestigious list of candidates that included the Mike Smith "thrown stick" automatic Shootout goal and the old Brendan Shanahan play at MSG where he covered a puck with his glove that was completely over the goal no-goal call. There's a new face on Mount Rushmore, so move aside for Vincent Trocheck scoring* on a SO attempt where he completely lost control of the puck on a deke to his forehand, whiffed on a shot attempt, the puck drifted back diagonally after the whiff, and as the ref was waving off the play and Bishop was casually strolling out of his crease to celebrate Trocheck shot the retrieved puck into the open side. It's like every once in a while the league is bound and determined to smack the Lightning in the face with a decision that is so blatantly awful and slanted that you can't help but get a persecution complex about it. Nobody's THAT incompetent, right? There HAS to be an agenda, right?
So, the Lightning managed to refocus and got the win when young Brayden Point coolly buried the dagger a second time in Panther Nation's sad little hearts (all three of them). Given the circumstances, I felt a lot less dirty about stealing the points. Aw heck, it was the Panthers. I never feel bad about stealing little brother's lunch money. Why lie?
It made for a happy ending to Vincent Lecavalier night. A word about Vincent: I own a lot of Lightning jerseys, but there's only one Lightning player whose jersey I own, and that's Vinny's. He easily occupies a spot among my personal all-time favorite Lightning players beside the likes of John Cullen and big Freddy Modin. Vinny's career in Tampa Bay and his relationship with the fan base was a complicated one. In many ways, I look at Vinny like the Lightning's first born child. Phil Esposito certainly, desperately tried to hype the Lightning first number one overall pick, Roman Hamrlik, as its first real franchise player. But, as good a player as Hamrlik was, we all knew smoke was being blown when comparisons to Raymond Bourque were being made. Many years passed before the Lightning got another crack at the top pick, and it was very obvious almost immediately that Vincent Lecavalier was the real deal franchise player that Tampa Bay hadn't really had to that point in the franchise's existence. And, to his credit, he didn't run away from those expectations even when the going got tough, or publicly pout or pull the ripcord and run out the door to Montreal or some other city where he wasn't being asked to be the main guy to grow a culture of winning from scratch. Was Vinny perfect? No. His defensive game was inconsistent, at best, much to the chagrin of John Tortorella for a great many years and he was routinely abused on faceoffs early in his career. No one would ever accuse him of being the second coming of Mark Messier in the natural born leadership department either.
His time in Tampa Bay, despite whatever faults he had, was still unbelievably impressive. Twelve straight seasons of 20 goals or more between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, before a strike shortened season finally killed an impressive streak of consistency that underlined his talent and professionalism. He was a key cog on the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship and made the two critical assists on the goals that sealed Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Final that year. A few years later he emerged for a brief time as the most dominant player in the sport scoring 52 goals and 108 points en route to winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007. He may have stayed at that level were it not for a cheap shot and a shoulder surgery that robbed us of seeing more of Vinny in his prime. Still, he was a productive asset to the organization and the city and in 2010-2011 he narrowly missed laying the cap stone of his Lightning legacy when the Lightning fell just short in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. Lecavalier was brilliant in that playoff season, scoring 6 goals and 19 points in 18 games during that run. He darned near single-handedly ripped out the Washington Capitals' hearts in the second round of the playoffs that year, and we can only speculate what would have happened if the Lightning had just found a couple more goals against the Bruins, or hadn't squandered a game or two early in the series when they outplayed the B's and didn't get the result. The Lightning, under Lecavalier's captaincy, likely would've gone on to defeat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final and he possibly would've gone on to win the Conn Smyth Trophy in the process, completing his resume and sealing his place as the face of the Lightning franchise forever. Alas, it wasn't meant to be (of all the close calls in Lightning history, including the last two seasons, that year's playoff run is the one I'll take to my grave as the bitterest pill to swallow), and as time went by and Lecavalier struggled against father time, elements of the fan base were left feeling unfulfilled.
Part of it, I think, was that Lecavalier is in many ways a renaissance man with hobbies and interests outside of hockey. Personally, I respect him for it, but for the devoted, rabid fans of a franchise it can be difficult to see their franchise player concentrating on anything other than the sport. No, Vincent wasn't the perfect franchise player, but he was OUR franchise player and in my opinion you have to measure his success or failure by one metric only: did he make the franchise relevant? Yes he did.
And, as a human being, nobody could ever be frustrated with Vinny's ultimate commitment to the community when in 2007 he gifted All Children's Hospital with a $3 million dollar donation to build its Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in St. Petersburg, long before the the PK Subbans and Jeff Viniks of the world made that kind of philanthropy the cool thing to do in hockey circles. This is a man who grew up in Tampa Bay and comported himself with class and dignity through both successes and failures. A perfect man? No. He wasn't "The Micheal Jordan of Hockey," but he was a pretty darn good man on all levels, and isn't that the kind of people you wish to build a community with, after all?
Point had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:42 and scored the winning goal in the Shootout session.
Lightning overcome another sluggish start to advance to 2-0-0.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. Both goals allowed were redirections, and he showed a lot of maturity after getting down on a couple of quick early goals. The really good ones shut the door the rest of the way when they get in that situation, and that's what Andrei did tonight. He was strong on his angles and wasn't giving New Jersey anything to shoot at and his rebound control was strong, as well. It was a really solid season debut.
0:52 NJ Palmieri (1), (Moore)
4:26 NJ Zajac (1), (Parenteau)
7:53 TB Stamkos (1), (Palat, Drouin)
10:07 TB Killorn (1), (Kucherov, Johnson)
5:43 TB Filppula (2), (Garrison, Point)
Glass half full: Yet another resilient effort where the Lightning stayed the course, got it together, and eventually pulled off the win. The Lightning got goals from three different lines tonight and they have nine goals from eight different goal scorers so far this season. Balance is a good thing. And, as mentioned, Vasilveskiy was solid.
Glass half empty: Spotting opponents two goal leads to start the game isn't sustainable. I think the Lightning, psychologically, come out a little too comfortable in these home games with the attitude that, because of their talent, it'll be more of a coronation than a contest. They haven't paid the price for it thus far this year, but eventually they will. Bottom line, hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
Two games down, four points earned. The Lightning need at least eight points in the next eight games to establish postseason pace.
Brayden Point had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 5 shots and 1 hit in 15:09. He keeps putting 5 on net every night and he'll have that first NHL goal soon, too.
Lightning come from behind to win a game that could be defined as both "wild" and "wooly."
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, but still got the win. He'll be burning the tape of that performance. He had a less than artful effort trying to handle a puck flipped at him from below the goal line on Detroit's first goal, an awful rebound allowed on a slow, change up point shot on Detroit's third goal, and a ridiculously unlucky ricochet on a center ice shot off the corner boards and into his net for Detroit's fourth goal. He owes his guys in front of him a steak dinner. Well, all but Nesterov, perhaps.
3:12 DET Vanek (1), (Zetterberg, Nielsen)(PP)
8:26 DET Vanek (2), (Nyquist)
7:33 TB Drouin (1), (Killorn, Hedman)
8:18 DET Nielsen (1), (Green, Larkin)
13:05 TB Paquette (1), (unassisted)
3:17 TB Boyle (1), (Paquette)
8:34 TB Johnson (1), (Stamkos, Palat)(PP)
16:50 TB Killorn (1), (Drouin, Hedman)(PP)
17:55 DET DeKeyser (1), (Green, Helm)
18:39 TB Filppula (1), (unassisted)(EN)
Glass half empty: Ben Bishop looked unusually awful in tonight's opener while Nikita Nesterov had an embarrassing turnover that led to Detroit's second goal and took a holding call at a critical juncture in the Third Period that he's very lucky didn't jump up and bite the team. Bishop and Nesterov put the Lightning behind the eight ball and it took a horrific softie gift returned by Mrazek on Paquette's goal to give the Lightning the lifeline to turn the game around.
Glass half full: Good Lord, the Lightning may have a bona fide power play this season. Jon Cooper finally swallowed his pride and made the decision to delegate control of the PP to new assistant Todd Richards this offseason, and it yielded instant dividends in the form of 3-for-6 performance tonight. Also, while it's true to say the Lightning needed Mrazek's softie as a lifeline to climb back into the game, it's also fair to say that if you put Bishop and Nesterov's mistakes aside the Lightning controlled possession and had the better of the chances over the entire balance of the sixty minutes. They were, ultimately, the better team on the ice.
Overall, the Lightning showed some resiliency and maturity over the course of this one to eventually earn the 2 points. And so, we begin again with our trusty old 12 in 10 rule. The Lightning need to get at least 12 points in every 10 game segment of the season to be on pace to make the postseason tournament. Good win, but they know they've now got to get 10 points in the next 9 games to stay on track. You can't get too high or too low. Just mind your 12 in 10 and then do it again.
Brayden Point was -1 with 1 shot in 16:12. He looked very good in his NHL debut. He had good top end speed, looked dangerous offensively including nearly beating DeKeyser one on one on the rush for a goal, and I thought he looked surprisingly strong along the wall on the forecheck for a player his size. He certainly didn't look out of place on a very good, elite Lightning club, that's for sure.
Lightning concludes the preseason with an offensive outburst.
7:29 NSH Smith (1), (Bitetto, Granberg)
9:59 TB Nesterov (1), (Point, Drouin)(PP)
13:27 NSH Smith (2), (Subban)
16:18 TB Point (1), (Stamkos, Nesterov)
2:32 TB Drouin (1), (Stamkos, Palat)
6:43 TB Johnson (1), (Stralman, Stamkos)(PP)
13:12 TB Palat (1), (Drouin)
13:20 NSH Wilson (1), (Gaudreau)
Steven Stamkos and Brayden Point were the game's first and second stars. Point continues to produce in an extended look which may continue on into the regular season thanks to Nikita Kucherov's ongoing contractual impasse.
Point had 1 goal and 1 assist with 3 shots in 13:58 of ice time.
Joel Vermin was -1 with 1 shot in 14:07.
Lightning miss a second straight preseason shutout by an eyelash.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 28 shots for the OT win. The lone blemish was a goal surrendered in a 6-on-4 situation with 1:05 left in regulation. If the performances of the past two nights by Gudlevskis and Vasilevskiy are any indication, Yzerman might have the flexibility he needs if he does choose to move Ben Bishop for cap reasons.
5:21 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Nesterov)[/b]
18:55 CAR Skinner (2), (DiGiuseppe, Rask)
1:38 TB Palat (1), (unassisted)
Very interesting lineup tonight from the Lightning and a pleasantly surprising performance. Tonight's group mixed in more NHL forwards, at least on the wings, but they pretty much went with Syracuse's defensive corps plus Nikita Nesterov, who may be a bubble player in this camp. It helps when you have Vasilevskiy behind you, but to almost get a shutout with that group is not too shabby.
Brayden Point had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 16:09. He was also 33% on 9 draws. Sorry, son, you don't get to score a goal every game.
Cam Darcy had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:31 and was 30% on 10 draws. PLEASE, Jeff Halpern, teach these kids to win faceoffs.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:44.
Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 14:02. For a guy who didn't score, his stat line still looks quite active, I have to say.
Henri Ikonen had 1 blocked shot in 14:15. The window is closing on the young Finn.
Brian Hart had 4 hits in 10:14. He then hit someone with an aluminum chair and put them in the Sharpshooter.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots in 21:10. He's not giving any quarter in camp to anybody.
Dominik Masin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 19:55.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 19:46.
Dylan Blujus had 3 blocked shots in 19:29.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 19:10.
Syracuse Crunch clamp down on Panthers B squad.
Kristers Gudlevskis stopped all 21 shots he faced for the shutout victory. This is an excellent start for a netminder who just got a prove it contract who may have an NHL backup opportunity looming in his future once the Lightning sort out their starting situation up top.
3:54 TB Morin (1), (unassisted)
14:48 TB Point (2), (Morin, Bournival)
Gudlevskis, Jeremy Morin, and Slater Koekkoek were the game's three stars. Kudos to the Lightning equipment guys for having the sense of humor to stick Morin in #33. He's one letter away from being a Lightning all-timer. Made me double-take, for certain.
If the Lightning preseason opener was a showcase for the team's junior prospects, tonight was an opportunity for many prospects earmarked for the Syracuse Crunch. And, on first blush, I'd think new coach Benoit Groulx will be pleased with what he saw tonight.
Matthew Peca had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 19:37. 90% on 10 draws is pleasing to the eye. I remain convinced that for Syracuse to go anywhere, Peca's going to have to become a big time AHL player. He'll have a little more help this season with Brayden Point in Syracuse, but as an older and more experienced guy, he's one I suspect needs to become one of the leaders for the Crunch.
Tanner Richard had 2 hits in 16:49. 13% on 8 draws is a little cringe-worthy stat line on draws. He's on the clock now to make a push and earn a look in the NHL. Not sure he really flashed enough tonight.
Brayden Point had his second goal in as many games and was +2 with 3 shots in 14:02. He was also 45% on 11 draws. The Lightning are already trying to tamp down expectations because they know Point needs seasoning and experience, but his raw talent is undeniable.
Yanni Gourde had 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots in 16:58.
Mike Halmo had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 11:48.
Gabriel Dumont had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:57.
Daniel Walcott had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:43.
Dylan Blujus had 3 shots and 4 blocked shots in 18:34. Blujus is a guy who somewhat falls into the same boat as Richard. He needs to start making a push to challenge Witkowski to become the Lightning's first righty callup from Syracuse.
Jake Dotchin was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:48.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 in 16:40. The Lightning have played Koekkoek in both games, which is telling, but they've also resolved not to give him a gigantic load of minutes in these games as they might've been tempted to do. That tells me they're easing Koekkoek into a marathon rather than putting him through a sprint of a look-see.
Valiant Third Period comeback bid by Junior Lightning gives hope for the future.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 23 shots before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots for ye old backdoor loss. It was a respectable outing for both netminders who get additional time thanks to the World Cup of Hockey.
19:07 CAR Br. Sutter (1), (Foegele)
10:26 CAR Wallmark (1), (Kuokkanen)
11:28 CAR Skinner (1), (Stempniak, Pesce)
11:28 TB Point (1), (Johnson, Hajek)
18:41 TB Imama (1), (Vermin, Cerelli)
Brayden Point was the game's third star.
This is going to be a strange camp/preseason because of it being chopped up by the WCOH. The silver lining is some extra time for potential future contributors like Point, who didn't embarrass themselves tonight. Among those prospects, the ice time was as follows, revealing more who the organization wanted to take a long early look at for the future than who they trust and are thinking about from an NHL roster standpoint for this season...
Brett Howden was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. He was also 44% on 9 draws.
Point had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:38. He was also 57% on 7 draws.
Anthony Cirelli had a helper and 1 shot in 15:36. He was also 39% on 18 draws.
Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 15:19.
Mathieu Joseph had 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:04.
Dennis Yan had 2 penalty minutes in 12:40.
Boko Imama had 1 goal, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 10:28. He also killed 0 Hurricanes with his fists... this time.
Libor Hajek had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in a hefty 20:45.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:59.
Matthew Spencer was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 18:51.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:23.
Finland 6 vs. Canada 5
Brayden Point, Canada, 0-2-2, E, 0 PIM, 4 SOG
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 1-4-5, E 0 PIM
Mitchell Stephens, Canada, 0-1-1, E, 0 PIM, 1 SOG
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 1-1-2, -1, 2 PIM
Brayden Point had a pair of Third Period power play helpers to allow Canada to tie home standing Finland at 5-5, but 17 year old Patrik Laine scored on a two many advantage with less than 6 minutes to go to lift Finland to the 6-5 win. Laine had 2 goals and 3 points in the match while fellow 17 year old Jesse Puljujarvi had 3 assists. Both forwards are expected to go high in this June's NHL Entry Draft.
USA 7 vs. Czech Republic 0
Dominik Masin, Czech Republic, 0-0-0, -2, 0 PIM, 2 SOG
Tournament totals: 5 GP, 1-1-2, -2, 0 PIM
Dominik Masin was -2 as USA steamrolled Czech Republic 7-0. Masin was named one the the Czech's three best players of the tournament following the match. Team USA was paced by a hat trick by Auston Matthews, who is the presumptive top pick in this June's NHL Entry Draft.
That concludes this year's U20 World Junior Championships for Tampa Bay's prospects.