5-2-0. Nice. Daddy likes.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. Another near shutout for the University of Maine product. He's been damned good, and that instills a lot of confidence in the team in front of him.
14:02 TB Johnson (2), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)
11:05 MIN Koivu (1), (Niederreiter, Suter)
14:56 TB Stamkos (5), (Carle, Gudas)
19:42 TB Salo (1), (unassisted)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.
Solid, solid performance against a very good defensive team. The Lightning really played a smart game, in many cases well beyond their years. To be at 5-2-0 at this point is outstanding. I have 12 points as the target for the first 10 game set of the season. Sitting at 10 points right now, the Lightning have 3 games to try to put at least another couple of points up to make the first 1/8th of the season a verifiable success. It's an outstanding spot to be in, although two challenges lie ahead with Boston and Chicago on their way. Bear in mind, though, if the Lightning get into January in contention for a playoff spot, they're going to be in great shape. Cooper's teams have a penchant for playing well in the second half of the year when it's winning time.
Radko Gudas had a helper, 3 hits, and 6 blocked shots in 16:30. I'm surprised his minutes total was that low, because he looked like he was everywhere tonight, including throwing a massive hip check that drew a retaliation penalty from Minny.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 shots, and was 69% on draws in 17:34. It was his best all around game in a Lightning uniform thus far, including some excellent defensive work in the neutral zone.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:08. He made a great one-on-one play to beat a defender wide to set up one near goal and set up Stamkos on a 2-on-0 that nearly resulted in another goal.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. It was also Palat's finest game in a Lightning uniform thus far. Defensively, he was strong as always, but we saw Palat also at his best in the other two zones, as well. On the forecheck, he sat on the puck well late in the game protecting the lead, and I finally saw one of the aspects of Palat's game that I like the most, which is puck savvy in the neutral zone to carry it out of danger and into the offensive zone. The more he does that, a la Filppula, the more he's a keeper.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 14:11. I thought this was one of Andrej's rougher nights. He was a little Bambi-legged in the First Period and had a couple of giveaways in the D zone. It was an uncharacteristically green performance from the talented rookie.
Richard Panik had an assist and 2 shots in 13:27. He had his moments on the forecheck and the chances are still coming for him. Sooner or later he will pot one and the floodgates will open.
Lightning learn from their mistakes, pummel the Kings.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Kind of sad he didn't get the shutout, but then again, that Kings goal that got waved off absolutely shouldn't have been. Another solid game by Bishop overall. When he's playing well, he's incredibly hard to beat down low. Block the long shots, challenge the stuff in tight and let Bishop work his angles and his mechanics. It's a Brodeur-esque recipe for success with Bishop.
0:19 TB Malone (1), (Salo, St Louis)
12:44 TB Purcell (4), (Palat, Carle)
16:22 TB St Louis (3), (Stamkos, Sustr)
10:27 LA Voynov (1), (Frattin, Stoll)
12:40 TB St Louis (4), (Malone, Stamkos)
18:39 TB Palat (2), (Purcell, Johnson)
You hold your breath and wonder how a young team will respond when they have a disappointing loss like the Lightning did to the Pens. Credit to the coaching staff and the leaders in the locker room for having the team ready to roll tonight. That's the kind of response you like to see, and it portends good things. 3 games into the home stand, the Lightning are 2-1-0 and now have 8 points overall for the season with 4 games left to go before they seal the opening 10 games of the season and move back out onto the road. I had about 12 points being the target for what they needed out of the first 10 game segment of the season, so another big win Thursday against Minnesota would put them in great shape to meet or exceed that goal. Now you just need the team to feel confident but not get too high after stomping a pretty good team. Understand, that Wild game is potentially a very, very big game. Win that and you're playing with house money when you're playing against the likes of Boston and Chicago. Lose it, and you're a little bit behind schedule (it would've really been nice to get points out of the Pittsburgh game).
Radko Gudas had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 6 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:18.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +2 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:07. He was also 64% on draws.
Alex Killorn had 6 shots and 1 hit in 14:28. He absolutely undressed one of the game's best in Drew Doughty off the rush for a near goal.
Ondrej Palat had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:17. That's a man who maximized his minutes. He made the quick play to head man Purcell on Purcell's great one on one goal and was the man on the spot getting a choice chance that he buried off a flubbed Kings clear.
Andrej Sustr got his first NHL point, a helper, and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 16:37. That's where I'd like to see his ice time settle down: 14-18 minutes. Somewhere in there.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 3 hits in 12:49. He had a goal, were it not for Killorn laying across the goal line to keep the puck out. You feel for Richard on that one. You really do.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 hit in 9:56. I counted at least 3 decent scoring chances for Nacho, but his 4th line got caught on the ice too long on LA's only goal.
Disappointing, as the Lightning leave at least 1 point on the ice against a quality opponent.
Anders Lindback allowed 5 goals on 26 shots for the loss. Maybe there were no softies tonight, but the same critique of Lindback applies. Playing a team as good as Pittsburgh, you need your goaltender to be more than, "not the reason you lost." He needs to make key saves at key times and be "one of the reasons you won."
13:25 TB Filppula (4), (Killorn, Panik)
2:14 PIT Crosby (3), (Jokinen, Kunitz)(PP)
5:11 TB Stamkos (4), (St Louis, Hedman)
7:01 PIT Orpik (1), (Dupuis, Kunitz)
15:42 TB Purcell (3), (Salo, St Louis)(PP)
0:25 PIT Crosby (4), (Scuderi, Niskanen)
10:26 PIT Crosby (5), (Jokinen, Malkin)(PP)
16:58 TB Killorn (2), (Panik, Johnson)(PP)
19:41 PIT Niskanen (1), (Malkin, Crosby)(PP)
What a horrific ending to a night that showed so much promise. The Lightning, on balance, played really well for 40 minutes in this game. The team really looked like they were skating well, playing crisp hockey, and looked like they could compete with an elite team like Pittsburgh. And then they came out flat as a pancake in the Third Period. The did manage to fight back to get a late goal to potentially salvage a point, but squandered that with a bad late penalty. It's a tough result for a young team like this to take after doing a lot of good things in this game.
Radko Gudas was -2 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 24:13. I think the minutes he received was more reflective of his play than the minus rating he ended up with.
Tyler Johnson had a helper, 2 shots, 1 hit, and he was 44% on draws in 14:04.
Alex Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist, 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 21:17. Arguably, he was the Lightning's best player tonight.
Ondrej Palat had 3 hits in 11:52.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:19 as the Lightning coaching staff were careful to protect their rookie d-man from the likes of Crosby and Malkin. He played well in the minutes he had, but there was no reason to throw Andrej to the wolves.
Richard Panik had 2 assists, but was also -1 with 2 really bad penalty minutes to go along with 2 hits in 20:46. He's such a frustrating mixed bag. There were some ridiculous neutral zone turnovers, and then he turns around and makes a great hustle play to make up for it. He makes a great pass on the power play to Killorn to make a game tying goal and then takes a lazy, selfish tripping call that allows Pittsburgh to take the win. I'm absolutely torn with Panik, and I suspect the coaching staff is, too. He gets 20+ minutes of ice time and gets to play on the second line and on the PP because he has a wide-ranging skill set that allows him to affect the outcome of a game in numerous ways. Unfortunately, as we saw tonight, his game hasn't ripened yet and some of the ways he can affect a game aren't necessarily positive.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 hits in 4:05. This was probably the least effective game of the year for the 4th line.
Lightning squash Panthers for 2 key points.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the victory. Light work, to be sure, but his stop on an early First Period breakaway was one of those key saves you need in a game. He kept momentum off Florida's bench and helped pave the way for the soul-crushing humiliation yet to come.
8:13 TB St Louis (2), (Stamkos, Purcell)
13:54 TB Stamkos (1), (St Louis, Hedman)(SH)
0:59 FLA Boyes (2, (Campbell, Fleischmann)(PP)
11:39 TB Stamkos (2), (Carle, Malone)
15:51 TB Palat (1), (Killorn, Bishop)
3:48 FLA Huberdeau (1), (Gomez, Versteeg)
6:38 TB Filppula (2), (Carle, Killorn)(PP)
9:14 TB Filppula (3), (Purcell, Salo)
12:25 TB Stamkos (3), (Salo, Purcell)
Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. This was a bigger 2 points than you might think. There's another murderer's row of games coming up over the next 5 games including the last three Stanley Cup champions with LA, Chicago, and Boston in the mix. The Lightning had to have 2 points tonight, and they crushed a chemistry-less Florida team exactly like they needed to.
Radko Gudas was +2 with 1 shot, 8 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:43. With the Lightning holding such a big lead, Gudas was playing with house money in the physical game.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots, 2 hits, and was 63% on draws in 13:59. He looked good on the new line with Purcell and Palat and nearly had a couple of goals. World class speed was on display.
Alex Killorn had 2 assists and was +1 with 2 shots in 17:26. He looked good on the new line combo with Panik and Filppula, facilitating by being the digger who was hard in on the forecheck and also showing some deft passing touch. He could've had even more helpers tonight.
Ondrej Palat had a goal and was +1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in just 10:06. Had a few goal mouth thrills to go with his first tally of the season.
Andrej Sustr was +1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 16:03. Quiet, efficient game in a nice little comfort zone of minutes. I'll take more like those, please, as he continues to settle into the league.
Richard Panik was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 hits in 17:10. Looked good on the forecheck, particularly early. Could've been a little better on Florida's second goal. Overall, it was an improvement. I'd like to see more giddy up in his first step. He looks a little sluggish to me.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 4 penalty minutes,3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:45. Another solid day at the office for the 4th line.
Positive results are huge for a young team.
Ben Bishop was tremendous, stopping 37 of 39 shots before blanking 3 of 3 shooters (and what shooters they are when you play Chicago) in the shootout for the win. There's your number one goaltender, folks.
0:59 CHI Kane (2), (Bickell, Hjalmarsson)
9:14 CHI Saad (2), (Leddy, Crawford)(PP)
10:08 TB St Louis (1), (Stamkos, Carle)
11:51 TB Purcell (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)(PP)
Martin St. Louis and Ben Bishop were the game's first and third stars. Bishop would've been my first, second, and third stars of the game. Recall what I wrote after the Boston game: you need your goaltender to be a reason you steal games against superior opponents on the road in a spot like this. That's what Bishop did tonight. He was strong, poised, and confident, giving the Lightning time and the opportunity to come back and get the 2 points.
It took 5 periods of hockey, but the Lightning offense finally started to play with some energy in the Third Period. You could see it incrementally coming over the course of those 5 periods, but I think now in Buffalo in the next game out you'll see the early season fog is over. It may have been a product of guys thinking a bit and being tentative because they're settling into Cooper's defensive system, but I think the confidence they'll get from knocking off the Stanley Cup champs will go a long way to getting it going from here on out. You cannot overestimate the value of tonight's win. Looking at the schedule, I felt if the Lightning could steal 2 points out of Boston or Chicago, it'd be a huge bit of positive reinforcement of their work in camp, and there it is.
Much will be said about Chicago outshooting Tampa Bay 39-16 and out-chancing the Lightning by about a 3-1 margin, but I encourage you to compare how the Lightning did defensively with the tape of how Washington looked against the Blackhawks in their opener. Like in Boston, there was way more structure and poise defensively, and if they can get more offensive puck possession from here on out they'll be in excellent shape. Take that goofy bounce off the glass away, and the Lightning would've held Chicago to 1 goal tonight. Yeah, Bishop had to play really well to make that happen, but still. That's not too shabby for a team that has stunk to high heavens defensively the past 2 seasons.
Kudos and cookies tonight for Matt Carle and the 4th line, by the way. Carle was +1 in 24:38 tonight with a helper and was just as solid as you could want as a veteran d-man. And, for much of the night, the 4th line with Labrie, Crombeen, and Thompson was about the only line Tampa Bay had that was getting any forecheck. Thompson and Crombeen were also damned good on the PK, as well.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 22:45. He was a little tighter defensively than in the Boston game and continues to improve.
Tyler Johnson was 70% on draws in 15:03. The kid line was a little better than in Boston. They're still settling in, but they got more noticeable as a group in the Third Period. They need to be a little more poised when they try to pass the puck around, but they're getting there.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 17:22. I'm not sure he's a great fit for a line with Filppula and Purcell, because they're not exactly north-south guys and they don't share the puck easily. But, even with that impediment, Killorn was about the only guy getting pucks to the net through the first couple of periods.
Ondrej Palat had 1 blocked shot in 12:49. In the defensive third, he's been in good position and competent. From the Third Period in Boston through tonight, though, he's been too skittish in the other two zones. He needs to relax, because the past 4+ periods of hockey have been some of his worst with the puck that I've seen in the last 1-1/2 periods.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 18:38. I'm happy to see him under 20 minutes with Salo back, and I'm enthralled to see him pass a pretty significant test by playing that many minutes against quality like Chicago can bring onto the ice.
Richard Panik played 10:53. Ho hum, right? Not exactly. He had a couple of key backchecks and actually created some chances that unfortunately got defused by blocked shots, but I thought he was significantly better than he was in Boston tonight.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 8 big hits in 8:46. You would have thought his skating would have been a bigger liability against Chicago than it was against Boston, but it wasn't. He and Thompson were the straws that stirred the drink on that 4th line.
Mixed bag in the opener.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the loss after earning the surprise start from Jon Cooper. Um, yeah, about that... when coach gives you a surprise nod, reward him. It's not that Lindback was overtly terrible and certainly you can't get too upset when the team in front of you gives up penalty shots. But, Lindback didn't step up and make the key saves you need in a tough game on the road, and his rebound control wasn't there tonight. In retrospect, you kind of wish Bishop was in there.
11:39 BOS Kelly (1), (unassisted)(SH)(PS)
10:32 TB Filppula (1), (Brewer, Killorn)
19:00 BOS Lucic (1), (Krejci)
04:02 BOS Bergeron (1), (unassisted)(SH)
It's never fun to open up a season with a loss, and I think this was a frustrating game overall. There were good signs and there were bad signs, and I think as long as the team builds up from this they're probably going to be ok. The good news is that, up until late in the Third Period when they came a little unglued, they had way more structure and poise defensively than at just about any point over the past 2 years. That put them in a position to steal points in a really bad road draw in a place the Lightning never win despite getting ordinary goaltending, losing a top pair defenseman to injury before the game (Salo), and throwing a whole lot of young players out against a veteran Boston club. Shorthanded breakdowns should be correctable, and this would have been a 1-1 tie without them if you look at silver linings. Holding Boston to 25 shots in their barn is a huge improvement and they kept scoring chances down pretty well, too.
The bad sign was that the Lightning's first line did next to nothing tonight. Only a couple of sporadic scoring chances and nothing sustained, and the golden 2-on-1 that Stamkos and St. Louis had and flubbed in the Second Period turned out, in retrospect, to be a turning point of the game. Point blank, they've got to be better. The second line isn't going to be as good this season no matter how many zeros are on Filppula's paycheck. Stamkos and St. Louis have to create scoring chances consistently and bring the bacon home. Have to. And, in general, there were only a couple of players on the Lightning I can say honestly played up to their full potential: Sustr and Labrie. That's about it. Everyone else can play a little better than they did tonight, which is a negative but also should tell them that there's considerable room to grow and get better, too.
This opening road trip is awful for the Lightning. The schedule makers could not have drawn up a worse script for the team. So, I wasn't expecting miracles right out of the gate. The key thing is to improve game to game, steal some wins here and there to get the positive reinforcement, and hang in there until December-January when I expect everything will really start to click.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes and 5 hits in 17:27. He got himself caught in no-man's land a couple of times coverage-wise in the Third Period, but the ill-advised pinches weren't there tonight like they were last season and the physical game you love was. So, modest improvement, but needs to be better still.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 16:26. The young man was a skating dumpster fire in the first half of the game. Made a terrible play that led to the shorthanded penalty shot and got absolutely undressed on a play where a quick referees whistle saved a goal that probably would've counted otherwise. The second half of the game he was less noticeable, which was an improvement, but when you make me long for Keith Aulie, we have problems.
Tyler Johnson was -2 with 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, and he was 61% on draws in 15:46. His line had small spurts throughout the game, but not the sustained level of play experienced in the preseason. I think they need to simplify and play more north-south next time out. Less curly-ques, please.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 15:10. He can play a lot better. His line needs to earn puck possession more so he can have the chance to play his north-south game. He just didn't have the puck very much.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:11. I thought he played his usual poised game until the Third Period when I saw him throw a puck away rather than calmly carry it to open ice, which is so unlike Palat it's jaw-dropping.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 20:03. I thought he played above his experience level. There were moments he was a little deer-legged skating-wise and got himself caught out of position, but he filled in well with Salo out. No way in hell do I want him playing 20 minutes a night at his age, and he's very likely to get hurt and worn out with a steady diet of that right now. But, for just tonight, fairly impressive outing.
Richard Panik was -2 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:10. Of all the kids, other than maybe Barberio, I found his night the most disappointing. He botched the play that led to the second shorthanded goal against and, in general, he just seemed a step slow to the puck, soft when he got there, and that contributed to zero shots and no real scoring chances. Brother, if you want to be in the AHL real quick, keep that up. Brett Connolly is a phone call away.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:36. I thought he played his role fairly well tonight. He fought when he needed to and created a couple of chances with his size around the opposing net. He still can't skate a lick, so he's a defensive liability if he gets caught out on the ice so Cooper needs to be very conscious about that. But, in general, I thought he played his role and to his potential tonight, which is more than I can say for most of the team.
Ten questions for this year's Lightning prospect season...
Offense stifled in Lightning's first defeat of the preseason.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 33 shots for the loss.
4:48 NSH Moser, (Clune)
14:47 NSH Klein, (unassisted)
19:14 TB Stamkos, (Drouin, Brown)
Nashville's an outstanding defensive team, and they absolutely shut down the Lightning tonight. You can't beat a goaltender as good as Pekka Rinne when you're not putting any pressure on him for full periods. I dare say the team missed the presence of the Palat/Johnson/Panik line's energy tonight.
The big development from a roster standpoint was Jonathan Drouin getting a bump to 15:50 of ice time with higher quality linemates, as the audition moves forward into a very key juncture of the preseason. There was also key audition minutes for Mark Barberio (21:47) and Andrej Sustr (24:18) as they try to lock up a spot on the team. My opinion remains the same, Sustr will have to lap Barberio and Aulie to make the team given Barberio and Aulie's waiver eligibility. So, it's a tough road for the big offensive d-man. The ice time tells you the Lightning are giving it a long look, though.
Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.
The big boys help keep the Lightning perfect in the preseason.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 29 shots, but did stop 3 of 3 for the shootout "W".
3:08 TB Malone, (Hedman, Stamkos)
10:34 TB St Louis, (Stamkos, Purcell)(PP)
9:40 FLA Gudbranson, (Kulikov)(PP)
11:15 TB Brown, (Salo)
12:10 FLA Kulikov, (Gilbert, Kopecky)(PP)
4:14 FLA Butler, (Kopecky, Trocheck)
12:35 TB Stamkos, (Carle)
19:02 FLA Butler, (Gudbranson, Kulikov)
Rightfully, youngsters like Brett Connolly have been getting a lot of attention for their play in camp and preseason. Tonight was a reminder that, oh yeah, #91 is still the cat's pajamas. Shaky goaltending from Bishop does merit some concern, but sitting at 4-0-0 in the preseason is nice no matter how you slice it.
Now that the Lightning have run their 4 games in 4 nights gauntlet and made their first two rounds of cuts, the roster is starting to crystalize. Tonight was an opportunity to evaluate, in particular, a bubble player like Dana Tyrell, who got 16:10 of ice time. There's still another round of preseason games to go next week, so nothing is set in stone, but if the roster had to be finalized tonight, I think the team would have some painful decisions to make. Here's how I might set the 23-man roster and lines:
I have a hard time seeing Jonathan Drouin's spot on the team right now given how well Palat, Johnson, Panik, and Connolly have played. It's not that he couldn't play in the NHL this season, it's that there may not be any need to rush him into the show with so many other young players looking ready to step up. There's still a batch of games next week, so there's certainly time for Drouin to make a more definitive statement, but right now I think he's lagging those four other prospects. A veteran like Tyrell also looks to be on the outside looking in.
On defense, waiver eligibility and contractual particulars mean Andrej Sustr would probably have to lap Aulie and Barberio to make it to opening night. No, not beat them by a few car lengths. He'd have to lap them to make it. My guess is the Lightning will roll with that seven in the first half and hope they can do the job. If they can't, they have a more seasoned Sustr as an option to call up and perhaps a healed Brian Lee to give a shot to, as well. If they're in the hunt around the deadline, defense is obviously where Yzerman's attention is probably going to go to.
Of course, one injury here or there completely upsets the apple cart, which is why I should emphasize that there's still time in the process. A week can be an eternity at this time of year.
Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.
The most impressive win of the preseason.
7:31 TB Sergeev, (Filppula )(PP)
15:25 STL Steen, (Backes)
14:10 TB Connolly, (Filppula, Killorn)
15:12 STL Shattock, (unassisted)
15:59 TB Palat, (Johnson, Panik)
05:39 TB Labrie, (Filppula , Brewer)
07:28 STL Oshie, (Bouwmeester)
You don't want to overblow the importance of this game. It was, after all, a preseason game. But, in fairness, St. Louis pretty much iced their NHL side and the Lightning iced their third and fourth lines and a whole lot of prospect defensemen. To pull off the victory is an impressive case of a team fighting above its weight class, and at 3-0-0 so far in the preseason we're seeing, perhaps, that a different culture is rising up.
If you follow the ice time tonight, it was Mark Barberio's big showcase, garnering 22:22 in the match to lead all Lightning defensemen. Barberio was even on the night against, pretty much, the top weapons of a pretty good playoff team, so that's not a bad showing on paper for the young d-man. It's probably the minimum he needed to make sure he kept the upper hand in the fight for one of the last 2 defenseman spots on the roster. Artem Sergeev, surprisingly, also topped the 20 minute mark at 20:24, besting both of his Eastern European Soul Machine bandmates, Dmitry Korobov and the soulful Andrej Sustr.
Up front, the Lightning again got production and solid play from Brett Connolly, Ondrej Palat, Tyler Johnson, and Richard Panik. These four, honestly, may be giving the Lightning the luxury of being able to take their time with young Jonathan Drouin. And, certainly, the Lightning have to be pleased with their $5M per investment, Filppula, getting helpers in triplicate against what really amounts to the Blues' opening night d-corps and goaltender.
Box score from Tampabaylightning.com.