Sustr, Andrej

NHL Game Night: 10-29-13 Lightning at Devils

Lightning take their first bad loss of the season.

TB-1
NJ-2

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
1:36 NJ Henrique (4), (Elias)(SH)
10:54 NJ Jagr (3), (unassisted)
15:23 TB Stamkos (9), (Purcell, R. Malone)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

When I say "bad loss", I mean a loss against a team you expect to have a good chance to get a point or two against. Yes, the Lightning played poorly getting beat 5-0 by Boston and they left at least a point on the ice with their late loss to Pittsburgh, but this was the first time they really allowed themselves to fall behind schedule by losing to a team they could've gotten points from. You hate losing games like this because it starts to put pressure on you to steal more points out of games against top flight opponents, and that's a dangerous spot to be in.

The energy level was pretty poor. The puck handling and passing were pretty clumsy. Just a soft effort where the team really didn't appear to be bearing down and focused on the task at hand. At best, that led to an anemic 17 shots on goal. At worst, that led to turnovers, and turnovers by Carle and St. Louis led to New Jersey's two goals. Two flat games in a row now (I partly blame the Panthers game hangover for this one), and they should consider themselves fortunate to have gotten 2 points out of the 2 games, to be honest.

Radko Gudas had 3 shots, 2 hit, and 2 blocked shots to go with 2 penalty minutes in 23:05. I really didn't like his game tonight, although the coaches rewarded him with some late PP time. Got caught out of position more than once, took one bad penalty, and I didn't like the incident at Brodeur's cage at the buzzer. That's pointless and stupid when you just beat the wrap from the Panthers game incident. Cooper's got to calm him down, because he's getting out of control again.

Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and was 41% on draws in 16:30. He was stopped on a breakaway and had another clean look from the RW circles later in the game where he missed the net.

Alex Killorn had 2 shots in 15:45. This, actually, might have been one of his better efforts. He got robbed on one chance by Brodeur.

Ondrej Palat had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:49. He made an amazing pass to spring Johnson on his breakaway and got stung blocking a shot on a pretty big Third Period PK.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes in 12:30. After a very good game against Florida, he might've been a little too big for his britches in his approach tonight. Not as much care with the puck in his own end and maybe a little out of control jumping into the play on the offensive end.

Richard Panik had a hit in 13:12. He had a couple of looks in a Third Period power play and he just didn't do anything with them. I worry about his confidence getting shot at some point.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 in 7:16. I'm going to ask an honest question and leave it right here. Two straight games where the team came out flat. Did anyone see Labrie trying to get in a scrap? I didn't. I question the logic of having a guy on the roster that's there for an obvious reason, dressing him, and then not seeing that role carried out. I saw Crombeen trying to get something going. Maybe I've missed it, but I haven't seen that from Labrie.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 10-27-13 Lightning at Panthers

Lightning survive another wild/weird game.

TB-4
FLA-3 (SO)

Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 32 shots in regulation and OT before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the win. I thought he looked pretty shaky the first half of the game and got stronger as it wore on, even though he allowed the 2 in the Third Period.

First Period
0:41 TB St Louis (7), (Stamkos, R. Malone)
04:35 TB Stamkos (8), (Malone, Carle)
13:48 FLA Matthias (1), (Winchester, Goc)

Second Period
9:58 TB Gudas (1), (Panik, Killorn)(PP)

Third Period
5:39 FLA Bjugstad (1), (Upshall, Kulikov)
8:51 FLA Boyes (5), (unassisted)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Filppula, Stamkos
FLA- Boyes

Steven Stamkos was the game's first star.

I thought the Lightning really sleepwalked through most of the first two periods and were fortunate that the Panthers were loose with the odd man rush to start the game and the bad Markstrom rebound that staked them to the 2-0 lead. Things were at 3-1 and the Lightning were still looking a little lethargic when the whole bizarre Radko Gudas/Scottied Upshall incident happened.

For those who missed it. Gudas was spilled at the opposing blueline and down on his butt with his back to the Panthers bench when Upshall displayed his classlessness by shooting Gudas with water from the bench. Radko got up and broke the blade of his stick over the top of the boards (Upshall looked terrified) and next thing you know Gudas was tossed from the game, leaving the Lightning down to 5 d-men on the second half of a back-to-back. For the record, I think the officials overreacted. Kicking Gudas out implies Radko intended to injure Upshall. Upshall was sitting on the bench with nowhere to run to. If Gudas wanted to use his stick to injure Upshall, he most assuredly would have. Players bang their sticks into the boards and glass all the time, and whenever it is called (typically for trying to show up the refs) it's a 10 minute call but not a match penalty.

The weirdness then ratcheted up another notch, because I thought the whole incident actually woke the Lightning up and they started to play their best hockey early in the Third Period. But, they didn't get the payoff and Nick Bjugstad got a very nice tip in goal followed by Ondrej Palat making a horrible, uncharacteristic puckhandling gaffe in his own end that resulted in the tying goal. Fortunately, Lindback kept Florida out the rest of the way, and the Lightning continued to look pretty good in the shootout, partly thanks to the infusion of Valterri Filppula.

Honestly, I'd just as soon not play the Panthers because even though the Lightning are now 9-1-1 in their last 11 against the Panthers, something about the Panthers gets the Lightning out of their structure and into a weird emotional dynamic I don't like. I think there's a hangover after these games that bothers me. It's especially true when the team goes down to Sunrise, which is like playing a hockey game in a mausoleum it's so empty. Seriously, I get that moving franchises is typically a bad thing, but how is the 5 people that were in the stands today preferable to an energized fan base in Quebec City? It's such a night and day difference in support between Tampa Bay and South Florida, where they evidently stayed home to celebrate the Dolphins' loss to the Patriots that they got to watch on TV.

Gudas had 1 goal and 22 penalty minutes to go with 4 shots and 3 blocked shots in 12:32. Scottie Upshall is a dead man the next time these two teams play. I can't say it plainer than that. Upshall's a dead man. Gudas does't forget stuff like this (neither does Jon Cooper, btw).

Tyler Johnson was -2 with 2 hits in 18:07. He was also his standard 54% on draws. Markstrom nearly kicked the game winner right onto his stick late in the Third Period.

Alex Killorn had a helper and 1 hit in 17:04. He was very active on the forecheck again and very good handling the puck. I remain concerned he's not getting shots on goal lately.

Ondrej Palat was -2 with 1 hit in 15:44. His mistake on the Boyes goal was bad and he should feel bad.

Andrej Sustr was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:46. For everyone who was trying to tell me about the quality of Mark Pronger-io's game last night, please refer to Sustr's game tonight to see where the bar is set. He was fantastic at both ends of the rink. Good one on one and strong on the puck. Good passing it out of his third. Good keeping pucks in at the point on the attack using that big reach. Just, flat out, good.

Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 13:38. He was a non-factor after taking a First Period boarding call. It's like all the aggressiveness just bled right out of him.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 3 hits in 5:21. It did not escape notice that Cooper put Labrie and Crombeen out to start the Third Period, and that there were no takers from the Panthers side of the ice.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-24-13 Blackhawks at Lightning

Some things you just have to see to believe.

CHI-5
TB-6

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.

First Period
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)

Overtime
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. Victor Hedman was robbed, I tell you.

You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.

And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.

Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?

Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.

And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.

Key takeaways:
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.

My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.

Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.

Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.

Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.

Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-13 Bruins at Lightning

Lightning crap the bed.

BOS-5
TB-0

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 17 shots for the loss before being lifted for Anders Lindback, who allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. It wasn't the goaltending tonight.

First Period
1:32 BOS Krejci (1), (Lucic, Iginla)

Second Period
4:37 BOS McQuaid (1), (unassisted)
14:52 BOS Bergeron (2), (Smith, Eriksson)
15:47 BOS Kelly (3), (Marchand, Soderberg)

Third Period
0:34 BOS S. Thornton (1), (Paille)

Shots were 23-22, so it's not as if Boston made the Lightning look like a Junior A team. My suspicion is that a lot of the mistakes made tonight are correctible, and Jon Cooper will get a lot of practice time this coming week to drill those lessons into his club. -5 for Victor Hedman and -3 for his pairing partner Sami Salo says a lot.

Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:06. So much is made about how tough Jarome Iginla is. Gudas more than held his own fighting Iginla tonight. I think he re-upped his badass certification with how he handled himself in that scrap.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:17. He was also 36% on draws. He made some plays tonight, but unfortunately found himself working at times with the 4th line wingers, who you might classify as "Bluetooth", because Crombeen in particular is hands-free.

Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:04. He was ineffective.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:19. His ice time is creeping up because he deserves it. He's looking for confident handling the puck and that's the difference, to me, between Palat being a 3rd liner that you can spot on a scoring line, and Palat being a 4th line player. He looked very smooth with the puck tonight, to go along with good defensive play without it.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:15. He was a silver lining tonight after looking awkward, at times, against Minnesota. He was poised and really passed the puck well.

Richard Panik was -1 with 3 shots in 14:01. I'm very frustrated with Panik because he's close to making some impact plays, but he always seems to have a hole in his stick, overskate the play, etc etc. At a certain point potential is irrelevant if you don't apply it to make plays.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:00. I don't know whether Boston was simply unwilling to oblige him, but down by 4 or 5 goals I would have expected the team's enforcer to do something. With Thompson and Gudas getting jumped, you wonder why Labrie didn't force a Bruin or two to dance to send a message.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-17-13 Wild at Lightning

5-2-0. Nice. Daddy likes.

MIN-1
TB-2

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.

First Period
14:02 TB Johnson (2), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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