If you keep losing games where you seem to constantly be close on the scoreboard, but your play is nowhere near to par, is that not the definition of purgatory?
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 36 shots in the loss.
10:21 TB St. Louis (8), (Stamkos)
16:18 TB Recchi (7), (Ranger, Szczechura)
19:22 BUF Stafford (5), (Spacek, Pominville)(PP)
11:52 BUF Vanek (21), (Kotalik)
19:45 BUF Vanek (22), (Roy, Pominville)(PP)
19:47 BUF Pominville, (Hecht)(SH)(EN)
I almost wish this team would get blown out 8-1 one of these nights so that the handful of players who still don't understand the urgency will finally stop fooling themselves. Yes, the Lightning are losing a lot of close games, but they're running around constantly. They're losing the large majority of battles. They're not making the little plays necessary to get pucks in deep or get pucks out of their end. It's bad. It's a personnel issue, because this team has, quite probably, the softest and dumbest d-corps in the entire NHL, and it's an effort issue. At this point, other than Mike Smith, I don't have a lot of affection for any of these players, sans the handful of recent recalls. They may be close on the scoreboard, but they're nowhere near close on the ice right now.
This is disgusting to watch, and I wonder, at what point does pride kick in for this ownership? At what point do you take your cowboy hats off and say, "Maybe we don't know everything?" And I'm not talking about the whole Barry Melrose baloney. Barry Melrose is a disgruntled ex-employee with a platform in Bristol, Connecticut to spew venom and a pack of co-workers who live by a high school code to defend the people in their cool kid clique. Bully to them. The fact is that after 13 years away from the game Barry Melrose couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack.
But, you know, that doesn't excuse the fact that this ownership, full of hubris and vanity, strode into town and decided to destroy half the foundation of a fairly talented franchise by dealing off Brad Richards and Dan Boyle, and decided that they, with exactly zero experience, were perfectly qualified to make those kinds of decisions (and, ignored the counsel of people with Stanley Cup rings on their fingers in the process, no less). Those are the kind of decisions that can set a franchise back 3-4-5 years easily. They were the ones that chose to spend their money on players who were either past their prime or didn't have a track record rather than keep the ones they had that actually did. And they, it shouldn't be overlooked, were the ones who picked the guy who after 13 years couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack, to begin with. And, that's just a small sampling of what bothers me about what has happened in Tampa Bay over the last 365 days.
So it's not just players who need to get kicked in the butts. It's time for everyone, starting at the top, to stop fooling themselves. The whole organization needs to stop fooling itself and start being honest about what is going on right now before it can ever hope to get where everyone wants it to go.
Steve Downie had 1 shot and 1 hit in 6:41.
Paul Szczechura had an assist and was +1 in 16:26. He was also 29% on draws.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots and 1 hit in 8:24 including a breakaway chance. He beat Ryan Miller on the deke but hopefully learned a valuable lesson about goaltenders at this level. You've got to get the puck up off the ice to finish in this league. These guys have the athleticism to get across and cover along the ice, even when they're down and out and beaten. He's close though, and you get the feeling once he gets the first goal, a couple more might follow.
Steven Stamkos had an assist and was -1 in 18:15 tonight with 3 shots and 1 hit. He was also 75% on draws. And he stunk tonight. He was rancid. And Barry Melrose is wrong, he's not too weak to play at this level. But, he makes weak plays because he doesn't make that extra effort. He doesn't take that extra half step. He doesn't put that extra little bit of muster on his clears or on his passes. And he has lapses in discipline with the puck. The extra effort that I know he's fully capable of isn't there, and he needs someone to very politely tell him to stop fooling himself, too. There's absolutely no reason with his talent that he couldn't have almost twice the production he has now. Part of that is mismanagement from the coaching staff, but part of that in a player who isn't competing with everything he's got to offer. And, just because some of the veterans do it doesn't make it acceptable.
Goodnight and good luck.
You can't show up halfway through the game after spotting a three goal lead and expect to beat a goaltender like Tim Thomas.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 23 shots in the loss.
06:44 BOS Lucic (7), (Wideman, Kessel)(PP)
09:29 BOS Kessel (17), (unassisted)
10:46 BOS Ryder (7), (Hnidy, Hunwick)
13:06 TB Hall (2), (Artyukhin, Ranger)
18:43 BOS Chara (5), (Krejci, Wideman)(PP)
09:27 TB St. Louis (8), (Lecavalier, Ranger)
19:42 TB Szczechura (1), (Malik, Meszaros)
19:50 BOS Axelsson (1), (Bergeron)(EN)
I give a lot of credit to Mr. Szczechura, who was excellent in this game. He seems to be improving with every little bit of NHL game experience and all the young players really seem to be bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the table. They're the lone bright spot right now in what appears to be quickly developing into a lost season, although I am hesitant to declare it as such before Jeff Halpern returns to the lineup.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the excellent play of Adam Hall. Extra effort is something Hall showed tonight, and extra effort is probably the only way for these Lightning players to dig themselves out of hockey hell.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:37.
Paul Szczechura scored his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:34. He was also 22% on draws in the game. And if you ask me, a game like that has to make management consider keeping him up for a lot longer.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots on goal in 7:10, and has to get kudos for the way he's taking the puck to the goalmouth. He's not playing a fancy game, although he's got some skill to do so. He's playing a simple, dirty, honest game down in the high traffic areas around the net. The really encouraging thing is that he's getting shots on goal, and he's got a good shot, so the points should come if the coaching staff gets a little more comfortable with Radek and starts cranking up his ice time.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:27 and was 17% on draws. I wish he hustled as much as Szczechura does. Not that his effort level is terrible, but that extra little ompf is probably what Stammer needs to get going.
The Lightning continue to be the antithesis of clutch.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 27 shots in the loss.
10:02 BUF Stafford (4), (Gaustad)
13:05 TB St. Louis (7), (Lecavalier, Krajicek)
09:46 BUF Vanek (19), (Roy, Stafford)
10:21 TB Ranger (2), (Lecavalier, Prospal)
14:41 BUF Hecht (3), (Mair, Lydman)
15:20 TB Prospal (6), (Malik, St. Louis)
10:03 BUF Roy (7), (Numminen, Stafford)
Vets played better. The effort was there. The results weren't.
Steve Downie was -1 with 4 hits in 9:24, and lost a fight to Adam Mair.
Matt Smaby had 1 hit in 8:32, and was caught in no man's land on Buffalo's second goal. Tonight was the kind of night that gets you reassigned to the minors, in my opinion.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 15:21. He was also 71% on draws, and was the best among the recent callups tonight.
Steven Stamkos had 4 shots and was 67% on draws in 19:28. The Lightning look like they're starting to work the puck more to him on the power play, and the kid has a great shot. Frustratingly, it's still not finding twine yet.
I know about six veterans players on this team who skated with their heads up their butts in this game.
Mike Smith allowed 2 goals on 25 shots in the loss.
01:21 TB St. Louis (6), (Lecavalier, Malone)
12:21 Kessel (14), (Savard, Lucic)
08:17 BOS Krejci (8), (Wheeler)(SH)
19:59 BOS Kessel (15), (Savard, Hunwick)(EN)
It is an indictment of the veterans on this club that in the third period of a tight game the one glowing shift of any line was by Smolenak/Szczechura/Downie. I'm seeing veterans have mental lapses that you would expect come from the rookies, and I'm seeing millionaires consistently lose races to loose pucks that these rookies who are making near league minimum are legging out. It's a lack of focus. It's a lack of attention to detail. It's mental and physical laziness, and it's unacceptable.
Rick Tocchet, do you want to send a message to your team about accountability? I know you played with Mark Recchi, and I imagine you're buddies. Heck, you're probably one of the guys who talked him into coming to Tampa. I know this isn't easy, and that's the reason you have to do it: Recchi's got to sit. He's absolutely, positively got to sit. It's not just the one mistake shorthanded but it's a string of about three or four weak plays in the neutral zone or just inside the opposing blueline that would get any one of the kids you have up from the AHL right now a plane ticket straight back to Norfolk. It's a leadership moment. Pull the trigger. Recchi's got to sit. You want to be an NHL coach? He's got to be in the pressbox for the next game.
All that unpleasantness aside, we can turn to the quality play of four out of five of the prospects the Lightning had in this game, headlined by young Steve Downie who might've had his best game in a Lightning jersey. He set up Smolenak for a partial breakaway in the second period and then was returned the favor in the third by Smaby in a rush where he ended up toppling the goaltender over. More than that, here is a young player who understands that you have to hustle to loose pucks on the forecheck (novel concept, I know). And you know, for a smallish guy, he's surprisingly strong on the puck. He definitely played above his weightclass tonight along the wall.
Radek Smolenak hit a crossbar in the first period and got a partial breakaway in the second period where he didn't quite have the speed to pull away and get a shot off. On the crossbar shot, Smolenak once again showed he has a wicked quick release and an NHL caliber shot. He can snap it off, no doubt. On the breakway, you saw that he is a quarter step slow and he does need to still work on his skating.
Paul Szczechura, at the very least, bailed Mike Smith out in the third period on a puckhandling gaffe that would've been in the back of the net were it not by a timely backcheck from the young center. He continues to play very smart positionally and make the correct, simple play. It's a shame some of the vets on this team are too busy counting their money to follow suit.
Finally, Matt Smaby, who was called up yesterday, recovered from a slow tentative first period to really make an impact in the second period. When he finally stopped tip toeing around and started mixing it up physically, the big defenseman started to get into the speed and flow of the game and his decision making starter to catch up with the NHL pace. He didn't see a whole lot of ice time in a tight third period, due in part to an unforced error on a bad decision with the puck in his own end that prolonged Boston's zone time on a shift early in the frame. But, I don't think he looked out of his depth at all, and I think he gave Tocchet something he's looking for: a defenseman who will lay the wood to oncoming forwards.
Steve Downie had 3 shots and 2 hits in 11:34.
Matt Smaby had 5 hits and 2 blocked shots in 11:33.
Paul Szczechura had 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, and was 40% on draws in 11:45.
Radek Smolenak had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:01.
Steven Stamkos was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:17. He was also 17% on draws. I thought he took a step backward tonight. I'd like to see an energy guy like Downie get some more shifts with him, because that seemed to trigger some things in the Flyers game.
Wow. Radek Smolenak.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the loss.
02:58 PHI Carter (17), (Timonen, Lupul)(PP)
11:50 TB Recchi (6), (Jokinen, Prospal)(PP)
00:36 PHI Richards (9), (unassisted)(SH)
04:36 PHI Carter (18), (Hartnell, Lupul)(PP)
04:57 TB Prospal (5), (St. Louis, Eminger)(PP)
15:25 TB Downie (1), (Smolenak, Stamkos)
02:05 PHI Richards (10), (Timonen, Carter)(PP)
Steve Downie was named the third star of the game. He was the the fourth most impressive prospect the Lightning had in the game, to me, but ok. I get it. He's a former Flyer.
I was really impressed with the two callups, particularly Smolenak. I wish there had been more 5-on-5 play in the game so he could have played more. I really liked the energy he had on a line with Artyukhin before R2 got nicked on a boarding major from Scotty Upshall in the first period. Obviously, you can see the flaw in Smolenak's game: he's not a speed merchant. But, you know, there was no fear in the young man. Sometimes these callups get into these games and they act like they're afraid to get a puckmark on their tape because maybe NHL tape is expensive, or something. Not Smolenak. First shift he gets the puck down low and makes a power move to get a shot off from the angle. Third or fourth shift he fights Aaron Asham. Third period he's out there battling down low again and getting off a hard shot from the angle to try to tie up the game. And he gets rewarded with the assist on the tying goal as one of his long slappers generates a rebound for Downie to send the game to OT. That's probably the best NHL debut we've seen from a player since Paul Ranger came up a few games into 2005-2006. Honestly, if he keeps playing like that, one of these old fogies is out of a job.
Paul Szczechura, very quietly, played some big minutes in this game both at even strength and on the penalty kill. And, you know, that's high praise if you're an NHL rookie in your first game and the coach puts you out there on the PK. It shows the kind of intelligence Szczechura has, and I'm not surprised Tocchet instantly started leaning on the young man. He's just one of those guys who is a coach's dream. I don't think his scoring really projects to the NHL level, and you can see he's still maybe a quarter step slow, but he can outthink 95% of the players he's going up against, and that means he'll have a solid NHL career.
Bottom line, the Norfolk kids did good tonight, and I loved the energy the new blood brought to the table. And, you know, there's other kids down there knocking on the door like Brandon Segal,Matt Smaby, and Blair Jones. I think it's time to get some of the AARP members out of Tampa and mix some youth and enthusiasm into the team, especially on the forward lines.
Steve Downie had 1 goal and was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 10:43.
Paul Szczechura had 3 shots and was 30% on draws in 15:16.
Radek Smolenak had an assist and was +1 with a fighting major, and a game high 6 shots on goal in 9:45. And he gets a gold star from me.
Steven Stamkos had 1 assist, 4 shots, and was 60% on draws in 16:47.