NHL Game Night: 12/30/10 Canadiens at Lightning

An emphatic result for the Lightning and for several members of the team who come from the Montreal area.

MTL-1
TB-4

Cedrick Desjardins entertained the crowd by stopping 27 of 28 shots to win his NHL debut. I think you saw displayed tonight some of his strengths and weaknesses: he's incredibly quick and athletic with great flexibility, but on the same token sometimes he gets off his angle or has some holes open up when he's scrambling because he doesn't have the tightest technique. I especially wonder if he can keep playing as low to the ice as he did tonight in close, because he seemed to be giving an abnormally high amount of net from three feet and up in the cage. We'll see if NHL shooters catch up to that.

My measuring stick for this type of goaltender is whether you scare me more or less than Rick Tabaracci did back in the day, and the jury remains out of Desjardins. But you can't complain about the outcome and I think you can make a very good argument that he earned another start with how he played tonight.

First Period
00:58 MTL Pacioretty (2), Gomez (13)

Second Period
02:48 TB St Louis (16), Lecavalier (9), Stamkos (24)(PP)
12:31 TB Kubina (2), St Louis (34), Stamkos (25)

Third Period
01:46 TB Stamkos (30), unassisted(PS)
04:40 TB Stamkos (31), Malone (20), Hedman (12)

Steven Stamkos, Desjardins, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars. For Stamkos, at 20 years of age, to have 31 goals now before the calendar even changes to 2011 is remarkable. Again, I hope the hockey media grasps what the real story is: it's not that Stamkos continues to push Sid Crosby in the scoring chase, it's that he's not even 21 and he's pushing Crosby in the scoring chase. When he gets to be Crosby's age 3 years or so down the line, how good do you think he'll be? I have my theory, and I'm excited about the future.

Tampa Bay will end 2010 in first place in the Southeast Division, albeit by a tiebreaker with Washington due to having 1 game in hand. They also have an 11 point lead in the standings on 9th place Carolina, which is very reassuring. Interestingly, Tampa Bay is still -2 in goal differential for the season, but that's a drastically improved situation from where the team sat just a few weeks ago. I like to look at goal differential because it really is a measure of consistency and whether a team is competitive night in and night out, even in losses, or do they get blown out when they lose. I don't think a team with a bad goal differential in the regular season is a team that is very well built for the playoffs, so continues improvement in that category for the Lightning is a necessary evolution as they push to possibly exceed the goal of being a playoff team and instead be a team that can be elite and make a deep playoff run.

Dana Tyrell played 13:51 in the match and seemed to be a target for the Canadiens all night long. They're brave men, going after a hulking 5'11" 185 lbs rookie. The thing about Tyrell and a player like Sean Bergenheim is that they become targets because they're a pain in the ass to play against because their speed and tenacity means they're always around the puck making an opponent work, and guys don't like to have to work. The 1995-96 team that made the playoffs was filled almost exclusively with guys like that: Burr, Cullen, Zamuner, Andersson, Gavey. Those types of players can make a team with ordinary scoring talent good and a team with good scoring line talent great. Consider the 2003-2004 team with: Modin, Taylor, Afanasenkov, Clymer, Cibak, and Dingman. The Lightning teams that have been really good over the years have been the ones that have 4-5 of these types of players, and this Lighting team has: St. Louis, Downie, Bergenheim, Thompson, Hall, Tyrell. They can do some business with guys like that which are annoyingly active for an opposing team to have to deal with. So, becoming a target like tonight means you're doing some things right as a hockey player. Credit to Tyrell in that his motor never stops, regardless of how many times he gets knocked down.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.