NHL Game Night: 4-5-14 Stars at Lightning
Time for some real talk, Tampa Bay.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 28 shots for the loss. It was just an awful game by Bishop, who has been subpar since coming out of the Olympics break. Jamie Benn's second goal was an extremely soft goal that Bishop allowed through him and Roussel's goal came on a seemingly innocuous play where Bishop did not cover a puck at the side of his cage. He's clearly fatigued, both mentally and physically. I get that Cooper wants home ice for the playoffs, but home ice is irrelevant if Bishop keeps playing this poorly. Point blank, I would've put Lindback in for the last 40 minutes of this game and even though the Lightning made it interesting in the Second Period, the fact remains they burned more of what little Bishop had left in the tank tonight and got nothing out of it.
0:40 DAL Ja. Benn (31), (Goligoski, Seguin)
5:37 DAL Ja. Benn (32), (Garbutt, Fiddler)
18:26 DAL Seguin (35), (Jo. Benn, Ja. Benn)
1:57 TB Stamkos (24), (Palat, Hedman)
6:44 TB Sustr (1), (Malone, Thompson)
1:26 DAL Fiddler (6), (unassisted)
7:57 DAL Roussel (14), (Garbutt, Eakin)
Tyler Johnson was the game's third star. To be honest, though, this was a game where nobody on the Lightning deserved a star.
Real talk, Tampa Bay. This team has been mediocre at best and a dumpster fire at worst since the Olympics break. Did they manage to string together enough points to lock up a playoff spot early, primarily by manufacturing wins against subpar teams? Yes. But, this team hasn't played well, with the exception of one or two efforts where they actually focused, such as in the game against Montreal. The last two games they have been utterly embarrassed by two teams (Calgary and Dallas) that I know in my heart, man-for-man, they're better than. They're definitely better than Calgary and I know they're better than Dallas, too. But, only if they move their feet and use their heads, and too often for the past month and a half the Lightning have been doing one or the other, or neither, but not both.
At this point I almost give the defensive corps a pass, so a lot of what I'm going to say now will focus on the forwards. True, Sustr got lost after a faceoff in his own end resulting in Seguin's goal tonight, but he atoned for it, unlike others on the Lightning. If you twisted my arm, I'd call out Gudas for being a shadow of what he was prior to getting hurt in that game against Anaheim several months back, but he clearly wasn't at fault tonight after the refs threw him out of the game for no reason. He was ejected for a headshot on a play where he was clearly playing the puck and shielding it from an oncoming Roussel who lowered his head reaching for the puck and ended up taking the worst of it. Gudas wasn't throwing a check and wasn't being careless with his elbows or shoulders. He was playing the puck and making a hockey play. He shouldn't have been tossed and if he gets any supplemental discipline for that play from the NHL then the league should be ashamed. He did nothing wrong on that play. But, I digress.
The forwards on this team have been unwilling to pay a price and unwilling to mind details in the first 2/3rds of the ice. Period. And, while some of it has been the youth of the team, a lot of it has been the veterans. The first Stars goal came directly from a soft misplay of a puck by Teddy Purcell. A couple of others came from bad turnovers by Stamkos, including the back breaker by Fiddler in the Third Period. Even Valtteri Filppula has routinely been guilty of overhandling pucks and turning it over far too frequently. These are your team leaders, and a lot of times they have been, A.) unwilling to take a bump to make a play, and subsequently B.) been throwing the puck into bad areas and putting a struggling, fatigued goaltender in bad situations. These are your veteran leaders. These are the guys you need to mind their details, and they aren't. The forwards on this team, lately, have been soft as Charmin along the wall, they don't come back hard or deep enough to help out their, mediocre at best athletically, defensemen, and to top it all off they've been flat out idiotic with the puck half the time when they actually do have it. It's inexcusable, and while you might be able to punish Purcell with reduced ice time, it's not like you can sit Stamkos or Filppula. It's on those two to wake up and lead by example. Otherwise, I hope they liked Andreychuk's statue unveiling tonight and that bronze Stanley Cup out on the plaza, because they won't get within a country mile of the sterling silver one playing the way they have.
And what's worst of all is this: I expected this team to rebound after wetting the bed against Calgary. After embarrassing themselves that badly against Calgary you would think they'd be ready to go tonight. Nope. That's how fat, happy, and pleased with themselves they are right now. I'm so disappointed in this team right now, and I'm not willing to give them a pass because of their youth. Baloney. They're so much better than they've been playing lately and they should expect so much more of themselves, let alone what those of us who watch this team's expectations are. This has been a special season, and they owe it to themselves to finish it right. The last thing that they should want to happen is to stumble to the finish line, get blasted out of the first round of the playoffs, and have this season end up tasting like a dung sandwich all summer. But, you know, that's what this is turning into. A big old dung sandwich. Real talk.
Andrej Sustr had his first NHL goal and was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 20:27, paired most of the night with Victor Hedman. Putting aside the play where he got lost on his faceoff assignment on Seguin's goal late in the First Period, he played reasonably well. He atoned for it with his rebound goal and he helped fill the void when Gudas was thrown out of the game for no good reason. Sustr is 2 games away from graduation here on the site, and if he plays like he did tonight for the team, he could provide them a shot in the arm from a depth standpoint.