NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-25-18 Panthers at Lightning

Lightning blow the "worst lead in hockey."

FLA-3
TB-2

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
4:17 TB Erne (1), (Joseph, Miller)(PP)
10:15 TB Killorn (1), (Stamkos, Miller)

Third Period
2:16 FLA Dadonov (1), (Pysyk)
7:03 FLA Ekblad (1), (Sceviour, MacKenzie)(SH)
12:31 FLA Barkov (1), (Dadonov, Bjugstad)

Brayden Point was the game's second star.

Things looked to be going well with the Lightning up two goals going into the final frame in a game with a lot of front line players from both clubs. It's concerning to cough up that lead and to give up a shorty, especially given that special teams has been a bit of a smoldering disaster thus far in the preseason. Practices will fix that last problem, but you can see some ragged edges as the process moves along to the opener.

Coming into this game, I really felt like this roster was nearly complete with three players fighting for one roster spot with two players fighting for another spot. I believe Adam Erne, who keeps scoring goals, has made the team and that the Lightning are unlikely to carry both Cory Conacher and Danick Martel, who are somewhat similar players in at least a superficial way, on the roster. Given the Lightning had to take the step of claiming Martel off waivers, you'd presume he has a slight edge on the more tenured Conacher. Those two will fight over a single spot, if I'm right the Lightning won't carry both and will try to fish the other through waivers down to Syracuse.

That leaves the final spot on the roster, and I handicap that as a three player race between Erik Cernak, Mathieu Joseph, and Alexander Volkov. If the Lightning decide to carry eight defensemen, Cernak makes the team, period, full stop. A lot of that probably depends on the team's confidence in Sergachev's switch to the right side and their confidence that Slater Koekkoek is finally ready to be more of a contributor to the team (yes, I'm assuming the waiver-eligible Koekkoek will make the club). Most teams don't carry 8 defensemen, but the Lightning have been one of the few teams that regularly have and there is, of course, Jon Cooper's proclivity to dress seven defensemen. Whether he makes the team on opening night or not, expect Cernak to see significant time in Tampa Bay over the course of the season, as he's clearly separated himself as the number eight on the depth chart.

If they go to a more conventional seven defensemen on the roster, though, it comes down to Joseph and Volkov, each of which have the DNA to be contributing complimentary wingers. Joseph's speed and forechecking would be a big plus to the lower lines. Volkov is perhaps a more complete 200 foot player (but only slightly so, Joseph's no slouch) and has a blink-quick release. Either player would be a nice weapon on the roster, but I honestly think the Lightning's style and the overall trend of the league perhaps favors a Joseph promotion.

In my opinion. All speculative, but that seems to me to be the one remaining twist we might see in the final shaping of the roster.

Joseph had a helper and 2 hits in 15:15.

Koekkoek had a shot, a hit, and a blocked shot in 11:59.

Martel had a shot and a blocked shot in 12:23.

Mitchell Stephens had 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:02. He was also 44% on 16 draws.

Anthony Cirelli was -1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:04. He was also 67% on 15 draws.

Adam Erne had a goal and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:24.

Cernak had 2 penalty minutes 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:18.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.