NHL Preseason Game Night 9/27: Lightning at Red Wings

Matt Smaby just gave John Tortorella something to think about.

TB-2
DET-3 (SO)

Johan Holmqvist allowed 2 goals on 18 shots before giving way to Marc Denis who was a perfect 11 of 11 in regulation and overtime before taking the shootout loss.

Matt Smaby led the way offensively for the Lightning with 1 goal and 1 assist. Vaclav Prospal had a pair of helpers while Michel Ouellet had the other Lightning goal. Bryce Lampman added an individual helper.

The big winner of the night? Matt Smaby, hands down. This was the game he needed to play himself back into the conversation to make the team. Just a good all around game. His 15:47 of ice time was second among the four headed gaggle of potential defensemen and he was +2 with 3 shots on goal and 2 bone crushing hits. To me, that last area is Smaby's trump card. If the Lightning are serious about getting more physical on their blueline post-Craig Ramsey then Smaby should make the team. He brings a dimension with his open ice hits and his willingness to stand up opponents at the blueline that none of the other defensemen on this team do.

The big loser? The Lightning PK was only 50%, meaning the PK was PU. This was a sore spot the first half of last season and hopefully it won't be a sore spot again this season.

Box score and extended stats from NHL.com.

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Extended post-game thoughts on D race

Some post game thoughts... I tried to watch Smaby and Lundin as much as I could... as much as the camera would let me.

I agree 100% on Smaby's trump card to make the team. Those hits were beautiful.

If they're going to stick with Janik, whom I still think is the leader for the 5th spot, then I think you have to have the physical Smaby with him and put Lundin in Norfolk with a big hearty atta-boy pat on the back.

I'm surprised Smaby had so many minutes - seeing the stats. Smaby was relatively quiet last night aside from those two hits - which were excellent - and two offensive plays: His goal where he moved to his left, found a lane, and threw it on net and it banged in ... and another time where he was open at the top of the circles and put a nice, hard slap shot high on Osgood. He didn't have the puck much, which was probably the reason he wasn't on the screen. Not that that's a bad thing. His assist came from keeping the puck in at the blueline and dumping it down low.

He spent a lot of time going to the front of TB's net and setting up shop. As the game went on he'd venture out of there more and got at least one shift that I saw in overtime. I wish they would have given him ice time the other night to get him more comfortable at this level. Maybe they've seen enough in practice.

Janik had a couple good rushes and Lampman joined the rush a few times to create scoring chances. Whiffed bad on a drop pass to him once. Very quiet in the defensive zone, but he was more aggressive than the other night.

Both Lampman and Lundin were very slow to get back to dumped pucks a couple times - beaten by the forecheckers. I didn't like this from Lundin, especially, in this case. There was another instance where he won the race to the puck.

More on Lundin... they gave him good PP time and some PK time. He lost Filppula on the Lidstrom shot/pass on the PK. Lidstrom remains a joy to watch.

There was also a shift in the late third where Lundin got caught out way too long and looked like he was finishing a gasser. Still got the puck out without icing it though and kept it to the outside.

On the plus, and this is what I kept saying about him the last two years, he's just smart. Also, like a Brad Richards when he was a rookie, Lundin plays with a lot of poise. He repeatedly knew were to go to give his partner a safe outlet option, he knew when to rush, knew when to chip (and did it fast) it out, and again - at the risk of overhyping him, he's just a smart player and does every decision quickly.

On the PP, he set up Prospal for a one-timer with a quick pass from the point that was low and right between his legs for a scoring chance. He got more PP time after that. He was playing the right point. Tried a low shot at one point that hit a stick in front and deflected away.

Post-game thoughts from Torts:

(Times)

Quote:
Rookie defenseman Mike Lundin continued to impress and played 17:15 as he pushes for a roster spot.

Said coach John Tortorella: "He's ahead of schedule as far as understanding positioning, as far as letting plays come to you and protecting areas that are most dangerous."

He's making some mistakes, but he's not playing like a rookie so far. He's playing like he's been in this system for a year or more.

I don't know if they're giving him the ice time (and he was on late in the third and in OT) because he's earning it, or if they've seen enough of Janik and they want to see more from Lundin.

One more thing... He was the last man back on a couple more odd-man rushes, including a 3 on 1, and each time he has directed traffic/communicated to the backcheckers. Last night on the 3-1 he stayed in the middle, told the backcheckers to take the backside guys, kept his head up and stick down and saved a goal by getting his glove on the pass and deflected it by the backside winger.

Smaby was also the last man back for a 2-on-1 and took away the pass early and Holmqvist made the save. Long reach.

Bottom lining it...

If they want experience and skating, they go with Janik.
If they want physicality and PK, they have to keep Smaby.
If they think his solid play will continue and want another option for the PP, they keep Lundin.

Lampman looks like the definite out here.

PK

PK has been horrid in the preseason.

Last night, of the forwards, I believe only Karlsson in a limited role had killed penalties for TB before.

Darche and Karlsson were on the ice for Filppula's goal and were both caught on one side chasing the same guy.

It should be better with Richards, STL, VL and Craig/Gratton/Ward killing them up front. I hope, anyway.

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