New look Lightning survive sleepy start to annihilate Ottawa.
Andrei Vasilevskiy began life as the presumptive number one goaltender in Tampa Bay with a 39/40 command performance for the win that included some pure Vasilarceniy in the First Period to allow his team to keep contact and eventually secure the win. That's about all you could ask for from Andrei in his first night as "the man."
6:26 OTT Turris (22), (Karlsson, Hoffman)(PP)
1:39 TB Point (9), (unassisted)
5:37 TB Kucherov (24), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:26 TB Kucherov (25), (Drouin, Johnson)(PP)
19:46 TB Kucherov (26), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:57 TB Coburn (3), (Kucherov, Johnson)
Nikita Kucherov, Vasilevskiy, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars. Kucherov had the natural hat trick and a four point night overall and appears to be fully back to unstoppable form after a very pedestrian middle part of his campaign. When Kucherov is Kucherov, the Lightning are awfully hard to beat.
The Lightning, probably reeling from the trades of veterans Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, frankly looked lost in the First Period tonight. It took Vasilevskiy stepping up in that opening frame just to give the team a chance because honestly an ordinary goaltending performance would've left them run out of their own barn. A good forecheck on an early shift in the Second Period led to an awful turnover into the slot that led to a Brayden Point quick release goal, and from that point on the Lightning looked like a giant weight had been lifted off of them. Here's the thing about when veterans move out of your locker room: sometimes the vacuum actually gives oxygen to your younger players to step up and take bigger leadership roles. Point and Drouin, in particular, had great body language in that Second Period and you hope they seize the opportunity now to fill the void and imprint their identity on the Lightning now moving forward.
There's still a long way to go to the deadline on Wednesday and a few veteran contracts the Lightning would probably not mind getting out from under if they could, so there could be more changes in the offing. But for now, so far so good. Standings-wise, Tampa Bay needs 32 of a possible 42 remaining points to get to 96 for the season, which would be a colossal task. We're probably still in diagnostic mode the rest of the campaign, but if the Lightning can make this interesting down the stretch it only bodes well for the future. One pretty nice thing about tonight's game is it got the Lightning to dead even in goal differential this year. It'd be nice to be on the plus side at the end of the year, and that seems do-able.
Jake Dotchin had 2 hits in 16:56. I think you saw his minutes logically trimmed back against a quicker Eastern Conference team. Makes sense.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 5:50. Got 5 minutes worth for the price of 2 in that fight with Wideman. Wideman slashed Dumont's stick out of his hand and was promptly fed a sneaky upercut after the two dropped the gloves before Dumont ragdolled Wideman the rest of the bout. Pound for pound, Dumont showed me something there.
Adam Erne had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:33. He looks really comfortable at the NHL level already, and I hope he stays in Tampa Bay the rest of the way to see if he can keep developing and stick in Tampa Bay for good heading into next year. With Boyle gone, he brings an element of size and strength down low the team will need.