Goaltending makes the difference.
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 3 goals on 24 shots for the loss. At the end of the day, he's simply not an NHL goaltender. Winnipeg has a decent NHL goaltender in Pavelec, and that was the difference between winning and losing tonight. It was an incredibly tough spot to put Cedrick in starting him after the coaching change and the Lightning got about what I expected from it.
14:02 WPG Little (5), (Wheeler)
02:35 WPG Byfuglien (6), (Wheeler, Little)(PP)
06:20 TB Stamkos (22), (St. Louis, Salo)(PP)
09:35 WPG Enstrom (3), (Ladd, Little)
05:01 TB Conacher (9), (Brewer)
Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.
Now we move on to the elephant in the room, which is the question of who will be the next Head Coach of the Tampa Bay Lightning. Let me make this plain: it would be incredibly foolish to select anyone other than Jon Cooper to coach this team. If there is any prejudice against AHL coaches because of Guy Boucher's inability to sustain the success he had early in his tenure, it should be tempered by the fact Cooper has achieved far more in his AHL career than Boucher ever managed. Where Boucher's Hamilton team fell in the AHL Finals, Cooper has won a Calder Cup with Norfolk and set historic records in the process He also, against all odds, has Syracuse in first in the Eastern Conference despite losing his best players to callup. He's done so without teams flush with top-60 draft picks, either. Take a look at the players the Lightning have brought up from Syracuse. Other than Panik, none of them were selected in the top-60, and Conacher and Johnson were undrafted free agents. And yet, they're in the NHL. Why? Partly because Jon Cooper has taught them to play the game the right way, and to maximize the talent that they have. Indeed, they are the living embodiment of Jon Cooper's resume. They backcheck well and are defensively responsible. They play with physical edge. They hustle their bags off. Above all, they're winners.
They, along with young stars Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman, are the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning. And there are even more of Jon Cooper's players on the way up to the NHL. Brett Connolly, at a minimum, will join the team, and there are several others who will also be knocking on the door as well. If the next few years are destined to be played out by Jon Cooper's kids, does it not make sense that Jon Cooper should be the one to lead them? Not an NHL retread. Not another team's AHL coach, who does not nearly have the same record as Cooper or the unbelievable rapport Cooper has with the organization's young future stars. And with Andrej Sustr on his way to Tampa Bay next week and a top-10 pick looking to be in the offing this June, who better than Cooper, who we gave the monicker The Rookie Whisperer last year with Norfolk, to break them into the pro game?
My deep hope is that Steve Thomas being behind the bench tonight in Winnipeg along with Boucher's assistants was a tell. I hope it's a clear indicator that Jon Cooper is on the way. And, if he is, I have no doubt the future is very bright and the Lightning will be back as one of the elite teams in the Eastern Conference very, very soon.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:27.
Tyler Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:47. He was also 47% on draws.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:30. Holy God is he hard on the puck though. You better bring a SAM missile if you want to knock him off of it once he's got it.
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:13.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 19:51.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 5:04 before leaving with the dreaded upper-body injury.
Cory Conacher had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots in 14:24.
That's seven Tampacuse players. Plus Aulie. That's over a third of the team's skaters. This is such a no-brainer decision, and it needs to be made correctly tomorrow before the Lightning can begin to climb again toward greatness.
Same garbage. Different day.
12:49 OTT Silfverberg (8), (Methot)
14:29 OTT Gryba (1), (Turris, Methot)
17:01 OTT Latendresse (4), (Silfverberg, Zibanejad)
19:50 OTT Alfredsson (7), (Wiercioch, Gonchar)(PP)
11:37 TB Johnson (2), (Brewer, Panik)
13:53 TB Johnson (3), (Carle)
18:01 TB Purcell (7), (Hedman, Salo)
19:39 OTT Alfredsson (8), (Turris, Greening)(EN)
Tyler Johnson was the game's third star.
It was like a replay of the Toronto game. The Lightning came out strong. They had some chances and some zone time in Ottawa's end but couldn't cash in. Brain farts turn into goals. One or two goals become a four goal lead for the bad guys. Next thing you know the team's in garbage time where it seems like the veterans have checked out and only the Tampacuse kids are doing work. It's something that needs to be corrected. There's still 17 games left to go, and if veterans are already mentally checked out and making tee times, they need to be gone from this organization at the deadline. Period. Point blank.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 5 hits in 18:37.
Johnson had 2 goals and was +1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 16:10. He was also 70% on draws. He's doing everything he needs to do right now to ink his name onto Tampa's roster for next season.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +2 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 12:45. He was impactful in his return to the team, hitting a post in the First Period, being active physically, and getting a helper in the final frame. It was really fun to see Palat/Johnson/Panik getting to play together in the NHL and they looked like their chemistry definitely translated to the show.
Ondrej Palat was +1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:21.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:54.
End of the road?
Mathieu Garon allowed 3 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Anders Lindback relieved Garon and allowed 1 on 8 shots, but left with the dreaded lower body injury in the Third Period. It's unfortunate considering how well Lindback has played of late.
06:56 TOR Lupul (3), (Kadri, Gunnarsson)
00:52 TOR Phaneuf (5), (Gannarsson, Kadri)
06:53 TOR Bozak (8), (Kessel, Fraser)
07:22 TOR Kulemin (4), (Kadri, Lupul)
07:44 TB Gudas (1), (Labrie, Crombeen)
17:02 TB Conacher (8), (Johnson, St. Louis)
It's hard not to wonder if that Second Period was the death knell for the season. The team actually didn't look that bad, especially in the First Period when Stamkos' line was sort of having their way. But, the passes were just not crisp tonight and that led to turnovers around their own blueline that led to goals against. It's a tale as old as time.
Alex Killorn was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 15:03.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:26.
Ondrej Palat had 3 shots and 4 hits in 14:07.
Radko Gudas had his first NHL goal/point and was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:46. Well done young man.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had a helper for his first NHL point of this season and he was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 9:14.
Cory Conacher had the goal in front of the home area crowd and was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:56.
When/if Steve Yzerman makes the decision the playoffs are too improbable for the Lightning, one wonders if players like Johnson, Palat, and Gudas may be ticketed back for Syracuse to get another taste of a deep AHL playoff run in preparation for next season.
Dammit, they're making me love them again.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the victory.
06:38 TB Palat (2), (Tyrell, Salo)
13:55 PHI Talbot (4), (Meszaros)
17:03 TB Pyatt (6), (Johnson, Hedman)
15:21 PHI Giroux (9), (unassisted)
09:25 TB Purcell (6), (Aulie, Stamkos)
19:57 TB Stamkos (21), (Killorn, St. Louis)(EN)
Ryan Malone and Anders Lindback were the game's first and second stars.
I know they're probably going to just break my heart, but this team is suddenly fun to watch again. The speed and enthusiasm all the young players are bringing to the table has become infectious. And, more to the point, the way the team played in the second half of this game sure did give the impression this team may have finally figured out how to win a close game. There was one forechecking shift by the Thompson/Crombeen line in the Third Period that was as fine a shift as any by the Dingman/Cibak/Afanasenkov line circa 2004.
Alex Killorn had a helper and a shot in 16:16.
Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +2 with 2 hits in 12:12. He was also 100% on draws again.
Ondrej Palat had the game opening goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 10:24.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and a big 7 hits in 14:51.
Cory Conacher was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 11:09. He almost had a very cool assist late in the game that was called back for playing a puck above his shoulders. Really close play.
And the kids shall lead them...
Mathieu Garon allowed 1 goal on 22 shots for the win in his return from injury.
10:54 TB Johnson (1), (Killorn, Conacher)
06:35 TB Palat (1), (Salo, Johnson)
12:55 TB Thompson (6), (Crombeen, Carle)
03:54 TB Purcell (5), (St. Louis, Hedman)
06:21 CAR E. Staal (13), (Semin)
Lightning fans got a nice little taste of the future tonight. These are quality players the Lightning have brought up from Syracuse, and they have the ability to join with some of the young talent the team already had to be a very competitive and exciting team moving forward. The rest of this year is an opportunity for those players to learn on the job together and lay a foundation for success next season.
Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 16:33.
Johnson had 1 goal and 1 asisst and was +2 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 8:56. He was also 100% on draws. It was a magical night for the young man, getting his first NHL goal.
Ondrej Palat also got his 1st NHL goal and was +1 with 3 shots in 9:16.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 6 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:03. He's exploded on the scene like a supernova.
Cory Conacher had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 12:30.
Lindback deserved a better fate.
Anders Lindback allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the loss. He's starting to play his best hockey of the season now. If the Lightning salvage anything from this awful campaign, it might be Lindback surfacing as a more legitimate number one with work in the second half of the shortened season.
10:22 NYI Tavares (17), (Moulsen, Boyes)(PP)
19:20 NYI Boyes (7), (Macdonald)(EN)
Lindback was the game's third star.
The Lightning slowly started to get their feet under them as the game progressed and didn't play all that poorly, but couldn't get pucks through a collapsing Islanders d, and when they did Nabokov was there. The only point of emphasis for improvement needs to be actually hitting the net when the Lightning shoot, particularly the big guy wearing #77.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:10.
Tyler Johnson was 33% on draws in 11:39. He was a bit of a non-factor.
Ondrej Palat had 2 hits in 9:05. Also a bit of a non-factor.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:56. Stud. He played like a flat out bona fide stud. He was sawing people in half and showing off some of those offensive abilities that he occasionally brings to bear, like his puck lugging skills, for instance. He looked darn good, which is reflected in the fact he got 50% more ice time than Keith Aulie. Two games and he already zipped by him on the depth chart. Not the first time Aulie has been pylonized, I reckon.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 shot and 3 hits in 8:37.
Cory Conacher had 1 hit in 14:45. He's become a chronic non-factor at this point in the season. Sad but true.
Times like these, when we're down on our luck, it's important to remember there are still those who are even less fortunate... Panthers fans.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the win. Stat line looks good. Second goal allowed was kind of ugly. But, he made the key stop on a late Third Period breakaway to preserve the win. For as much hand wringing as there is about Anders, he's got a winning record.
01:36 TB Lecavalier (7), (St. Louis, Killorn)
17:48 TB St. Louis (7), (Killorn, Lecavaler)
00:13 FLA Versteeg (2), (Goc)
11:24 FLA Kopecky (11), (Skille)
05:30 TB Stamkos (20), (Purcell, St. Louis)(PP)
The Lightning were outshot 39-13 (not a typo) in the contest, but still walked away with the win. Normally, I'd be outraged by that, but then imagine how Panthers Fan must feel like God truly hates him and his team. Then I laugh and feel a little better.
Alex Killorn had 2 assists and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 6 hits in 16:08.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 4 hits in 13:04.
Radko Gudas had 2 hits and 3 blocked shots in 15:20 in his NHL debut. Moved well and didn't look out of place.
Cory Conacher was -1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 14:18.
Let the Nichushkin watch begin!
Cedrick Desjardins allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the victory. You hate to judge a guy on one start, but there's a reason the guy has bounced around the AHL, mostly.
05:30 TB Stamkos (19), (St. Louis, Hedman)
07:38 MTL Plekanec (11), (Markov)
08:15 TB Salo (2), (Crombeen, Thompson)
12:20 TB Malone (5), (Stamkos, St. Louis)(PP)
03:48 MTL Gionta (8), (Ryder, Boullion)(PP)
07:33 MTL Emelin (2), (Gionta, Ryder)
12:03 MTL Gallagher (7), (Pacioretty)
Sami Salo was the game's third star.
No way the team should have lost that game heading into the Third with a 2 goal lead, and Montreal's comeback looked really easy. Way too easy. This is a really, really bad Lightning team right now and you can't help but wonder what fundamental changes are on the horizon. Specifically, I wonder how much longer Martin St. Louis is willing to devote to a team that will likely miss the playoffs two straight years in the twilight of his career. He's only got a few more productive years, and I don't know that he'll want to wet nurse another top-10 pick next year (possibly top-5 the way this is going) along with the likes of Connolly and all the kids from Syracuse. There's some sad days potentially coming, I'm afraid to say.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:26. One of his three hits helped create a goal. He's a very good all-around player.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 9:24.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 3 hits in 6:26.
Cory Conacher had 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:34. Less ice time than Palat? My eyebrow is raised.
Season keeps slipping away.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 28 shots, but the 2 goals were very soft. Hard to blame the goaltender when he only gets 1 goal of support, but he didn't help, that's for sure.
10:05 WPG Tangradi (1), (unassisted)
06:57 TB Stamkos (18), (St. Louis, Malone)
15:52 WPG Little (4), (Ladd)
Steven Stamkos was the game's third star.
Frustrating game. The Lightning had well over 20 scoring chances against a backup netminder. Lots of power play chances. Against Winnipeg that should equal a pretty lopsided win for the Lightning. Games aren't played on paper, unfortunately.
Alex Killorn had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 21:28. That's not a typo. Clearly the coaching staff believes in the young man.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 2 hits in 11:31. Had the go-ahead goal off a feed from Conacher and slammed it off the post. Unfortunate.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 shot and 1 hit in 7:12.
Cory Conacher was -1 in 13:01. He's clearly been passed on the depth chart by Killorn at this point.
Hoping for floodgates...
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the win. Little talked about fact: for as much negativity there is about the kid, Lindback's 8-5-1 this season.
17:04 TB Thompson (5), (Conacher, Palat)
05:53 TB St. Louis (6), (Killorn, Lecavalier)
13:13 TB Killorn (4), (St. Louis, Lecavalier)
08:36 TB Thompson (6), (Conacher, Salo)
13:44 NJ Henrique (6), (Carter)
15:15 NJ Elias (6), (Zajac, Kovalchuk)(PP)
18:40 TB Crombeen (1), (Hall, Thompson)(EN)
The Lightning have to hope this opens the flood gates. If I view the glass half full, the team started to turn the corner against Pittsburgh. On paper I expected them to be blown out of that game so they exceeded expectations to carry a lead into the Third Period. To blow out a pretty good New Jersey team on the road is another hopeful sign. But, 1 win is just 1 win, and the Lightning need to string together several more in the next 2-3 weeks to get back to being viable as a playoff contender.
Oh, and with 1 goal and 4 assists on the night, the kids are still alright. Jon Cooper develops one heck of a good brand of young hockey player.
Alex Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:37. He's going to be a fixture in Tampa Bay for a long time, from the looks of it.
Ondrej Palat had an assist and was +2 with 3 shots in 12:33.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:26.
Cory Conacher rebounded from -3 ugliness against the Pens with 2 assists, a +2 rating, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 11:49.