Witkowski, Luke

NHL Game Night: 1-8-17 Lightning at Penguins

Better effort. Crushing result.

TB-2
PIT-6

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)

Third Period
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)

For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.

Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.

Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.

Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 1-7-16 Lightning at Flyers

The Lightning's season is circling the drain.

TB-2
PHI-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 44 shots for the loss. He was markedly better today than his past couple of starts, but unfortunately he didn't get much support in front of him as the Lightning got outpossessed and outplayed at the skater positions.

First Period
5:34 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Nesterov)

Second Period
1:11 PHI Konecny (6), (Voracek, MacDonald)
8:42 PHI Couturier (7), (Provorov, Voracek)
9:51 PHI Raffl (8), (Giroux, Schultz)
16:44 TB Killorn (13), (Nesterov, Drouin)
17:41 PHI Gudas (2), (Schenn)

Third Period
NO SCORING

The Lightning just got whipped today. They got outshot 44-26 and the score reflected it. They simply played a flat game, lost most every 50/50 puck, and their passing was awful in all three zones. There's no excuse for this team to play this flat, given that they should be fighting for the playoff lives at the moment. We're getting very near to a point of no return from which the Lightning simply won't have a realistic chance to get back into it in the standings. You'd think you'd see the urgency because of that. Nope. This team, after two and a half years of heavy lifting, just looks out of gas. There's consequences (big roster changes) that come with that if that happens to be the case.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:29. I thought he played a really nice game this afternoon.

Matthew Peca was -2 in 13:07. He made a pretty horrendous turnover to Voracek at the end of the First Period that Vasilevskiy bailed him out of. Beyond that, it was his second straight subpar outing. He's probably not much longer for the NHL on this callup stint if this keeps up.

Adam Erne had 3 shots and 3 hits in 8:36. He played another nice game today. He had some big hits, stole the puck to create a scoring chance for a teammate in the offensive zone on another play, and drew a penalty getting hooked on a breakaway on another play. He was one of the few Lightning players who looked like he had energy today.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

AHL Game Night: 12-28-16 Bears at Crunch

Wall-cox rises up.

HER-2
SYR-3 (OT)

Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 19 shots for the win. That's still not a warm and fuzzy stat line in terms of save percentage, but Wilcox has needed a performance like this since getting the #1 job in full with Gudlevskis being recalled. He made a lot of key situational saves tonight to make a victory possible.

First Period
16:17 SYR Brodeur (1), (Condra, Conacher)(SH)
16:43 SYR Gourde (9), (unassisted)(SH)
18:47 HER Mitchell (4), (Lewington, Stephenson)

Second Period
1:20 HER Thomas (14), (Djoos, Bourque)(PP)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
3:01 SYR Gourde (10), (Witkowski, Taormina)

Yanni Gourde and Erik Condra were the game's first and second stars. Luke Witkowski was hosed given that feathery soft give-and-go he worked to make Gourde's game winner happen.

Syracuse, at least in terms of overall balance of play, seemed to be in a more dominant position tonight with the return of a lot of key regulars like Conacher, Condra, and Richard from Tampa Bay now that they've had some time to get re-acclimated. The win moves Syracuse out to a 2 point lead in the North Division, and just as importantly this was a quality victory against a good Hershey team from the other side of the conference where the teams seem a little stronger, on paper, so far this year.

Box score from TheAHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-10-16 Penguins at Lightning

Despite valiant effort, the hole gets deeper for Tampa Bay.

PIT-4
TB-3

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the loss. A lot of bang-bang plays from prime scoring areas a big gunners. Can't blame Vasilevskiy for those.

First Period
12:03 PIT Crosby (19), (Dumoulin, Letang)
17:57 TB Drouin (5), (Stralman, Kucherov)(PP)

Second Period
3:38 TB Filppula (6), (Nesterov)
10:19 TB Drouin (6), (Garrison, Namestnikov)
17:25 PIT Malkin (11), (Kessel, Letang)(PP)

Third Period
5:08 PIT Crosby (20), (Kessel, Letang)(PP)
8:36 PIT Malkin (12), (Daley, Kessel)(PP)

Jonathan Drouin as the game's second star after leaving the game for stitches with a cut on his cheek in the First Period and coming back to score two goals. His performance is something to build on moving forward.

Tampa Bay got outshot 37-23, so I cannot sit here with a straight face and tell you the Lightning were the better team in the run of play tonight. But, 5 on 5, I do think they competed hard and defended fairly well, and it hurts that this is the result they got. Pittsburgh got the benefit of their usual officiating advantage and they rode it to the win on the power play, and even still Val Filppula had a wide open cage on a chance he shot back into Murray that should've allowed Tampa Bay to get at least a point out of the night. The problem is there are no moral victories at this point, and after the Lightning close out this 10-game segment of the season they will be at least 4 points behind a comfortable playoff pace. Those are hard points to be chasing down the rest of the season.

Brayden Point was 64% on draws in 15:33. Impressive work.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 3 hits in 7:46.

Joel Vermin was +1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:57.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-8-16 Canucks at Lightning

Shaky Lightning crumble under adversity.

VAN-5
TB-1

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before being lifted for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 10 shots the rest of the way. Bishop had shown signs of returning to his Vezina candidate form last week, but tonight was a tragic disaster. He was nowhere near square to the puck on Vancouver's first goal and he scored an own goal pushing a puck he was attempting to cover into his own net on a shot off the end boards on Vancouver's second tally. Bishop, in previous years, has been rock solid in First Periods and generally reliable when it comes to making timely saves. Not at all the case this year. Nope. And, this team is simply too fragile to be getting poor goaltending right now.

First Period
3:50 VAN Skille (1), (Gudbranson)
9:03 VAN Gudbranson (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
6:01 VAN Megna (2), (Biega, Tryamkin)
11:46 TB Drouin (4), (Filppula, Witkowski)
19:59 VAN Megna (3), (Sedin, Granlund)

Third Period
13:58 VAN Skille (2), (Gaunce)

After a seemingly marathon stretch where the Lightning barely had more than a day off in between games the weary Lightning finally had 3 days off before this one against a Vancouver team that was not exactly feasting in the standings. The team came out the first handful of shifts in the game and were dominant and looked absolutely the better team, until Jack Skille got matched up 1-on-1 on Nikita Kucherov backing up for a pinching defenseman. Skille turns the corner with a power move and beats Bishop, who was not square to the puck on the shot, and the Lightning momentum was cooked. The ball of yarn starts to unravel. Minutes later Bishop pushes an innocuous shot off the end boards into his own cage to put the Lightning down 2-0, and here we go again. The Lightning are a difficult muddle of self-inflicted mistakes and awful bounces right now, wrapped in a flimsy tattered sheath of inconsistent goaltending. I wanted to say the Lightning had lost their process in this game once adversity hit, but that's not entirely the case. They had 41 shots on goal and outchanced Vancouver. But the mental mistakes that creeped in with turnovers around the opposing blueline and in the neutral zone leading to odd man rushes and the piss poor coverage by backchecking players against the rush revealed that the Lightning have not fully returned to the structure that helped make them an elite club over the last 2+ seasons. The kill shot in this game, which was an awful turnover in the neutral zone to allow a 2-on-1 goal with less than 2 seconds left in the Second Period to put the game out of reach, was the postcard example of a lot of what's wrong outside of the Lightning crease these days.

Where do we go from here? The Lightning will be in a hole at the end of this 10 game segment, when it comes to playoff pacing. Even if they win out over the last 2 games, they'll be at least 2 points in the hole, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions are coming to town. I don't relish seeing what the results of this measuring stick game will be, quite frankly. What needs to change? A goaltender needs to start making some timely saves and help this team find its backbone and its confidence and hope that helps the team play better structure in its own end and manage the puck better coming out of their own end.

Brayden Point was +1 with 5 shots in 15:32. Instincts are good. Skill level is good. Shot isn't NHL caliber yet. His release is plenty quick, but he doesn't have the steam to score on NHL goaltenders consistently. Give him a summer or two to work on it and he'll start putting away 20-30 a season easy, I think.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:45. Congratulations to Witkowski on earning his first NHL point.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:49.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 12-4-16 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.

TB-0
CAR-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)

Bishop was the game's third star.

The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.

Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.

Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-3-16 Capitals at Lightning

Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.

WSH-1
TB-2 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)

Third Period
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
WSH- Kuznetsov
TB- Point, Boyle

Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.

There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.

Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.

Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.

Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-29-16 Lightning at Blue Jackets

The desperate search for rock bottom continues.

TB-1
CBJ-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.

First Period
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)

Second Period
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)

Third Period
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)

You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.

What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.

I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.

Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-25-16 Blue Jackets at Lightning

Thanksgiving hangover dooms Lightning.

CBJ-5
TB-3

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. You couldn't fault him on the first four goals, but the lack of concentration on Columbus' Third Period insurance marker was... troubling.

First Period
3:46 CBJ Wennberg (4), (Saad, Johnson)
8:35 CBJ Foligno (8), (Atkinson, Werenski)

Second Period
8:33 TB Kucherov (11), (Johnson, Palat)
9:02 CBJ Anderson (6), (Hartnell)
18:28 TB Garrison (1), (Filppula, Witkowski)

Third Period
3:37 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)
4:34 CBJ Saad (5), (Wennberg)
11:13 CBJ Atkinson (8), (unassisted)(SH)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

As was the case in Syracuse's game, a Lightning Thanksgiving hangover at home was predictable, but nonetheless unacceptable. Columbus flat out dominated a flat Lightning team in the First Period to stake a 2-0 lead, and with a crossbar and post thrown in, it could've been 4-0. The Lightning showed resiliency to battle back the rest of the game, but their defensemen as a group played the dumbest game they've probably played in years. Some of the turnovers and weak plays along the wall they made were just unbelievable for a group with the experience and pedigree of these players. Ultimately, a soft play in the corner by Garrison led to Saad's eventual game winner and an unbelievable turnover by Hedman on the PP led to Atkinson's insurance goal. Tack that on to about a half dozen idiotic mistakes by Nikita Nesterov and other turnovers by Coburn and Sustr that could've led to goals against versus a more skilled team, and you have a classic example of why I wouldn't be a good coach. Because, simply put, I'd be in jail right now for strangling the whole bloody lot of them. Idiotic. Dumb. Moronish. Brain dead. Imbecilic. Pathetic.

Get well soon, Anton Stralman, because I can't take another night of THAT.

Brayden Point was -1 in 12:42.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with his first NHL assist and 2 penalty minutes in 8:26.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:31. He and Witkowski might've been the only Lightning d-men tonight who didn't make a completely boneheaded mistake at some point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-23-16 Flyers at Lightning

Lightning eventually lap overmatched Flyers.

PHI-2
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. Both the goals he allowed were subpar short side goals and the first one, in particular, was an inexcusable softie. But, he ultimately staunched the bleeding at that second goal and made a spate of timely stops as the night rolled on to eventually give the team the chance to pull out the win.

First Period
19:57 TB Hedman (4), (Palat, Point)(PP)

Second Period
6:06 PHI Weise (2), (VandeVelde, Provorov)
19:05 PHI Provorov (1), (Read, Streit)

Third Period
13:28 TB Killorn (8), (Koekkoek, Namestnikov)
13:40 TB Callahan (2), (Point, Johnson)
18:45 TB Kucherov (10), (Filppula, Palat)

Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

Really, this was a three act play with the common thread running throughout all of it that the Lightning just have an overall higher talent level than Philly that eventually broke through. The Lightning absolutely dominated the First Period despite a lack of crispness in their passing and handling of the puck. The Flyers looked really loose in the neutral zone and were allowing Tampa Bay a lot of speed and odd man rushes, and it seemed a matter of time before Tampa Bay would start running up the score. Philly allowed a late power play goal in the frame to fall behind 1-0 and really should've counted themselves lucky, because Mason had more than one fortunate save/bounce over the course of the evening. The Lightning got a little too fat/happy with themselves in the Second Period and let off the gas a little which allowed the Flyers to run up a large shot advantage in the middle frame although very few really scoring chances came with those shots. But, the Lightning eventually conceded the lead on the softie off the rush allowed to Weise and later Kucherov losing his man off a faceoff loss late in the period on Provorov's goal. The Third Period then became a reprise of the First Period, with the exception that the Lightning started to bear down and focus on their finishing. Three quick goals later Philly was doubled up and dispirited and Mason's luck had fully run out. It really was a matter of time. The Flyers were a hot mess defensively in the neutral zone all night long, and between that and a lot of turnovers under forechecking duress by their defense, a melt down looked inevitable. That's just a bad hockey team, defensively.

Brayden Point had 2 helpers, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 13:35. Made a really good look to Callahan on the goal on a quick change turnover to give the Lightning the eventual game winner.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:36. Played a rough and tumble game. He took some big hits and he handed out some big hits.

Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +2 with 1 hit in 7:32. Took a big pop in the First Period that may have contributed to his diminished ice time. Eventually, though, his jumping into the rush was a key part of Killorn's equalizing goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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