There's not a worse team in the NHL on the forecheck than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 32 shots and still had to eat the loss.
05:04 OTT Picard (3), (Bell, Zubov)(PP)
19:15 OTT Alfredsson (8), (Kuba, Fisher)(EN)
Jussi Jokinen hasn't won a battle along the wall in a month.
Zenon Konopka had 1 hit and a real nice fight with Chris Neil in 3:22.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and he was 27% on draws. And, again, he was awesome. Good positionally. Great in terms of his effort and battle level. Szczechura is the exact same size as Jokinen and smaller than 75% of the forwards on this team and yet, consistently, he's been better along the wall and braver in the high traffic areas than most every other player on the Lightning team since his recall. That's high praise for Szczechura, and a condemnation of the rest of the Lightning team.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 3 hits in 11:43. Tocchet has been, rightfully, ramping down Stamkos' ice time. His decision making was better in this game, but he's still tip toeing around too much.
Those Quebecois boys sure do enjoy that home cooking.
Olaf Kolzig allowed just 1 goal on 32 shots for the win.
05:34 MTL Brisebois (2), (Kovalev, Markov)(PP)
10:49 TB St. Louis (9), (Recchi, Lecavalier)
12:03 TB Lecavalier (12), (Meszaros, Krajicek)
08:31 TB St. Louis (10), (Krajicek)(SH)
Is it fixed? Not really. The Lightning were outshot 32-22 on the night. But, at least the streak is over, and it's nice to be a winner for a change.
Steve Downie had 1 shot in 7:21.
Zenon Konopka had a fight and 2 hits in 5:16.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot, and was 38% on draws in 13:39.
Radek Smolenak had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:57.
If you keep losing games where you seem to constantly be close on the scoreboard, but your play is nowhere near to par, is that not the definition of purgatory?
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 36 shots in the loss.
10:21 TB St. Louis (8), (Stamkos)
16:18 TB Recchi (7), (Ranger, Szczechura)
19:22 BUF Stafford (5), (Spacek, Pominville)(PP)
11:52 BUF Vanek (21), (Kotalik)
19:45 BUF Vanek (22), (Roy, Pominville)(PP)
19:47 BUF Pominville, (Hecht)(SH)(EN)
I almost wish this team would get blown out 8-1 one of these nights so that the handful of players who still don't understand the urgency will finally stop fooling themselves. Yes, the Lightning are losing a lot of close games, but they're running around constantly. They're losing the large majority of battles. They're not making the little plays necessary to get pucks in deep or get pucks out of their end. It's bad. It's a personnel issue, because this team has, quite probably, the softest and dumbest d-corps in the entire NHL, and it's an effort issue. At this point, other than Mike Smith, I don't have a lot of affection for any of these players, sans the handful of recent recalls. They may be close on the scoreboard, but they're nowhere near close on the ice right now.
This is disgusting to watch, and I wonder, at what point does pride kick in for this ownership? At what point do you take your cowboy hats off and say, "Maybe we don't know everything?" And I'm not talking about the whole Barry Melrose baloney. Barry Melrose is a disgruntled ex-employee with a platform in Bristol, Connecticut to spew venom and a pack of co-workers who live by a high school code to defend the people in their cool kid clique. Bully to them. The fact is that after 13 years away from the game Barry Melrose couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack.
But, you know, that doesn't excuse the fact that this ownership, full of hubris and vanity, strode into town and decided to destroy half the foundation of a fairly talented franchise by dealing off Brad Richards and Dan Boyle, and decided that they, with exactly zero experience, were perfectly qualified to make those kinds of decisions (and, ignored the counsel of people with Stanley Cup rings on their fingers in the process, no less). Those are the kind of decisions that can set a franchise back 3-4-5 years easily. They were the ones that chose to spend their money on players who were either past their prime or didn't have a track record rather than keep the ones they had that actually did. And they, it shouldn't be overlooked, were the ones who picked the guy who after 13 years couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack, to begin with. And, that's just a small sampling of what bothers me about what has happened in Tampa Bay over the last 365 days.
So it's not just players who need to get kicked in the butts. It's time for everyone, starting at the top, to stop fooling themselves. The whole organization needs to stop fooling itself and start being honest about what is going on right now before it can ever hope to get where everyone wants it to go.
Steve Downie had 1 shot and 1 hit in 6:41.
Paul Szczechura had an assist and was +1 in 16:26. He was also 29% on draws.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots and 1 hit in 8:24 including a breakaway chance. He beat Ryan Miller on the deke but hopefully learned a valuable lesson about goaltenders at this level. You've got to get the puck up off the ice to finish in this league. These guys have the athleticism to get across and cover along the ice, even when they're down and out and beaten. He's close though, and you get the feeling once he gets the first goal, a couple more might follow.
Steven Stamkos had an assist and was -1 in 18:15 tonight with 3 shots and 1 hit. He was also 75% on draws. And he stunk tonight. He was rancid. And Barry Melrose is wrong, he's not too weak to play at this level. But, he makes weak plays because he doesn't make that extra effort. He doesn't take that extra half step. He doesn't put that extra little bit of muster on his clears or on his passes. And he has lapses in discipline with the puck. The extra effort that I know he's fully capable of isn't there, and he needs someone to very politely tell him to stop fooling himself, too. There's absolutely no reason with his talent that he couldn't have almost twice the production he has now. Part of that is mismanagement from the coaching staff, but part of that in a player who isn't competing with everything he's got to offer. And, just because some of the veterans do it doesn't make it acceptable.
Goodnight and good luck.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the assignment of veteran center Chris Gratton to Norfolk of the AHL. Gratton cleared waivers today after being put on the wire to make roster room to allow the Lightning to retain recent callups like Paul Szczechura and Radek Smolenak and to make room for veteran center Jeff Halpern, who is set to return from IR soon.
In addition, the Lightning have assigned goaltending prospect Riku Helenius to Mississippi of the ECHL. Helenius was recalled to Norfolk after the Augusta Lynx ECHL franchise folded earlier this month. Mississippi was the Lightning's ECHL affliate last season. There is no word as yet if additional players will be headed to Biloxi as well.
Norfolk's press release on Helenius' reassignment after the jump:
You can't show up halfway through the game after spotting a three goal lead and expect to beat a goaltender like Tim Thomas.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 23 shots in the loss.
06:44 BOS Lucic (7), (Wideman, Kessel)(PP)
09:29 BOS Kessel (17), (unassisted)
10:46 BOS Ryder (7), (Hnidy, Hunwick)
13:06 TB Hall (2), (Artyukhin, Ranger)
18:43 BOS Chara (5), (Krejci, Wideman)(PP)
09:27 TB St. Louis (8), (Lecavalier, Ranger)
19:42 TB Szczechura (1), (Malik, Meszaros)
19:50 BOS Axelsson (1), (Bergeron)(EN)
I give a lot of credit to Mr. Szczechura, who was excellent in this game. He seems to be improving with every little bit of NHL game experience and all the young players really seem to be bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the table. They're the lone bright spot right now in what appears to be quickly developing into a lost season, although I am hesitant to declare it as such before Jeff Halpern returns to the lineup.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the excellent play of Adam Hall. Extra effort is something Hall showed tonight, and extra effort is probably the only way for these Lightning players to dig themselves out of hockey hell.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:37.
Paul Szczechura scored his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:34. He was also 22% on draws in the game. And if you ask me, a game like that has to make management consider keeping him up for a lot longer.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots on goal in 7:10, and has to get kudos for the way he's taking the puck to the goalmouth. He's not playing a fancy game, although he's got some skill to do so. He's playing a simple, dirty, honest game down in the high traffic areas around the net. The really encouraging thing is that he's getting shots on goal, and he's got a good shot, so the points should come if the coaching staff gets a little more comfortable with Radek and starts cranking up his ice time.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:27 and was 17% on draws. I wish he hustled as much as Szczechura does. Not that his effort level is terrible, but that extra little ompf is probably what Stammer needs to get going.