Back to .500 with the biggest win of the season.
Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the win.
TB 18:59, Tanguay 6 (Lecavalier, Foster)
TB 19:48, St. Louis 8 (Foster, Stamkos)(PP)
BOS 12:30, Sturm 12 (Savard, Chara)
We're two games away from the midway point of the season and the Lightning have squared up their record at .500, just a few points out of 8th in the playoff chase.
Zenon Konopka had 5 penalty minutes in 7:20. Konopka is 3 games away from graduation here on Bolt Prospects.
Paul Szczechura had 2 blocked shots and was 58% on draws in 14:07.
James Wright had 1 hit in 6:28. Wright is now 3 games away from graduation here on BP.
Blair Jones had 4 shots, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 14:42. I loves me some Blair Jones.
Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 21:07. Hedman is now 4 games away from graduation here on BP.
Steve Downie doles out coal to the visiting team.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the win.
ATL 11:48, Antropov 10 (Kovalchuk, Afinogenov)
TB 13:34, Downie 7 (Lecavalier, Ohlund)
TB 4:44, Lundin 1 (Lecavalier)
ATL 16:54, Reasoner 3 (Hainsey, Bogosian)
TB 5:04, Tanguay 5 (Downie, Lecavalier)
TB 6:45, Malone 19 (St. Louis, Stamkos)
ATL 16:50, Kovalchuk 22 (Antropov, Bogosian)
The Lightning played a near flawless third holding the Thrashers to 0 shots for over 3/4 of the final frame before giving the obligatory cheap goal to Kovalchuk. Fortunately they'd already staked themselves to a two goal lead, thanks in part to the play of Steve Downie, who had 1 goal and 1 assist. Downie also made a key clear with a little under a minute left in regulation. He's starting to come on now, and if he keeps it up he could find himself with a nice little 40-50 point campaign at the end of the year. Future looks bright.
Speaking of which, Matt Smaby: 7 hits. He's not fancy. He's not pretty. He's a blunt instrument, like a hammer, and you need to have guys like that to be successful. I'll take one Matt Smaby over a dozen smallish figure skaters like Lukas Krajicek, because Smaby can change the tone of a game with the way he plays. For instance, he folded up Evander Kane's shoulder like an Oragami crane in the third simply by locking up Evander, leaning on him, and finishing his check with authority. It was not a flashy play. He didn't break the glass. But he knocked Kane out for a couple of shifts.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot, 1 blocked shot, and was 50% on draws in 16:04.
James Wright had 7 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 9:31. He actually picked a fight with 12 foot tall Boris Valabik. Brave? Certainly? Smart? Lets just say that, in my opinion, a guy like Little or Kane would've been more in his weight class. Thank goodness the linesmen stepped in fast.
Blair Jones was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 14:10. He had his stick in the passing lanes all night long and he was absolutely driving the Thrashers insane on the forecheck and on the penalty kill. He's a lot like Smaby. He's not pretty or flashy. In fact, he lost his balance and face planted himself into the boards at one point on the third, which was mildly amusing. He's a blunt instrument. But you need guys like that on your checking line. See: Dingman, Chris, circa 2003-2004. It's guys like Downie, Smaby, and Jones that really have me high on the future right now. Guys like Stamkos, for instance, are not playing as well as they can. Hedman's still acclimating to the NHL. So, it's not the big draft picks who are the show right now. It's Downie, and Smaby, and Jones, and I love it.
Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 blocked shots in 24:16. He also perfectly executed the sleeper hold on Bryan Little at one point in the game.
The final score wasn't indicative of how the Lightning played.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 35 shots in the loss. I wasn't a big fan of the rebounds he was leaving in the first period, nor the Flyers' second goal which went through Smitty. He got stronger as the game went on, though. His stats look a lot worse than he played.
PHI 3:59, Betts 2 (Carcillo, Laperriere)
PHI 9:34, Richards 14 (Gagne, Pronger)(PP)
TB 5:58, Konopka 1 (Downie)
TB 12:02, Hedman 3 (Foster, St. Louis)
PHI 10:01, Betts 3 (Bartulis, Laperriere)
PHI 17:22, Richards 15 (Giroux, Bartulis)
PHI 19:26, Gagne 2 (Giroux, Richards)(EN)
The Lightning woke up after sleep walking through the first period and really, truly, started dominating the Flyers to get back to 2-2 after the second period. The problem is that in pressing for the go-ahead goal the Lightning got too loose in the neutral zone and started giving up odd man rushes. That eventually led to the go ahead goal at 3-2. They pressed for the equalizer and gave up a 2-on-1 and then it was 4-2. Philly tacked on an empty net goal and it was 5-2. What's the moral of the story? Attention to detail in terms of defense and smart decision making is always necessary, even when the ice starts to tilt in your favor and you're going in for the kill. It only takes one mistake to set off a chain reaction, and suddenly a game you could've won 4-2 turns into a 5-2 loss.
All that aside, I see hopeful signs for the future. You can see the potential some of these young guys have: Downie, Smaby, Szczechura, and Jones. If they keep working hard and the Lightning stick with them, they have a good chance to become really solid NHLers over the next couple of seasons. It's an exciting group to watch.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot on goal, and 5 that missed the net. Keep shooting it brother. Vincent Lecavalier was shut out despite peppering the Flyers net with 7 shots. Keep shooting it. Martin St. Louis had 4 shots on goal and 2 that drew iron that didn't count. Keep shooting it. Alex Tanguay and Steve Downie each had a shot a piece and each passed up scoring chances. Start shooting it, knuckleheads. If I see one more 2-on-1 that turns into a 4-on-4 because those two decide to stop and circle back or telegraph a forced pass rather than at least force the goalie to make a save and open up the possibility to generate a rebound, I may have to break an expensive TV. Downie, in particular, has a really good shot. He just needs to use it more.
Zenon Konopka had a goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 8:25. He was also 67% on draws. Question for the readers: is it just me or does the swelling on the bridge of Konopka's nose make it look like he's wearing a Breath Right?
Paul Szczechura was -2 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:18.
Blair Jones was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 13:11. He's very rough around the edges, and doesn't always mind the details defensively, but he's been an absolute horse along the wall in the forecheck. If he keeps working hard and listens to a guy like Rick Tocchet, who knows a little something about being a power forward, he really has a shot to be a good player.
Victor Hedman had a goal on a blistering shot to the top shelf and was +1 with 3 shots and 3 blocked shots in 22:22. It was an uneven performance defensively for Hedman, but that goal is Echibit A for why Victor should shoot the puck more. He's got the second best shot of any d-man on the team behind Foster.
The Lightning's road trip is over. But, after two wins, the season isn't, thankfully.
Mike Smith allowed just 2 goals on 38 shots for the win.
NYI 16:47, Hunter 6 (Bailey, Hillen)(PP)
TB 6:20, Stamkos 21 (St. Louis, Malone)
NYI 16:25, Thompson 1 (Okposo, Nielsen)
TB 19:41, Lecavalier 9 (Tanguay, Malone)
TB 2:48, Malone 17 (Stamkos, Foster)(PP)
TB 11:39, Malone 18 (St. Louis, Lecavalier)(PP)
The Lightning have climbed back to within 1 game of the .500 mark and 2 points of 8th place in the Eastern Conference.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 4 hits, and was 75% on draws in 14:05.
James Wright had 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:17.
Blair Jones had 2 shots and 2 hits in 12:34.
Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 4 blocked shots in 19:47.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals in 26 shots for the win.
STL 10:04, Winchester 1 (Backes, Kariya)(PP)
TB 10:37, St. Louis 7 (Tanguay, Lecavalier)
TB 0:36, Stamkos 19 (Foster, St. Louis)
TB 6:24, Foster 5 (Hedman, Malone)
STL 3:58, Oshie 7 (Kariya, Sydor)
TB 4:12, Halpern 6 (Lecavalier, Tanguay)
STL 9:03, Tkachuk 7 (Boyes, McDonald)(PP)
TB 11:15, Halpern 7 (Malone)
TB 19:02, Stamkos 20 (St. Louis)(EN)
I thought in the second period, in particular, the Lightning played with a determination and urgency that is very, very welcome to see. The team's puck movement was also particularly quick and crisp in that period. If they skate and pass the puck like that for 60 minutes a game here on out, they'll win a boat load of hockey games. In particular, Vincent Lecavalier was flying, and the team in general played with a chip on its shoulder. That's the kind of hockey I expected to see this season.
It's a week to Christmas and Steven Stamkos has 20 goals. He's 19 years old. He won't be 20 until February. Think about that.
Zenon Konopka was -1 in 6:45.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 44% on draws in 13:48.
James Wright played 9:57.
Blair Jones was +1 with a fight, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:27. He struggled a bit in his own end of the rink, but if you watched that second period you saw why we've been saying all along he could flourish under Rick Tocchet. He obliterated David Backes on a clean neutral zone hit and, when challenged, answered the bell pretty well again Carlo Colaiacavo. More importantly, there were times he showed hustle and strength on the puck in the forecheck, too, and his big screen on Kurtis Foster's goal helped give the Lightning a key goal that really put St. Louis behind the eight-ball the rest of the way.
Victor Hedman had an assist and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 24:17.