3-0-0 is a great start. However, I was not impressed with the team's play tonight.
Make no mistake about it, Johan Holmqvist stole the win tonight with a 30 saves on 31 shots effort that included multiple odd man rushes and breakaways. He got the win despite the Lightning being outshot 31-23 by an inferior opponent.
Tampa Bay lays an egg in what was supposed to be their tune up for the regular season.
Marc Denis allowed 4 goals on 14 shots for the loss before giving way to Johan Holmqvist who allowed 1 goal on 18 shots.
No matter how you slice this, tonight's result was disappointing considering this supposedly was the lineup John Tortorella wants in place on opening night. The poor result was further compounded by more injury issues as forward Nick Tarnasky had his nose broken in a fight and defenseman Paul Ranger left the game with a minor shoulder injury.
Right now the Lightning have nothing resembling continuity in their forward lines or their defensive pairings due to injuries resulting in precious few opportunities for units to work together at game speed to get their timing. As a consequence the Lightning were outshot 32-23 tonight and, frankly, there are no quick fixes. The Lightning will have to try to get healthy again and grind it out over the first few weeks of the season and try to keep their heads above water while the rust and the growing pains are shaken off.
The Lightning were fortunate to have dressed an extra defenseman tonight and Paul Ranger's minutes were partially absorbed by the three headed monster of Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby, and Doug Janik. Unfortunately, the three were a combined -5 in the game.
Lundin led the group in ice time with 20:27 but was -2 with no shots on goal and no hits for the contest. Smaby had the second most ice time at 14:36 and was -1 with 1 hit. Janik brought up the rear with 12:32 of ice time and a -2 rating. Both Smaby and Janik also took penalties for tripping and hooking, respectively.
According to Erik Erlendsson's blog the fourth line at today's practice included center Craig MacDonald while the third pairing at the practice featured defensemen Doug Janik and Mike Lundin. Given that Torts has been adament that his lineup Saturday night will be his opening night lineup barring injuries and that the team will only carry 20 players into the regular season this may be a tip off that veteran forwards Kyle Wanvig, Mathieu Darche, Bryce Lampman and prospect Matt Smaby will be the odd men out.
A 20-19 shot barn burner. Yes, that's sarcasm.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 18 of 20 in the loss.
First, Vincent Lecavalier left the game with an upper body injury and did not return. Cuts and third pairing defensive jobs and fourth liners aside, the obvious priority for the Lightning in this preseason is to make sure Lecavalier, Richards, St. Louis, and Boyle get out of it healthy. Hopefully the Lightning were just being extra cautious in shutting down #4 for the evening.
Martin St. Louis had the Lightning's goal shorthanded off assists from Lecavalier and Boyle.
Big winner of the night: Doug Janik. Of all the Lightning d-men battling for the last two defensive spots he got the most ice time at 16:24 with 2 shots and 3 blocked shots. He, Lecavalier, and St. Louis were also the only Lightning players to be plus players for the night.
Big loser: Dan Jancevski. 7 shifts. 5:20 of ice time. Looks from the outside like he might be the one shuffling off to Norfolk tonight and Bryce Lampman could possibly survive the first wave.
Matt Smaby got 12:54 of ice time and was even with a blocked shot and 2 penalty minutes.
With Lecavalier, Gratton, and Craig all nicked, Craig MacDonald looks like he might stick around a bit.
According to numerous published reports it appears the Lightning will be cutting 7 players from their roster after Saturday's preseason game against the Caps. Here's my initial thoughts on the seven who will go (subject to change based on performance in the Washington game, of course):
The showdown for the #6 and #7 defenseman jobs for the Tampa Bay Lightning looks like it will begin in earnest on Saturday night against the Caps.
According to Carter Gaddis on Erik Erlendsson's blog, the night will mark this year's preseason debut for the pairing of Brad Lukowich and Matt Smaby as well as for the pairing of Dan Jancevski and Doug Janik. From the outside looking in, it appears Smaby, Jancevski, and Janik are all vying for one the two open vacancies. One will be left out, but whom?
Saturday's lines and pairings:
According to Tampabaylightning.com, day one of camp scrimmages ended in a 1-1 tie between Team Black and Team White. Team White's goal was scored by winger Kyle Wanvig off assists from Brad Richards and Doug Janik while Team Black's goal was scored by Vincent Lecavalier off assists from Vaclav Prospal and Paul Ranger.
Wanvig and Janik continue to make a strong impression after good showings in camp during physical testing on Thursday and Friday. Erik Erlendsson also notes in his blog that Wanvig was displaying a strong physical presence throughout the game to go with his goal. The Lightning's top-12 forwards appeared to be set going into training camp, but Wanvig appears to be playing his way into the discussion of who will be the first forward called up at the very least.
Erlendsson notes none of the defensemen vying for the team's #6 and #7 defenseman jobs separated from the pack, and that all three goaltenders played well with wunderkind Karri Ramo stopping 16 of 16 shots faced including a penalty shot by rookie pro Mike Lundin.
And, just like that, the Lightning no longer control their division title destiny.
Johan Holmqvist allowed 4 goals on 24 shots for the loss while Marc Denis allowed 3 goals on 5 shots in relief. Filip Kuba had the only Lightning goal off assists from Doug Janik and Nick Tarnasky. The Lightning now trail Atlanta by six points in the division with a game in hand after the Thrashers' overtime win against Buffalo today. Just 4 points separate 6th place Tampa Bay and the 9th place New York Islanders now, putting the Lightning in the uncomfortable position of not only seeing their division title hopes slip away, but also seeing that making the playoffs may become a difficult task as well.
Bad, bad, bad time of year for a three game losing streak.
Washington 5:31, Tomas Fleischmann 3 (Boyd Gordon)
Washington 13:38, Tomas Fleischmann 4 (Kris Beech, Milan Jurcina)
Washington 1:14, Alexander Semin 35 (power play) (Chris Clark, Brian Pothier)
Washington 6:45, Alexander Semin 36 (Tomas Fleischmann)
Washington 8:18, Alexander Semin 37 (Kris Beech, Matt Bradley)
Tampa Bay 17:44, Filip Kuba 11 (Doug Janik, Nick Tarnasky)
Washington 10:34, Alexandre Giroux 2 (unassisted)
Washington 17:55, Boyd Gordon 5 (Tomas Fleischmann, Shaone Morrisonn)
Game sheet from NHL.com.
Holmer and the road warriors just smacked the champs in the mouth in their own barn. I like it.
Johan Holmqvist pitches a 31 save shutout for the win. The shutout is the first of Johan's career and he improves his season record to 17-10-0. Martin St. Louis and Vincent Lecavalier continued on their MVP caliber tears through the NHL with 1 goal and 1 assist each. Vaclav Prospal added 2 assists of his own as well. The other Lightning goals came from Ryan Craig and Doug Janik. Eric Perrin, Ruslan Fedotenko and Brad Richards added individual helpers.
The well oiled war machine that is the Lightning on the road extended their franchise record winning streak away from the SP Times Forum to 7 straight games. More importantly, the Lightning have caught the Carolina Hurricanes at 58 points with the Lightning still holding a game in hand. And, by virtue of Atlanta's 5-2 loss to the Islanders tonight the Lightning are now with single digits of the division leader at 8 points behind. The Lightning still hold a game in hand on Atlanta and, more importantly, have two more head-to-head games left on the schedule for a total of six potential points the Lightning can pick up quickly. I am reminded of 2002-2003 when the Lightning ran down the Washington Capitals from behind like a hungry lion runs down a misfortunate antelope.
If the Lightning can stay focused and remain hot for the next couple of weeks, then the spotlight should fall squarely on GM Jay Feaster. Feaster knows as we all do that the team is just a deal or two away from being a serious title contender. It will be incumbent on him to pull the trigger and hit the right targets to give this team the reinforcements they need. If he does, look out. Dare we use the pun, Lightning could strike twice?
Rookie Blair Jones had 5:39 of ice time tonight and was 40% on draws with 2 penalty minutes (and looked about 1,000,000% more comfortable than last time out).
Tampa Bay 15:12, Ryan Craig 12 (power play) (Martin St. Louis)
Tampa Bay 19:23, Doug Janik 2 (Eric Perrin, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 2:49, Vincent Lecavalier 32 (Ruslan Fedotenko, Vaclav Prospal)
Tampa Bay 9:29, Martin St. Louis 32 (power play) (Vincent Lecavalier, Brad Richards)
Game sheet from NHL.com.