Tampa Bay Lightning
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for December 2-8, 2013 is … Ondrej Palat, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).
The most underappreciated prospect in the Lightning system in recent years is finally getting the attention he deserves. Ondrej Palat, a seventh round pick of the Lightning in 2011, has been a coach’s dream since he forced his way onto AHL Norfolk’s roster in 2011 when the Lightning though he’d return to QMJHL Drummondville. He’s been an integral part of Norfolk, Syracuse, and now Tampa Bay ever since.
Palat is a do-it-all player who thinks the game at another level than most young players. Most times that description refers to offensive vision, but Palat’s is a big-picture, coach-like ability to read the game. His responsibility level is off the charts and he has the skating, size, and skill to fit in on any line.
Lightning get back on the right side of the shootout.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 29 shots and denied all 6 shooters he faced in the penalty shot session for the SO victory. He made 2-3 amazing lateral saves over the course of the game to keep the Lightning in position to take away the 2 points, which erased memories of the lone goal he allowed which was a little soft mismanagement of a backhand rebound. On a tangent, I found Detroit's strategy of shooting only and not trying to deke Bishop in the shootout bizarre, and he ate their lunch because of it.
15:04 DET Quincey (1), (Nyquist, Franzen)
19:16 TB Kucherov (3), (Brown)
TB- St. Louis
Bishop and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and third stars.
This was a very evenly played game, and the kind of game the Lightning is going to have to continue to win if they're going to stay on track for the postseason. With the exception of the first 10 minutes of the Third Period, I thought they had a slight advantage territorially, but Detroit probably had slightly better chances. Where the Lightning can help themselves are in some obvious areas: 1.) Be better on the PP, 2.) Be better on odd man rushes. I see too many PP's where it takes 3/4 of the PP just to try to get a decent set up. I see too many 3-on-2's where the Lightning settle for a bad, unscreened shot from the side instead of moving the puck to the middle or getting something laterally. I see too many 2-on-1's where passes are broken up and the Lightning get no shots on goal. I see too many breakaways where the Lightning miss the net or fail to put the opposing goaltender in a challenging position to make a save. They wasted several opportunities like this tonight, and if they can start improving in these areas I think they'll find the games will go a lot easier for them. When you take advantage of opportunities like those, you don't have to be as perfect to win games.
Tampa Bay starts the 4th 10 game segment of the season with 2 points. Just 10 more to go in this segment.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 23:49. Stud. He does not care what your resume says. He does not care how many rings, trophies, or trophy wives with rings that you have. He will hit you, and he will hit you to hurt. Tonight's victim was Pavel Datsyuk, who by the Third Period looked very tired of Radko being on his back like a cheap, scratchy bearded t-shirt. He is blowing all expectations out of the water proving he can play against the other team's top line and excel defensively.
Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 7:13. He had a better game than against Washington, but that's an awful low bar to clear. A flea couldn't limbo under that bar.
Tyler Johnson had 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 23:33 and was 46% on draws. His line was not nearly as dangerous as in the previous two contests.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. I thought his line with Filppula and Purcell was the most dangerous, and Filppula and Killorn in particular were very hard on the puck and created quite a few chances. If he can get one, I think the floodgates open for Killorn. He's back to playing his game.
Ondrej Palat had 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 22:26. He had one really awful turnover in his own end in the First Period that he got away with, but started to atone after that pick pocketing a Wing to get a partial break that resulted in a penalty and setting up a couple of chances with cross ice passes through traffic that took a lot of vision and touch. He's getting the bigger minutes now for a reason. He's earned them.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 12:41. Feed Kucherov in his spot, get points.
Matt Taormina had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:42. I think Lightning fans give him a pass because he's fighting above his weight class, but he's almost as bad in his own end as Barberio is. He had 5 giveaways tonight. The team only had 11 overall. On the good side, he did land a really nice hit tonight and he looks decent using his big shot on the PP. But, man, he's pretty scary in his own third.
Kucherov had the big goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:47. He has a spot. High slot. Quick release. All 3 goals have come from that spot. I think he might even be 3/3 on shots from that spot (or pretty close). As anemic as the PP has been, were I Cooper, I would be scheming ways to get Kucherov looks on the PP from that spot.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 15:09. He didn't stick out tonight, which is good for a rookie defenseman playing against Detroit.
Capitals steal a point from the Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 31 shots and 3 of 5 shooters to convert in the Shootout for the SO Loss. He wasn't as on top of his game as usual, but the only goal I might be able to fault him for was Ovechkin's tying goal with the empty net, which squirted underneath his armpit.
2:26 TB St Louis (13), (Salo, Johnson)(PP)
10:49 TB Kucherov (2), (Purcell, Carle)(PP)
11:07 TB Thompson (3), (Brown, Crombeen)
14:15 WSH Ovechkin (23), (Backstrom)
6:24 WSH Backstrom (7), (Grabovski, Brouwer)(PP)
12:41 TB Johnson (7), (Palat, St Louis)
16:38 WSH Ovechkin (24), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
18:48 WSH Ovechkin (25), (Green, Backstrom)(PP)
8:36 TB Palat (5), (Johnson, St Louis)
19:27 WSH Ovechkin (26), (Carlson, Backstrom)
TB- Kucherov, Purcell
WSH- Fehr, Grabovski, Brouwer
Martin St. Louis was the game's third star.
The Lightning have nothing to feel ashamed of in this game. They dominated, and I mean DOMINATED play at even strength. They outshot Washington 42-31 and if it weren't for Washington being spotted two goals on a boarding major, I suspect the Lightning would have won this game in regulation going away. That's quite the achievement going against a high-powered team like Washington with their top defenseman, Victor Hedman, out of the lineup. I'll take that effort, minus the boarding major, 9 nights out of 10 and win on most of those nights.
The Lightning close the third 10-game segment of the season with 9 points, 3 shy of the minimum 12 you want every 10-game segment. That's bad. However, because the team had gotten a surplus of 4 points in the first 2 segments of the campaign, they remain on track for the season. However, they cannot afford to keep falling behind schedule in these 10-game segments and this fourth segment coming up is going to be critical for the Lightning as they attempt to stay in position for a postseason run.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 2 shots, 10 hits, and 3 blocked shots in a huge 28:38 of ice time. That's not a typo (neither the minutes nor the hits). The young man's a stud.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 7:18. Only Panik had less ice time (for reasons that will be obvious later), and that is very reflective of how he played. If you're ever looking to make the case on why plus-minus is a deceptive stat, Mark Barberio might be Case 1. Yes, he's got a good plus-minus so far this season and even got a plus rating in this game. No, he's not good defensively at all. He had an ill-advised step up in the neutral zone in the Second Period that led to a quick 3-on-1, a really long foray for Washington in the offensive zone, and eventually a penalty on the Lightning that Backstrom scored on to cut the Lightning's lead to 3-2. In the Third Period, Barberio was defending a defenseman, Karl Alzner, on the rush and Alzner nearly beat Barberio around the corner. Barberio made a stay-at-home defenseman look like Bill Guerin in his prime. So, you have bad decision making and a guy who is physically weak. That's a recipe for disaster the Lightning coaching staff decided not to bake with tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 points, and was +2 with 3 shots in 20:50. He was also 42% on draws. He was certainly on the right line tonight, supporting St. Louis and Palat as they ran wild on the Caps. He wasn't the straw that stirs the drink, but he's a nice compliment to those two.
Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 22:20. The penalty he took was a complete fabrication by the refs and it's fortunate that didn't cost the Lightning. Beyond that, I thought Killorn had one of his better games in a while. He was strong as an ox on the puck and getting shots in bunches, playing his game. This is what you expect from Alex Killorn.
Ondrej Palat had 1 goal, 2 points, and was +2 with 6 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:25. In my mind he was the Lightning's best player tonight. He was so dangerous on the rush and he already is showing incredible chemistry with Martin St. Louis. Those two look like they have magic together and Palat nearly won the game twice in Overtime hitting the post from the RW circle on one play and toe dragging into the slot for another opportunity he was denied on. He was outstanding, and it speaks to the quality of Palat's game that of all the talented rookies this team has he is the one that is standing out the most right now.
J.T. Brown had an assist, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:02. He played sparing minutes with the fourth line but made the most of them, in my mind. He gave Nate Thompson an easy goal on a 2-on-1 by freezing the goaltender with a fake shot before dishing and he helped that line put together a stabilizing forechecking shift when the team was clinging to a 1 goal lead at 3-2 in the Second Period.
Matt Taormina had 2 hits in 11:33. A lot of his time came on the second PP unit as the Lightning tried to hide him a bit from Washington's skillful forwards.
Nikita Kucherov had a goal and was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:07. He has a spot. High slot. Give him the puck there for a quick release slapper and he's looking as money as Steven Stamkos from the left wing circle. As breathtaking as that goal was, his Pavel Datsyuk impression in the Shootout is the one you're going to see on highlight reels. The young man has ridiculous hands.
Andrej Sustr had 1 hit in 11:36. He stood up ok with his reach on the one really dangerous rush I recall him facing, but it's clear he wasn't comfortable with Washington's pace so the Lightning coaches appeared to protect him just like Barberio and Taormina.
Richard Panik had 5 penalty minutes with 1 shot and 1 hit in 5:29. His major for boarding Alzner was obviously the turning point of the game. The Lightning held a 4-2 lead on Washington at the time he took the penalty and appeared to be cruising toward a victory. Washington emerged from that major penalty with a 4-4 tie, and that allowed Washington to avoid getting run out of their own building, in my opinion. The Lightning have Tyrell on emergency recall from Syracuse, so I don't know if it's feasible to send Panik down right now, but something's got to give. He's just not contributing anything right now, and he owes the team a point after tonight's debacle. I feel bad for the young man, but the team can't keep investing time in him and keep getting nothing in return. Ultimately, Steve Yzerman and Jon Cooper aren't running a charity. This is a results oriented business and 30 games into the season Panik simply hasn't been getting results.
Lightning keep letting shaky goaltenders off the hook.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the OT loss. He played great and really deserved better than he got from the team in front of him. Did he have one lucky save on a point blank rebound chance by Jokinen that was off one of his own rebounds? Sure. But he gave the Lightning every opportunity to win this game.
5:25 WPG Wheeler (7), (Trouba, Clitsome)
19:58 TB Thompson (2), (Gudas, St Louis)
1:04 WPG Scheifele (3), (Wheeler)
Lindback and Radko Gudas were the game's second and third stars.
Someone needs to have a very serious discussion with this team about letting backup/shaky goaltenders off the hook. Al Montoya looked like hot trash in net tonight. He was giving up rebounds. He was barely squeezing off chances that nearly went though him. He did not look confident or poised between the pipes. 5 shots in the First Period. 12 in the Second Period, but mostly from the perimeter. Not much zone time. Nothing that really created the conditions to get some greasy goals. It's always important to do that, mind you, but when you play a goaltender like Montoya I have no idea why the team isn't on it like a cat on catnip. They sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes and ended up losing in OT of a game they could've easily won in regulation if they hadn't completely let Montoya off the hook. They did the same thing in Columbus sleepwalking through so much of that game, and I just don't get it.
Gudas had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:38. He was a stud tonight and he was all over Andrew Ladd like a bad holiday sweater throughout the game.
Mark Barberio was -2 in 12:59. A lot of people ask me why I am hard on Barberio. He's lived a charmed life so far this year if you look at his overall plus/minus so people don't think he's a bad defensive liability. Please refer to the OT winner the next time you feel the need to ask me why I am hard on Mark Barberio. Scheifele manhandled Barberio on what should have been a very easy tie-up for an NHL defenseman to make. That's why he terrifies me in his own third of the rink. Even small forwards can rag doll him.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 39% on draws in 19:05.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 3 hits in 16:31. He almost did his Chris Drury impression again working himself into a breakaway in Overtime only to ring his shot off the goalpost after a nice move. One note on that play, looking back at the replay: I am absolutely positive Al Montoya threw his stick after getting faked out of his shorts by Killorn on the play. That probably should've been called a PS for Killorn (mind you, Killorn faked him out so bad he probably should've finished off the goal). Instead, the Jets came down the other way and the waste receptacle conflagration occurred on Scheifele's winning goal.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. As he was in the AHL, I thought he was the straw that stirred the drink tonight on his line as a lot of chances were running through Palat's play.
J.T. Brown had 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:27.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 10:54. He had one really cringe-worthy shift in the Third Period where he looked physically overmatched a la Barberio.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:50. He's mesmerizing with the puck and I think Lightning players need to learn to have their sticks on the ice ready to shoot whenever Kucherov's in the offensive third.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:42. He had a glorious chance jumping up into the high slot on one play in the First Period and made another in the opening frame where he made a beautiful cross ice feed to Thompson for a near tip-in goal. He was also pretty responsible defensively, as usual. If you're going to get shifts like Taormina and Barberio had tonight, I'd rather Cooper just dress 6 d-men and play Sustr more, to be blunt.
Overcome. Survive. Advance.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots for the victory, which is amazing with just 5 d-men (one being Taormina) with Hedman and Aulie going down to injury.
16:45 TB St Louis (11), (Palat, Matt Carle)
6:11 OTT Wiercioch (1), (Turris)(PP)
13:19 TB St Louis (12), (Palat, Johnson)
10:56 TB Filppula (10), (unassisted)
It was a huge victory with Gudas out and Hedman and Aulie going down to injury during the game. Heck, it was a huge victory anyway. I've said for the past couple of games TJ and Palat needed a finisher on their line. Cooper gave them the future HOF'er tonight, and results were immediate.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 21:35. My God, it's come to this. Barberio is playing 20+ minutes.
Tyler Johnson was +2 with a helper, 2 shots, and he was 37% on draws.
Alex Killorn was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:54. He also only took 2 draws so the centerman experiment may be coming to a close.
Palat had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots, 9 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:07. Nicely done.
J.T. Brown had 3 hits in 14:04.
Matt Taormina was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 16:07. Not bad considering the spot he was thrown into.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:57.
Andrej Sustr was +2 with 2 penalty minutes in 20:51.