Tampa Bay Lightning

Content regarding the Tampa Bay Lightning organization.

NHL Game Night: 4-8-14 Maple Leafs at Lightning

A solid, satisfying win... but at what price?

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Ben Bishop made 3 saves on 3 shots before leaving the game 5:43 into the First Period in serious discomfort after falling to the ice while catching a puck with his glove hand. Wrist, elbow, shoulder? Whatever it was, Bishop was writhing in pain enough to leave doubt whether he'll be available anytime soon. Anders Lindback entered the game and stopped all 25 shots he faced the rest of the way for the combined shutout and the win. Putting aside any critique of Bishop's workload, I feel like Lindback's play in his last start merited more starting time than Cooper has given him. He looked good again tonight, including a sparkling glove save toward the end of the Second Period. What I like about Lindback is the team in front of him seems to simplify its game and pay closer attention to detail rather than simply relying on Ben Bishop to be the eraser for their mistakes. It certainly appeared that way tonight.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
9:19 TB Palat (21), (Hedman, Gudas)
15:45 TB Palat (22), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
19:47 TB Hedman (13), (unassisted)(EN)

Lindback, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

That was a fantastically well played hockey game by the Tampa Bay Lightning after the debacles against Calgary and Dallas. Ordinarily I'd be really excited about the way they played tonight, because it represents a total reversal of the issues that had plaqued the club earlier this season when it simply couldn't get power play production, couldn't kill penalties with any reliability, and struggled mightily to protect Third Period leads. They were ruthlessly efficient in all three aspects, which bodes well, but...

Between Bishop leaving the game and Sami Salo also leaving early in the Second Period, you wonder if they won the battle and ended up losing the war. It's never a good thing when an injury looks so significant that people start asking you how quickly your KHL-based prospect goaltender-of-the-future might be available to be signed and, gulp, appear for your team in the playoffs. That's the scary predicament of the night, though, pending word on what ails Bishop.

The Lightning's victory tonight puts them at 95 points for the season, 1 shy of our 80-game goal of 96 points and 2 points shy of the 10-game segment goal of 12 points earned. It's remarkable how efficient they've been about staying on schedule all season long.

Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 18:10. He, again, had to play bigger minutes with one of his defensive corps-mates out of the game (in this case Salo). He made several key plays in the Second Period including breaking up a 3-on-1 by Toronto's top line. Tonight was his 40th game of the season, meaning he is now just 1 game away from graduation on the site. He'll likely be the capstone to an unprecedented Bolt Prospects Alumni class the likes of which we may never see again.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Bolts Ink 2013 Pick Henri Ikonen to Entry-level Contract

TAMPA BAY – The Tampa Bay Lightning have signed forward Henri Ikonen to an entry-level contract today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced. He will report to the Syracuse Crunch of the American Hockey League for the remainder of the season on an amateur tryout contract.

Ikonen, 19, played in 54 games with the Kingston Frontenacs of the Ontario Hockey League this season, posting 25 goals and 70 points to go along with 49 penalty minutes and a plus-17 rating. He ranked second on the Frontenacs for points and was tied for second for assists with 45. The Savolinna, Finland native scored three shorthanded goals which ranked tied for first on Kingston. Ikonen also skated in seven postseason games for the Frontenacs, recording a goal and six points.

The 5-foot-11, 182-pound forward played in seven games for Team Finland at the 2014 IIHF World Junior Championships in Sweden, recording a goal and three points. Ikonen won the Gold Medal with Team Finland at the tournament.

He has skated in 115 career OHL games, all with Kingston, over the past two seasons, collecting 47 goals and 121 points to go along with 79 penalty minutes. Ikonen set career highs for goals, assists, points, plus/minus and penalty minutes during the 2013-14 season.

Ikonen was selected by the Lightning in the sixth round, 154th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.

NHL Game Night: 4-5-14 Stars at Lightning

Time for some real talk, Tampa Bay.

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Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 28 shots for the loss. It was just an awful game by Bishop, who has been subpar since coming out of the Olympics break. Jamie Benn's second goal was an extremely soft goal that Bishop allowed through him and Roussel's goal came on a seemingly innocuous play where Bishop did not cover a puck at the side of his cage. He's clearly fatigued, both mentally and physically. I get that Cooper wants home ice for the playoffs, but home ice is irrelevant if Bishop keeps playing this poorly. Point blank, I would've put Lindback in for the last 40 minutes of this game and even though the Lightning made it interesting in the Second Period, the fact remains they burned more of what little Bishop had left in the tank tonight and got nothing out of it.

First Period
0:40 DAL Ja. Benn (31), (Goligoski, Seguin)
5:37 DAL Ja. Benn (32), (Garbutt, Fiddler)
18:26 DAL Seguin (35), (Jo. Benn, Ja. Benn)

Second Period
1:57 TB Stamkos (24), (Palat, Hedman)
6:44 TB Sustr (1), (Malone, Thompson)

Third Period
1:26 DAL Fiddler (6), (unassisted)
7:57 DAL Roussel (14), (Garbutt, Eakin)

Tyler Johnson was the game's third star. To be honest, though, this was a game where nobody on the Lightning deserved a star.

Real talk, Tampa Bay. This team has been mediocre at best and a dumpster fire at worst since the Olympics break. Did they manage to string together enough points to lock up a playoff spot early, primarily by manufacturing wins against subpar teams? Yes. But, this team hasn't played well, with the exception of one or two efforts where they actually focused, such as in the game against Montreal. The last two games they have been utterly embarrassed by two teams (Calgary and Dallas) that I know in my heart, man-for-man, they're better than. They're definitely better than Calgary and I know they're better than Dallas, too. But, only if they move their feet and use their heads, and too often for the past month and a half the Lightning have been doing one or the other, or neither, but not both.

At this point I almost give the defensive corps a pass, so a lot of what I'm going to say now will focus on the forwards. True, Sustr got lost after a faceoff in his own end resulting in Seguin's goal tonight, but he atoned for it, unlike others on the Lightning. If you twisted my arm, I'd call out Gudas for being a shadow of what he was prior to getting hurt in that game against Anaheim several months back, but he clearly wasn't at fault tonight after the refs threw him out of the game for no reason. He was ejected for a headshot on a play where he was clearly playing the puck and shielding it from an oncoming Roussel who lowered his head reaching for the puck and ended up taking the worst of it. Gudas wasn't throwing a check and wasn't being careless with his elbows or shoulders. He was playing the puck and making a hockey play. He shouldn't have been tossed and if he gets any supplemental discipline for that play from the NHL then the league should be ashamed. He did nothing wrong on that play. But, I digress.

The forwards on this team have been unwilling to pay a price and unwilling to mind details in the first 2/3rds of the ice. Period. And, while some of it has been the youth of the team, a lot of it has been the veterans. The first Stars goal came directly from a soft misplay of a puck by Teddy Purcell. A couple of others came from bad turnovers by Stamkos, including the back breaker by Fiddler in the Third Period. Even Valtteri Filppula has routinely been guilty of overhandling pucks and turning it over far too frequently. These are your team leaders, and a lot of times they have been, A.) unwilling to take a bump to make a play, and subsequently B.) been throwing the puck into bad areas and putting a struggling, fatigued goaltender in bad situations. These are your veteran leaders. These are the guys you need to mind their details, and they aren't. The forwards on this team, lately, have been soft as Charmin along the wall, they don't come back hard or deep enough to help out their, mediocre at best athletically, defensemen, and to top it all off they've been flat out idiotic with the puck half the time when they actually do have it. It's inexcusable, and while you might be able to punish Purcell with reduced ice time, it's not like you can sit Stamkos or Filppula. It's on those two to wake up and lead by example. Otherwise, I hope they liked Andreychuk's statue unveiling tonight and that bronze Stanley Cup out on the plaza, because they won't get within a country mile of the sterling silver one playing the way they have.

And what's worst of all is this: I expected this team to rebound after wetting the bed against Calgary. After embarrassing themselves that badly against Calgary you would think they'd be ready to go tonight. Nope. That's how fat, happy, and pleased with themselves they are right now. I'm so disappointed in this team right now, and I'm not willing to give them a pass because of their youth. Baloney. They're so much better than they've been playing lately and they should expect so much more of themselves, let alone what those of us who watch this team's expectations are. This has been a special season, and they owe it to themselves to finish it right. The last thing that they should want to happen is to stumble to the finish line, get blasted out of the first round of the playoffs, and have this season end up tasting like a dung sandwich all summer. But, you know, that's what this is turning into. A big old dung sandwich. Real talk.

Andrej Sustr had his first NHL goal and was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 20:27, paired most of the night with Victor Hedman. Putting aside the play where he got lost on his faceoff assignment on Seguin's goal late in the First Period, he played reasonably well. He atoned for it with his rebound goal and he helped fill the void when Gudas was thrown out of the game for no good reason. Sustr is 2 games away from graduation here on the site, and if he plays like he did tonight for the team, he could provide them a shot in the arm from a depth standpoint.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-3-14 Flames at Lightning

Classic letdown.

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Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 24 shots for the loss including one goal directly resulting from a major puckhandling error on Bishop's part. Just a poor, flat effort on the entire team's part, including Bishop's.

First Period
10:20 CGY Cammalleri (25), (unassisted)
10:35 CGY Westgarth (4), (Breen)

Second Period
15:56 TB Palat (20), (Carle, Callahan)

Third Period
18:04 CGY Glencross (11), (Cammalleri, Russell)(PP)
19:44 CGY Glencross (12), (unassisted)(EN)

Matt Carle was the game's third star. I'm thinking that was some kind of belated April Fool's joke.

Hopefully, lesson learned. The team was fat and happy after the big win against Montreal and clinching a playoff berth. A soft goal and two Calgary greasy goals later, they were done for. Games aren't played on paper, and the other team gets paid to play too. If you don't come prepared to play, you can fall behind and lose a game pretty easily against anyone in the NHL.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 4-1-14 Canadiens at Lightning

Playoff-bound Lightning make a statement.

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Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. He held the team in down 1-0 and gave them time to build up momentum at the end of the Second Period and eventually run the Habs out of the building. That's what good goaltenders do.

First Period
10:18 MTL Gallagher (19), (Galchenyuk, Weaver)

Second Period
9:19 TB Callahan (17), (Palat, Hedman)(PP)

Third Period
12:41 TB Johnson (23), (unassisted)
19:15 TB Killorn (17), (Palat, Brown)(PP)(EN)

Tyler Johnson and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. My star goes to J.T. Brown, who got called for a baloney incidental contact infraction on a Purcell goal that should have counted at the end of the Second Period where he set a near perfect screen on Carey Price, and the set up several chances for his linemates early in the Third Period. So pleased he got the second assist on the empty netter to cap the win.

For the first time in a while, I can say, "That was Lightning hockey". After sleepwalking their way to the finish line for the past several weeks, the Lightning realized the magnitude of tonight's game and they brought it for 60 minutes against the team they are battling for home ice in the first round who will likely be their opponent in the first round. Bishop was strong. They minded their details. They played hard and generated a ton of chances. The scoreboard doesn't tell the full tale. Without Price standing on his head Montreal loses this game 4-1 or 5-1. Heck, without that terrible call on Brown to end the Second Period the Lightning would've gotten to Price at least one more time.

The victory, coupled with losses by New Jersey and Washington, clinches the Lightning's playoff spot with 93 points through 76 games. I thought 96 gets you in the playoffs comfortably. The Lightning's expedited trip to get 93 points gets it all done even earlier.

Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 14:00. The end of the game had one dark cloud, and that was Doug Murray's nasty elbow to Kostka's head at the Habs blueline on a power play entry that temporarily knocked Kostka out and led to the stretcher being brought out on the ice. Fortunately, Kostka eventually got up and left on his own power, but it was a scary scene. Murray got a match penalty for targeting the head and will be serving a suspension for what he did. Hopefully Kostka doesn't miss much time, if any, because of the play.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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