Tampa Bay Lightning
The Tampa Bay Lightning recalled forward Joel Vermin from the Syracuse Crunch today, vice president and general manager Steve Yzerman announced.
Vermin, 23, has skated in 12 games with the Crunch this season, posting three goals and 10 points to go along with two penalty minutes. He ranks tied for first on Syracuse for both assists (seven) and points. Vermin has recorded two goals and five points over his past two games for the Crunch.
The Bern, Switzerland, native has appeared in 93 career AHL games, all with Syracuse during the past three seasons, notching 16 goals and 44 points. Vermin set career highs last season for games played (73), goals (12), assists (21) and points (33). He’s also skated in three AHL playoff games, registering one assist.
Vermin was originally drafted by the Lightning in the seventh round, 186th overall, at the 2013 NHL Draft.
BP Commentary: Every year there seems to be one or two players in the system who make a big jump. Last year it was Nikita Nesterov and to an extent, Tanner Richard. This year in the rookie tournament in Estero, Florida, it was Joel Vermin.
Talk about good timing.
Deeply unjust hockey gods banish Lightning to deep standings hole.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 19 shots for the loss. He looked to me to be very sharp despite limited shots again. Followed the puck really well. I can't fault the kid for a lucky goal that takes a double deflection to get past him.
19:39 FLA Ekblad (4), (Huberdeau, Jagr)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Vintage early '00's Panthers hockey. Give up a zillion shots with a collapsing defense and inept offense. Hope Luongo can keep you in the game and smash and grab it at the end. And they did. Disgusting. The Lightning deserved all 4 points from the home-and-home. They ended up getting 1.
On a side note, when is the NHL going to just move that franchise down there? It's bad enough to hold game's in front of a bristling crowd of hundreds, but tonight the ice conditions were as bad as I've seen ever. It looked like the game was being played with a racqetball, to the extend that you had even the most basic puckhandling and passing exercises eluded both teams. It was borderline unwatchable at times, and the league should be embarrassed in that product. If you're not going to make the Panthers invest in the infrastructure to at least make the rink playable the way Tampa Bay has, just quit playing footsie and move them to Quebec City already.
The hole is 5 points. The Lightning got 7 out of the target minimum of 12 points in that 10 game segment of the season. They'll be spending the bulk of the rest of this season trying to climb out of that hole. How bad is it? The Lightning could play at a .700 clip from here on out and it would take them 25 games to catch up with comfortable playoff pace. It's not good. That's why the injustice of these past two games against the Panthers hurts so much. Things went straight to hell in a handbasket, standings-wise, with those two defeats.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:16. Made some decent plays in limited ice time.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 2 hits in 9:11. He rung post on one of the best chances the Lightning had in the game and was fairly active in the offensive zone in his limited ice time. That might've been his best game with the Lightning to date, in fact.
Lightning just miss a breakthrough they desperately needed.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 23 shots and allowed 1 of 2 shooters to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. He was not super-sharp tonight, but I was almost willing to give him a pass after making a key desperation save with his right pad late in the Third Period that nearly was enough to preserve the win. But, he allowed a deflected floater with less than a minute to play and that ultimately cost the team a second point tonight. I'm not going to lambaste a guy for allowing goals on 2 breakaways and a penalty shot. That said, it's an obvious tell when Bishop is on/off as to whether or not he's leaving his five hole open. Tonight it was open 24 hours like a 7-Eleven, and Pirri took advantage on his PS goal and the Shootout winner. The five hole is to Ben Bishop what drink is to someone in AA: it's a demon he'll be fighting with the rest of his life. Being such a tall guy, he'll never fully correct it, but he's got to focus on keeping it under control.
4:48 FLA Jokinen (4), (Trocheck, Campbell)
15:22 TB Paquette (2), (Brown)
1:02 TB Namestnikov (4), (Stamkos)
2:39 FLA Bjugstad (6), (Smith, Huberdeau)
4:47 FLA Pirri (3), (unassisted)(PS)
7:49 TB Stralman (1), (Killorn, Hedman)
9:56 TB Namestnikov (5), (Brown, Stamkos)
19:22 FLA Ekblad (3), (Smith, Bolland)(PP)
This one stings, because it had the chance to be a cathartic moment that would put the Lightning season back on track. It was not a pretty game. It was incredibly sloppy and incredibly chippy, but that emotional response by the Lightning after getting physically challenged by the downstate rival was welcome. It looked like the elixir, quite frankly, as the team battled to manufacture the 4 goals it looked like it needed to win. And then the bottom dropped out on a center point wrister than took a slight deflection off Condra and went in with under a minute to go. Deflating. Tonight's exercise was helpful because it showed them they can manufacture goals in the dirty areas off rebounds, as they did on 3 out of the 4 goals. But, they really needed to payoff of the 2 points to feel good about the night and it slipped away from them. So, the funk continues to linger a bit longer.
So, the Lightning will be at least 3 points in the hole at the end of segment 2 of the season. 2 points in the segment finale would be much appreciated, to be sure.
Extra hockey fun in Syracuse.
Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the OT victory. Not surprisingly, Zettler rode the hot hand from last weekend. It's up to Gudlevskis to take the lead dog's job back.
BNG Hobbs, (1) (Robinson, Fraser), 3:13
SYR Peca, (3) (Witkowski, Vermin), 10:31
BNG Lindberg, (3) (Dzingel, Kostka), 19:01
BNG Robinson, (1) (Claesson), 15:19 (SH)
SYR Vermin, (2) (DeAngelo, Wilcox), 2:13 (PP)
SYR McGinn, (1) (Peca, Vermin), 12:16 (PP)
SYR Tambellini, (4) (Gourde, Witkowski), 3:30
My running theory for this season for the Crunch is that their ceiling ultimately depends on Matthew Peca's development. The Crunch need his speed and creativity to give them some offensive punch off the rush and on counters to augment the more meat and potatoes approach they showed to manufacturing goals most of last season. So, anytime Peca gets a multi point game, that's a good sign.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 26 shots for the loss. The third goal was a hugely deflating softie that went in off of his glove. For everyone who has been ready to ship Bishop out of town at the earliest convenience and make Vasiy the guy, pump the breaks. The kid's 21, and he is mortal. There will be rough patches that he needs to develop through.
5:57 BUF Eichel (6), (Franson)(PP)
0:52 TB Stamkos (8), (Kucherov)(PP)
1:40 BUF Franson (1), (Eichel, Ennis)
5:24 BUF Foligno (1), (Legwand, Deslauriers)
19:24 BUF Ristolainen (4), (Johnson)(EN)
Ryan Callahan was the game's second star.
I could sit here and tell you the Lightning outshot the Sabres, and they did. I could tell you they grossly outchanced the Sabres in the last 40 minutes of the game, and they did. There's not any comfort in that, because the Lightning have such a significant talent advantage on the Sabres that they should be outshooting and outchancing them. Ultimately, this comes down to something more fundamental than talent and tactics. At this point, it's looking more and more like the Lightning emotionally and mentally don't have the will. The Sabres wanted this game more. They've wanted it more in all four games this season and have routinely jumped on the Lightning in every first period where Tampa Bay often looked flat as a pancake. The difference is that they got the payoff tonight.
So now the Lightning need to ask themselves if they have the will to turn this around. It's as simple as that. They need to outwork opponents. Absent that, they're not going to make the odd man rushes and the lucky breaks they need to get out of this slump. In retrospect, I wish Yzerman had made more than one small tweak to the roster to get more fresh, hungry blood onto the roster, but that's water under the bridge now. Short of a tweak like bringing up Koekkoek, the answers will have to come from inside that room, and it'll have to start with that fundamental question. Do you want it more than the other team? And if they can't convincingly answer that in the affirmative, they're screwed.
It's not a question anymore of whether the team is in trouble. They'll finish this segment in the red by at least 2 points based on our old 12 in 10 rule. It's only a question of how deep the hole will be. Note that this is the first time, on a season-wide basis, the Lightning have been behind schedule in over 2 years. They've missed segment targets about 4 times in the previous two seasons, but they've always had insurance points banked to cover the damage. This is uncharted and dangerous waters.
Offense comes up snake eyes... again.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal 25 shots for the loss. I wish I could say I've never seen anything like this before, but I remember November and December of 2003-2004 when the team couldn't score goals for Nikolai Khabibulin to save their lives. It took a temporary switch to John Grahame in January to break the team out of its scoring funk, and the rest is history. It may take running out Vasilevskiy for more starts to change the dynamic for the Lightning over the next couple of weeks.
0:26 MIN Spurgeon (2), (Coyle, Pominville)
The Lightning weren't bad tonight, except for the first 5-10 minutes of the Second Period. They had the bulk of the possession and plenty of chances. Dubnyk just decided to stand on his head tonight. It happens, but it's getting more than frustrating. And, it's seriously jeopardizing Tampa Bay's position in the standings, too. At this juncture, they've got to run the table in the final 4 games of this segment to stay on comfortable pace for the playoffs. It's not un-doable with the schedule ahead, but it's certainly tough to operate with no margin of error and it's looking more and more like the Lightning will be in a hole of undetermined size heading into the second quarter of the campaign.
Complicating things further is the injury of Ondrej Palat, who left the game tonight after a scrum in front of the Lightning net in which a Minnesota Wild player landed hard on the back of his left leg. Could be an ankle. Could be a knee. Could be a broken leg. I won't speculate on injuries anymore after we watched Paquette wrap his leg around the goalpost in Detroit late last season only to play the very next game. But, it certainly looks like Palat could be unavailable for some of this upcoming stretch.
Baby Triplets and Wilcox steal the show.
Adam Wilcox sparkled, allowing just 1 goal on 26 shots for his first pro victory. The pendulum has swung a little bit, with Gudlevskis looking a little subpar in his first game back from Tampa Bay, and maybe Wilcox move to the top spot next weekend.
SYR Marchessault, (5) (Richard, Koekkoek), 10:02
SYR Marchessault, (6) (Gourde, Richard), 14:42
LV MacDonald, (1) (Gostisbehere, Brent), 19:42 (PP)
Coach Zettler may have found a gem with the assembling of the line with Marchessault, Gourde, and Tanner Richard this weekend. The line generated 4 goals in 2 games this weekend, and look like they'll have some longevity if they can stay in Syracuse together. Unfortunately, with Palat injured tonight up top, one of these forwards (Marchessault) may have to be earmarked for a trip to the big club.
Looks like Nikita Nesterov will also be recalled after a 2 game confidence/conditioning stint this weekend with the Crunch.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lightning crush Sabres against the run of play.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. I still don't think he's 100% up to NHL speed following the puck, but there were a couple of times in this game you could see his quickness and technical proficiency with his angles really got into Buffalo's shooters' heads. They were cutting it fine because they felt they had to against the big Russian mountain.
5:55 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula, Palat)
11:35 TB Johnson (2), (Killorn, Kucherov)
18:20 TB Kucherov (5), (Namestnikov, Coburn)
4:21 BUF Eichel (5), (Weber, Ennis)
19:30 TB Hedman (1), (Sustr)(SH)
Vasilevskiy and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars.
Hockey's a funny sport. The Lightning played a much better game against Detroit last time out and couldn't find the payoff for the chances they manufactured with their hard work. Tonight, I felt they got outworked and they definitely got outchanced and outshot, on balance, by Buffalo. The Sabres had their forecheck really working on the Lightning in the first 40 minutes, but when the Lightning were able to break that pressure and come out of their zone, they were able to catch Buffalo on 3-on-2's on the counter. The skill players did the rest to build the 3-0 lead. They probably didn't deserve to have that big of a margin, but considering how snake bitten they've been offensively, I'm not going to complain about it. They were definitely guilty of playing down to their opponent and even more guilty of taking their foot off the gas once they got up 3-0. But, to their credit, they really tightened up defensively in the Third Period to quell the Buffalo uprising and deliver the W.
With the win, the Lightning have 6 points through 6 games of this 10 game segment of the season. A win against Minnesota would be tremendous if they can get it next time out.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 hits and 2 blocked shots in 15:40. The stat line looks OK, but I think the tape will reveal Nesterov didn't cloak himself in glory tonight. He looked like the physically overmatched young blueliner that struggled in his rookie pro season of North American hockey tonight, taking some big hits and getting overwhelmed physically, rather than the offensive juggernaut he was in his sophomore pro campaign. Not his finest hour.
Lightning falling squarely behind the 8-ball.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 29 shots for the loss. Typically I'd defend a guy who only allowed 2 goals and didn't get the benefit of goal support, but Detroit's first goal was semi-soft and the game winner was all-the-way-soft. Fact of the matter is, if those keep happening, Vasilevskiy's going to start taking more than his fair share of starts.
2:02 DET Sheahan (2), (Tatar, Kindl)
15:58 TB Kucherov (4), (Johnson, Stamkos)(PP)
5:54 DET Larkin (4), (Abdelkader, DeKeyser)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star, and frankly he was the best player on the ice for either team by a considerable margin. He went to a new, more beastly level tonight.
It's a tale of three games. I thought the Lightning played a fairly good road period in the First Period, preventing any early surge by the home side and holding the balance of possession, although the resulting chances were few. The Second Period could've been an outright disaster, because the Lightning were getting slaughtered at the 10 feet around each blueline. They lost 80-90% of 50/50 pucks on zone exits and zone entries in the Second Period, and you can imagine the possession pressure that resulted. They're really fortunate Detroit didn't get more chances and goals from that pressure and even more fortunate they lucked into a 5-on-3 goal to equalize heading into the Third Period. The Third Period was actually the Lightning's strongest period, hitting 2 crossbars and a goal post and generating a lot of quality opportunities. That was cancelled by good goaltending by Howard and a Dairy Queen special served up by Bishop on a bad angle shot in tight coming off a 3-on-2. That's the game right there. On balance, I feel a lot better about the offense after this one, believe it or not. I was more concerned when the chances weren't flowing. Even when scoring 4 goals against Carolina, the chances were coming off of unforced or gently forced Hurricanes errors rather than pure Lightning assertiveness. The spigot is starting to open again now, though, so I'd say it's a matter of time. Looking ahead on the schedule, I know Minnesota's been in some track meets this season and Buffalo is a generous young team. I wouldn't be shocked if one of them is the recipients of a flood gates situation that looks like the opening of the Panama Canal locks.
The really big issue right now is that heading into the backside of this 10-game segment of the season the Lightning are really behind schedule in the standings to stay on track for the playoffs. They'll need 8 of the possible 10 points over the next 5 games to stay on pace. You do not want to be trying to make those points up in March and April when the sledding is the hardest. My biggest early season fear was a Stanley Cup Final hangover in the first two segments of the season, and that scenario may be playing out unless the Lightning can really put it together quickly and come out guns blazing these next 5 games.
Young Carolina defense proves the elixir for the Lightning's offensive woes.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 35 shots for the victory in his season debut with the Lightning. He wasn't as sharp as he can be, particularly with the trapper. I think he spent the bulk of the game getting up to speed with the NHL level again. But he's so big, so athletic, and so technically sound. There's just not a lot of holes there and you feel like you have a big Russian mountain in net behind the team times. It's a great luxury for the Lightning to know they probably have two of the best goaltenders in the game on their roster, and they're both still young and hungry.
15:07 CAR E. Staal (4), (Versteeg, Rask)(PP)
0:38 TB Callahan (4), (Palat)
18:54 TB Stamkos (6), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
4:07 TB Brown (2), (Filppula)
9:16 TB Johnson (1), (Kucherov, Hedman)
15:25 CAR Versteeg (2), (Rask)
19:59 CAR J. Staal (1), (Rask)
Carolina's young defense is a traveling PSA for the dangers of NHL GM's rushing their blueliners to the NHL. They've got some talented young players on the depth chart at that position, but mercy are they generous with the turnovers. Noah Hanifin, holy cow, he was a dumpster fire tonight, and the generosity of that D corps as a whole showed was just what the Lightning needed to get out of their offensive funk. That, and the decision by Jon Cooper to flip Killorn and Palat from the Stamkos and Johnson lines, respectively, and the dividends that payed in the form of a couple of even strength goals. The lines are going to be up in the air so long as Paquette and Drouin remain injured, so whatever shuffling needs to happen in the near term to manufacture goals, I'm all for it. Tampa Bay eventually built a three goal lead in the Third Period and I'm not terribly concerned about the couple of garbage time goals Carolina got to try to make it look respectable.