Tampa Bay Lightning
Learning to play against the West's best is a different beast.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the loss. He gave the Lightning a chance in this one, but was outshined by Niemi at the other end of the rink.
5:23SJ Thornton (6), (unassisted)
10:37 SJ Kennedy (1), (Burns, Niemi)
9:35 TB Stamkos (11), (Sustr, Filppula)
Bishop was the game's second star.
The Lightning clearly were a little embarrassed by their effort against Chicago and came out hard tonight, but San Jose quickly answered their intensity and the Lightning are still figuring out how to handle the speed of the top Western Conference teams. They aren't used to playing as much without the puck and what it takes to get the puck back and generate scoring chances with less time and space. It's a learning process.
That little voice in your head right now is Espo proclaiming loudly the team that doesn't convert on a 5-on-3 power play is usually the team that loses. That happened tonight, too.
Jonathan Drouin had 3 shots in 14:19. The attempted Drouin/Namestnikov/Stamkos line was a bust tonight, but Drouin wasn't. Especially in the Third Period, he was creative and dangerous and nearly put one behind Niemi that was swept off the line.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and was 50% on draws in 13:55. His one shot was a glorious opportunity in the First Period that Niemi held out. Otherwise, he wasn't quite as dangerous as Drouin.
Bishop's big point heist.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 39 shots before allowing 1 of 2 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. Put simply, without Bishop, the Lightning would've been run out of the barn tonight.
4:35 TB Paquette (4), (Palat, Brewer)(SH)
9:13 CHI Richards (3), (Versteeg, Saad)
1:18 CHI Kruger (2), (Hjalmarsson, Hossa)
9:53 TB Kucherov (6), (Stamkos, Drouin)
Bishop was the game's third star.
Clearly Chicago had circled this game on the calendar to make a statement, and the Lightning skaters were clearly unprepared to match the Blackhawks' intensity early on in the game. That coupled with some, cough, dubiously uneven officiating really tilted possession and shots and put the Lightning on the defensive the bulk of the game. Fortunately, Bishop held the team in the game and they manufactured an opportunistic SH goal by Paquette off a 2-on-1 and a nice little 3-way passing play to get the tying goal and get a point.
The point is the Lightning's 11th in this 10 game segment, which added to the 1 insurance point from the last segment means the Lightning have already hit the minimum point total they needed to be on track by the end of the segment. That means every point they get out of the next 4 games is an insurance point they can bank for the leaner times of the season. And, with Tyler Johnson leaving the game with what may have been cracked ribs on a fairly dirty play by Seabrook, lean times may be coming sooner than they'd like.
Cedric Paquette had the SH goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot on goal, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 11:54. He was also 33% on draws. Obviously converting the goal was tremendous, but I really like the way he handled himself physically tonight. Morin challenged Paquette after a nice hit in the neutral zone by Paquette, and Cedric pretty much tackled Morin and was about an eyelash from killing him had not the linesman stepped in. He's not a rookie that will allow liberties to be taken.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:28. Ho hum. He just happens to be the start of the three way passing play that manufactures the tying goal. If the injury to Johnson is indeed significant, I'd expect Drouin to see more scoring line IT, along with the obvious that it'll secure Paquette's spot in Tampa for a while.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot in 11:40. He didn't seem to be quite as active as he was in the Wings game, which was probably a product of the Blackhawks being one of the few teams he's seen with players that get on the puck as fast as he does. He had little time and space and like most of the Lightning forwards just seemed to be holding on for dear life most of the night.
Lightning keep it rolling.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots before stonewalling 3 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. That might be as in control as I've ever seen Ben play in a shootout situation. It made up for a couple of goals by Helm and Nyquist where I thought he could've done a little better, especially on the unscreened Helm chance.
6:14 DET Franzen (4), (Kronwall, Nyquist)(PP)
12:53 TB Stamkos (9), (Filppula, Callahan)(PP)
2:19 Stamkos (10), (Callahan)
6:02 TB Johnson (5), (Palat)
11:37 DET Helm (1), (Franzen, Kronwall)(PP)
8:49 DET Nyquist (8), (Ericsson)
For most of the night, despite the Lightning being on the back end of the back-to-back, they seemed in total control at 5-on-5. Detroit's power play kept them in the game and allowed the Wings to make a push and tie the game in the Third Period, but it honestly felt like a game where the Lightning deserved the 2 points, outshooting Detroit 30-20.
Halfway through this 10 game segment, the Lightning already have 10 of the 12 points, minimum, you'd like to see them collect. They have a prime opportunity over the next 5 games to pick up a big handful of insurance points that can help them in the leaner times of the season.
Cedric Paquette had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and was 63% on draws in 10:57. His tripping call ended up being a big one, as it led to the Helm goal that let Detroit back into the game at 3-2.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot in 13:08. He nearly won the game late in Overtime in a wraparound attempt where he got his stick held (uncalled) on the rebound.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 12:00. He had moments in the Third Period when he was an eyelash of producing the game breaking play the Lightning needed to take the game in regulation. He certainly didn't embarrass himself in Uncle Slava's old stomping grounds.
Sloppy. Exciting. Annoying. Fun.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He's lucky he got 7 goals of support, because he was bad again tonight. He had way too many problems following the puck and looked scrambley and positionally weak in his crease. He made it a lot harder on his team by allowing the soft goal to Johansen to start the Third Period and give Columbus life when they should have been DOA.
5:46 TB Brown (1), (Garrison, Sustr)
6:07 TB Paquette (3), (Drouin, Namestnikov)
12:31 TB Stralman (2), (Callahan, Stamkos)(PP)
14:41 TB Boyle (5), (Morrow, Brown)
4:11 CBJ Hartnell (4), (Wisniewski, Erixon)(PP)
5:38 TB Callahan (5), (Filppula, Gudas)
8:10 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Foligno, Johansen)(PP)
10:05 TB Johnson (3), (Kucherov, Drouin)(PP)
1:01 CBJ Johansen (6), (Gibbons, Wisniewski)
5:10 CBJ Foligno (7), (Wisniewski, Erixon)(PP)
19:09 TB Johnson (4), (Callahan)(EN)
The Lightning did what they needed to do coming out hard in the First Period to establish a comfortable lead against a team that is down and played a game last night. That 4 goal lead was crucial to establish given how poor the team's goaltending was tonight, which was perhaps accentuated by the team taking their foot off the gas at times with the big lead. It's a big 2 points to get as it gets them to 8 in this 10 game segment, leaving them needing just 4 points in the next 6 games to hit the segment target and a golden opportunity to rack up a bushel of insurance points. It's a good spot to be in with the sledding about to get harder starting tomorrow night with Detroit and then heading on to play teams like Chicago and San Jose.
Just a point of record keeping, though: Columbus showed a noted lack of class with Johansen slashing Tyler Johnson in the ribs on his EN goal and Hartnell sucker punching him after it. The sore losers got exactly what they deserved tonight, and the next time the Lightning play Columbus I wouldn't be opposed to adding some muscle for that game to make sure someone gets fitted for a (figurative) toe tag for what happened at the end of tonight's tilt. The Lightning have been very good at making their opponents pay what they owe over the last year or so in cases like this, and I hope they extract a heavy price from Hartnell and the Blue Jackets in the payback department, too (although that touchdown that got hung on them tonight probably stings plenty enough).
Scary thought for the rest of the NHL: the Lightning are on a 5 game winning streak and Steven Stamkos has sleepwalked through most of those 5 games and Hedman's been on the shelf. Ponder that.
Cedric Paquette had another goal and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:36. His goal came on a rebound where he showed some quick, sharp hands on a sift directly after a goal scored for, and he could've had 1-2 other goals including a nice play where he handled the puck well to work himself free for a backhand shot in the slot late in the Second Period. His skating is obviously not his strength, but he's got a very underrated set of mitts on him. Oh, and he was 63% on draws, too.
Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +1 with 1 shot in 11:54. What's funny about Drouin is that he just quietly continues to rack up helpers and points. He's at 7 points in 9 games despite averaging just 14:22 of ice time a game. He's going to grow from here in ice time and points. Terrifying.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 11:42. His offensive zone "holding" call was fraudulent, as the refs were looking to let Columbus back into the game in the Second Period after the Lightning established their early 4 goal lead.
Dump Truck unstoppable versus the Flames.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The Lightning were rather loose defensively in this game, so Bishop did some solid work.
9:55 TB Paquette (1), (Drouin)
15:22 CGY Hudler (4), (Brodie, Giordano)
1:01 TB Paquette (2), (Namestnikov, Garrison)
4:02 TB Boyle (4), (unassisted)(SH)
4:22 CGY Monahan (5), (Gaudreau, Giordano)(PP)
0:40 TB Johnson (2), (Kucherov, Palat)
17:50 TB Filppula (3), (unassisted)(EN)
On this homestand, you started to get the distinct impression the Lightning have gotten to a point that, with their skill and depth, they can toy with lower tier opponents like Calgary. It looked that way tonight, especially after the Flames got lost in the jet fumes when Tampa Bay just decided to pull away for good in the Third Period. With that said, after they play Columbus on Saturday, they've got a string of games starting Sunday against Detroit where I don't think the kind of defensive effort they've been putting out lately is going to cut it. So, I suspect Jon Cooper is hoping they get this all out of their system now because big boy hockey is about to start: Detroit, Chicago, and San Jose. That's why tonight's win and a good effort in Columbus are particularly valuable. The Lightning have already collected half the points they need to stay on schedule in this 10-game segment of the season with 7 games left in it. Needing to collect just 6 points in the next 7 games is a good spot to be in, and if they can cut that to 4 in 6 they'll be in prime position to bank some more insurance points even as the schedule gets tougher.
Paquette had his first 2 NHL goals and was +2 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 11:47. He was also 57% on draws. Two very Paquette-like goals: the first taking a defender on his back and driving out to the front of the next and the second potting a rebound in the high rent district. To recount the reason why I nicknamed him Dump Truck: Dump trucks aren't pretty. Dump trucks aren't fast. Dump trucks are strong and dump trucks do hard work. That's what Cedric Paquette does. Hard work.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 10:58. The guy continues to collect the odd point and he's nowhere near as effective as he's going to be once he settles in.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 assist and was +3 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:52. He was also 100% on 5 draws. He's really been the straw that stirs the drink on that line with Drouin and Paquette, and with his speed he's started to out-Stamkos Stamkos on that big sweepy wide rush around the net and out the other side while he works to setup his linemates. Honestly, I still believe the Filppula/Stamkos line needs to be disassembled sooner rather than later, and I'd really like to see what Namestnikov could do playing on a line with Stamkos.