Tampa Bay Lightning
As close to perfect as it gets...
Ben Bishop stopped all 26 shots he faced for the shutout and the win. He didn't face many quality chances, but he was solid as a rock when he did, including turning aside a breakaway bid by Saad. In a battle of two ex-Black Bears, it was Bishop who got him some #UofMaineJustice.
8:27 TB Boyle (13), (Drouin)
17:53 TB Stamkos (33), (Garrison, Nesterov)
7:37 TB Callahan (19), (Filppula, Johnson)(PP)
17:15 TB Stamkos (34), (Garrison, Hedman)(PP)
That's probably the most complete game the Lightning have played all season. True, the Hawks played last night and the Lightning have just been relaxing at the crib since returning from their West Coast trip, but that was just a good old fashioned butt whipping. When you have that long of a layoff, maybe you worry about rust and your timing and passing being off, but that wasn't the case tonight. I thought the breakout was as crisp and efficient as it has been all season, and when the Lightning get out of their own end that cleanly and quickly and get to use their skating ability, they're more than a handful for the opposition. They built the 2 goal lead headed into the Third Period and then, my goodness, they finally figured out how to put a game away on the power play. Yes. That's how it's done.
Don't be coy, Rick Peckham. You know where the Dump Truck nickname came from.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +2 in 14:21. It was a good recovery game after the debacle against the Avs. He got back to being smart with the puck and he was assertive when the times came to jump up and hold pucks in the offensive zone.
Defense falls apart at the end of the road.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots. The stat line looks terrible but there was really only one goal I felt was one that he'd definitely want back. With that said, part of being an elite goaltender is keeping your team in contact and at least giving them a chance by making 1-2 key stops. He didn't do that tonight by allowing the team to fall behind by 3 in the Third Period, which is almost always a death sentence.
10:53 TB Palat (15), (Johnson)
16:21 COL MacKinnon (10), (Landeskog)
3:10 COL MacKinnon (11), (O'Reilly, Barrie)
3:39 COL Duchene (16), (unassisted)
5:51 TB Johnson (23), (Kucherov, Killorn)
12:50 COL MacKinnon (12), (O'Reilly)
7:20 COL Tanguay (16), (Everberg)
11:43 TB Connolly (12), (Filppula, Paquette)
18:58 TB Kucherov (23), (Johnson, Hedman)
In the universe I come from, if you score 4 goals and hold your opponent to 18 shots, you should win. The only time that doesn't happen is when you have self-inflicted wounds like really terrible turnovers against a skilled team. And, that's what happened tonight. This youthful defense the Lightning have patched together with Carle and Gudas out has been such a mixed bag. They'll play 2-3 decent games and then absolutely wet the bed like they did tonight. Nesterov, Barberio, and Hedman each had plays I think they'd want back, and it really burned the Lightning hard tonight.
Hedman's inclusion on the goat horn list is particularly vexing given what I've said about best players needing to be best players. So is Steven Stamkos checking in at -3 and 31% on draws. Were both guys so awful they should be traded? No, but as I've said those two guys really need to start being the Lightning's top players night in and night out. Stamkos is the engine that makes Callahan go, and the young defense just seems to go as Hedman goes. God bless the Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line, but I don't want them to have to carry the team in the playoffs and I don't want a guy like Stralman or Garrison to have to play over their head. Stamkos and Hedman are trophy-winning caliber talents who need to start playing like it. I'm not saying it to be mean or to run the guys out of town, it's just the expectations have to rise now.
It's too bad. Winning 4 of 5 on this road trip would've been a wildly successful outcome. 3 out of 5 is minimally acceptable, but leaving 2 winnable points on the ice like the team did tonight will ultimately cost them an Atlantic Division banner at the end of the year, barring them finding their next gear.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:29. He and Garrison got split on MacKinnon's first goal and he made the absolutely horrible turnover of Duchene's goal. That turnover gets you demoted on a lot of teams. As it is, it might get him a seat in the pressbox, at least.
Taking care of business in the desert.
14:02 ARI Stone (3), (Erat, Korpikoski)
6:45 TB Palat (13), (Callahan, Stralman)(PP)
14:31 TB Callahan (18), (Barberio, Stralman)
3:27 TB Palat (14), (Hedman)
11:42 ARI Arcobello (11), (unassisted)
19:55 TB Stamkos (32), (Filppula, Garrison)(PP)(EN)
The Lightning just asserted their will on the Coyotes in the Second Period and early Third Period to build a 3-1 lead and eventually take away the victory. It puts them in a position to cap off a very successful road trip that many other teams in the Eastern Conference were desperately hoping would critically wound Tampa Bay.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:19.
Everytime the Lightning carry a 3 goal lead into the Second Intermission an angel gets its wings.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 25 shots for the victory. He didn't have a ton of work after the First Period, but he made a handful of key saves over the course of the game to eventually allow the Lightning to stick this one in cruise control.
4:17 ANA Maroon (7), (Rakell, Palmieri)
4:31 TB Stralman (4), (Boyle, Drouin)
5:55 TB Johnson (22), (Palat, Garrison)
18:05 TB Kucherov (22), (Stralman, Palat)
19:39 TB Stamkos (31), (Killorn, Sustr)
Both teams in this contest played a very loose First Period defensively and could've had a handful of goals. Anaheim had a chance to really grab the game by the throat with a two goal lead early when they got a 2-on-0 breakaway, but their failure to convert turned the game into a race to see who could make the adjustments first, defensively. The Lightning, emphatically, took the game by the throat in the middle frame outshooting the Ducks 20-5 and building the three goal lead that allowed them to glide through the last 20 minutes. I find the stress-free lifestyle that affords Lightning fans to be a very good thing.
Steven Stamkos had 6-7 scoring chances in this game and Victor Hedman, although silent offensively, ended up blocking 9 (9!) shots on defense after looking a little iffy on Anaheim's only marker. I'll say it again, when the Lightning's two best non-goalie players play like their best players, everything tends to flow from there.
At the 60 game mark, the Lightning have ended another successful 10-game segment with 78 points, meaning they have 6 insurance points headed into the 7th 10-game segment of the year. 12 in 10 do it again, as we officially move into the stretch run of the season and the final quarter of the regular year. On paper, they should be able to get off to a solid start to the segment as the final two games of the road trip are against opponents in Phoenix and Colorado that don't have the same level of quality as the first three opponents. But, you know, games are played on ice not on paper.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot and 3 hits in 16:57. He got caught flat footed on one breakaway allowed to the Ducks, but was otherwise efficient.
Lightning PP undermines them again.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He kept the game close and gave the Lightning a chance, particularly in the Second Period, but the team had no chance when he couldn't maintain contact by keeping out the third goal.
12:11 TB Nesterov (1), (Palat)
7:04 LA Kopitar (12), (Lewis, McNabb)
3:36 LA Nolan (4), (King, Shore)
13:59 LA Carter (16), (Doughty, King)
19:23 TB Johnson (21), (Kucherov, Hedman)
The Lightning power play, which has been around 12% for the past couple of months, is evidently < 3% on the backside of back-to-back games. < 3%? It's hard to imagine a professional power play that bad (sans, of course, Syracuse's). The power play is so bad right now, it actually generates momentum for the other team. It's inexcusably bad, in fact.
One night after stepping up and starting to take the bull by the horns, Steven Stamkos gets the puck taken off of him high in the offensive zone on the play that ended up transitioning into the Kings' lead goal. I don't mean to unfairly single anyone out, but he's got to be better.
Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:25. One night after his best performance of his young NHL career, he got crumpled behind his net in the First Period and subsequently co-donned the goat horns by backing down too much in the face of the rush on the Kings' lead goal.
Nikita Nesterov had his first NHL goal and was +1 with 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits. It was a mixed bag of good and bad. Overall, you have to praise the assertiveness and whatever mistakes he made were mistakes of commission rather than tentative mistakes.
Ontario Hockey League
It was Family Day in Ontario, so the OHL had lots of afternoon games for people with the day off.
Sault Ste. Marie Greyhounds 6 @ Sarnia Sting 0
D Anthony DeAngelo, SOO: 1-0-1, +3, 0 PIM
With SSM: 15 GP, 5-21-26, +14, 28 PIM
With Sarnia: 29 GP, 10-28-38, +1, 64 PIM
Season totals: 44 GP, 15-49-64, +15, 93 PIM
2013-14 totals: 51 GP, 15-56-71, -34, 90 PIM
DeAngelo returned from an automatic one-game suspension for removing a helmet in a fight to score a goal against his former team and extend his point streak to 13 games. DeAngelo, who tied his career high for goals in a season, was honored before the game for his 3 ½ years with the Sarnia organization. His parents made the trip to the game for the ceremony. DeAngelo told the Sarnia broadcast during an intermission interview that (paraphrased) while his junior career is ending with the Soo, he’ll be remembered for his time with Sarnia, which is an honor.
Windsor Spitfires 4 @ Guelph Storm 5 (OT)
W Cristiano DiGiacinto, WSR: 0-0-0, -1, 0 PIM
Season totals: 49 GP, 16-18-34, -10, 91 PIM
2013-14 totals: 50 GP, 17-11-28, +8, 101 PIM
This one will hurt. Windsor outshot the Storm 50-36, but Guelph scored the game-tying goal in the final minute of regulation then won in overtime. The Spits are two points out of a playoff spot in the West.
North Bay Battalion 2 @ Peterborough Petes 3
D Dominik Masin, PBO: 0-1-1, +2, 0 PIM
Season totals: 44 GP, 7-18-25, -12, 64 PIM
2013-14 totals (Czech U20): 39 GP, 2-19-21, +6, 102 PIM
Peterborough came back from a 2-0 hole to defeat the Battalion, 3-2. The Petes are now tied for the last playoff spot in the East. Masin continues to consistently hit the scoresheet in the second half. As was expected, he’s taken off in the latter half of his first North American season:
First 29 games: 5-8-13, -21
Last 15 games: 2-10-12, +9
The biggest win of the season thus far.
Ben Bishop sparkled, allowing just 2 goals on 35 shots for the victory. He chose a good night to uncork a bottle of '13-'14 Bishop: an excellent vintage, for sure.
19:44 TB Stamkos (30), (Stralman, Filppula)
7:12 TB Killorn (12), (Callahan, Stamkos)
10:27 SJ Couture (21), (Nieto, Irwin)
0:10 TB Palat (12), (unassisted)
11:38 SJ Burns (15), (Marleau, Thornton)(PP)
16:19 TB Paquette (12), (Filppula, Garrison)
17:40 TB Callahan (17), (unassisted)(EN)
Victor Hedman, Steven Stamkos, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. Remember what I wrote after the Blues game debacle? The part about the Lightning needing Hedman and Stamkos to step up and be the team's best players? Remember how I also said that when Stamkos is on his game, he makes Ryan Callahan so much better? Case it point: tonight. It wasn't the complete game from either player, but it was a good game from both Hedman and Stamkos, with Stamkos playing an integral role in manufacturing the Lightning's initial 2-0 lead and setting the tone for success. Along with Bishop playing well, you saw the triumvirate that could take the Lightning deep in the playoffs. If those three play well, the Lightning are almost impossible to beat, because it takes pressure off the d-corps and allows the ThatDisputedName/Triplets/AnotherLoveTKO line (I'm not getting into the middle of that mess) to be in a position where they just need to chip in 1 goal instead of carrying the bulk of the scoring load for the Lightning to win.
Beyond those top two lines, you also got a key insurance goal from Cedric Paquette and Jonathan Drouin looking incredibly dangerous all game long, including ringing a post that nearly put the Lightning up 3-0.
Luke Witkowski had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:52. To go through a game against the Sharks and play nearly 19 minutes and stay pretty unblemished is solid. It portends good things. Witkowski could be this Lightning team's Nolan Pratt. That's the type of guy you need if you want to win championships: a bottom pair guy who can go up and play second pair minutes when pressed into service and give you some grit, hustle, and steadiness.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:28. He got stone cold robbed of his first NHL goal by Niemi in the First Period.
We need to talk...
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the loss. He didn't stand on his head, and it would've taken one of those kind of nights for him to make good on the slop in front of him tonight.
1:50 STL Oshie (15), (Steen)
4:47 STL Jaskin (8), (Steen)(PP)
8:03 TB Johnson (20), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
12:15 STL Steen (19), (Backes)
14:11 STL Backes (19), (Oshie, Pietrangelo)
15:23 STL Stastny (11), (Berglund, Cole)
17:28 TB Connolly (11), (Filppula)
6:31 TB Stamkos (29), (Killorn, Stralman)
18:55 STL Tarasenko (29), (unassisted)(EN)
Let's talk again about effort, because apparently it didn't sink in after the First Period of the Kings game. Let's talk about getting whipped 6-3 on the scoreboard and giving up 44 shots on goal in the game. Let's talk about a team, defensively, putting up about as much resistance as a straw house before the big bad wolf. What would the Lightning call that particular defensive system? The Pamplona Lock? The Turnstyle Trap? I'm not one of these guys who jumps up and down screaming that the defense needs to be a bunch of maulers and that the Lightning need 6 Scott Stevens' out their mashing the bones of their opponents into paste. But, my goodness, how about the defense TRYING win puck battles? How about forwards TRYING to pick up late men cutting into the circles and slot? The team looked allergic to competition tonight, with a complete reticence to even attempt to win 50/50 pucks. This wasn't about getting outmuscled. This was about not even being willing to make the attempt.
It's time for core players to be core players in Tampa Bay, and I'm looking at two guys right now. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman both wore some pretty big goat horns in this game, and I expect so much better from the two guys who should be the franchise cornerstones.
Stamkos made one of the more horrific turnovers you'll see trying to carry the puck through the high slot of his own zone with the game still very much in play with his team trailing just 2-1. The captain can't make that mistake. Can't do it. And, he can't compound the mistake by allowing himself the luxury of dragging his way through the rest of the period. The effort level was uneven, and when you wear the "C" and you're supposed to be arguably the best player in the league you can't do that. And, as much as I hate to say it, uneven effort's been a theme for Stamkos this season, which is why he hasn't even been the most valuable forward in the Lightning locker room, let alone the best player in the NHL. It's time for Steven Stamkos to play like the player he is. Stow the excuses about the broken leg. If he wants to give in to excuses or drag around feeling sorry for himself or playing tentative, hand in the "C". He's better than what he's showing, and I think he misses Marty St. Louis pushing him, quite frankly. Time to be more of a self-starter and time to be the player the team can follow through the gates of hell.
Equally uneven has been the play of Victor Hedman. The other day I thought he did an amazing job setting the tone against the Ducks by setting up the opening goal. Those types of offensive efforts have been sporadic at best, though, and Hedman's play in his own end have steadily been sliding into dumpster fire territory. Tonight he played like a 6'6" marshmellow. There's no way to put lipstick on it, and the bummy effort he made on Tarasenko's EN goal was absolutely embarrassing. That's just a complete lack of pride, right there. Can't have it. You've got so many young defensemen on this team: Sustr, Barberio, Nesterov, Witkowski. I expect Andrej Sustr to struggle and have moments where he's playing tentative or lacking confidence. You accept that with a guy who has played just under 100 games. Victor Hedman's sitting on 370 games and is probably the best player, athletically, on the Tampa Bay Lightning. There's no excuse. Time to be more of a self-starter and time to be the player this defensive corps can follow through the gates of hell.
Both these guys have it in them, but they've had the luxury to this point of not having to be the alpha dogs because of the depth of talent the Lightning have on the roster. And, yes, I get that Steven Stamkos is sitting on 29 goals and both these guys have good numbers. Great. That doesn't equal championships, though. For the Lightning to reach their full potential and hang banners, they're going to have to push themselves and their teammates to do more and to apply the same level of effort every minute of every practice and every game. The standards for these two guys have to be higher. They're two of the three cornerstones along with Bishop. Efforts like tonight aren't going to cut it down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. The apprenticeship time is over. Time to pay the cost and play like a boss.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 18:38. The coaching staff fed him some more ice time, and he showed himself to be responsible and willing to engage physically. God bless him for it, too. Someone on the defensive corps had to.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:51. He got called up to replace the injured Paquette and promptly got nicked up in the First Period and was ultimately a non-factor in the game.
Quality road point.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 29 shots for the OT loss. He probably wants the OT winner by Neal back.
8:31 NSH Jones (6), (Stalberg, Volchenkov)
12:47 NSH Beck (5), (Gaustad, Nystrom)
1:20 TB Connolly (10), (Filppula)
7:50 TB Kucherov (21), (Palat, Johnson)
4:27 NSH Neal (18), (Josi, Cullen)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star. Kucherov was robbed.
Two things to point out from this game: first, the Lightning just took 3 of 4 points from the teams with the two best records in the league in back-to-back games. Not many teams can pull that off. Second, down 2-0 in Nashville to that team with the defensemen and goaltender it has should be a death sentence. That's like a 3 goal lead in many barns. So, to come out of that hole and get a point is remarkable for the Lightning.
It's just a hard thing to judge the Lightning right now. At even strength, they often look as good as anyone in the league. But, that's tempered by a Jekyll and Hyde PK that often looks terrible on the road and a PP that has evaporated since the first month or two of the season. It creates this weird alternate reality where Lightning fans seem to be really high strung even despite the fact the team is getting positive results. I get it, because it seems somewhat unsustainable to keep having a power play amble along at what feels like about a 5% clip. What will/can Yzerman do to fix it, though?
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 4 hits and 1 blocked shot.
The opposite of Saturday.
2:55 TB Boyle (11), (Hedman, Connolly)
13:42 TB Filppula (11), (Stamkos, Callahan)
18:52 TB Kucherov (20), (Johnson, Filppula)
4:49 ANA Getzlaf (17), (Perry, Beleskey)
14:27 TB Boyle (12), (Connolly, Palat)
6:14 TB Callahan (16), (Stamkos, Filppula)
14:57 ANA Vatanen (12), (Getzlaf, Bryzgalov)(PP)
17:26 ANA Brewer (1), (Thompson, Cogliano)
Brian Boyle, Valtteri Filppula, and Ryan Callahan were the game's three stars. Honorable mention to Victor Hedman's scintillating play to start the game and set up the opening goal by Boyle. That play set the tone in the First Period and allowed the Lightning to jump out and never get caught.
What this game should prove to the Lightning is that when they put the effort in, they can beat anybody. Unlike yesterday's game, where the Lightning didn't put the effort into the First Period against the Kings and fell behind 3-0, they ran roughshod on the Ducks and got up 3-0, never looking back. Effort. It's essential at all times.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots in 12:08. He had his first NHL fight against Maroon and held his own against a much bigger/stronger man. That's impressive for an ex-NCAA guy.
Nikita Nesterov was +3 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 12:50.