Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning succumb to the curse of the first game back from the road trip.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the loss. He was magnificent at time, including a game opening 3-on-1 robbery against Duchene. He's deserved a lot better in his past couple of starts.
15:57 COL Tanguay (1), (Iginla, MacKinnon)
13:04 COL MacKinnon (4), (Iginla, Tanguay)
15:46 TB Killorn (2), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
The Lightning were disappointingly flat in the First Period and nearly got away with it before surrendering the greasy goal to Tanguay toward the end of the period. When you don't play a full 60 minutes of hockey and that combines with running up against a goaltender who has a hot night, you'll lose. You can't always effect a hot goaltender, but you can always effect your effort level and it just wasn't a consistent, even effort tonight. Frankly, I think this team needed someone to take a run at somebody or start a scrum or something to get some emotion flowing in the First Period, but it was just antiseptic hockey. The team really misses what Cedric Paquette brings to the rink in the heart and grit department when he's out of the lineup, and that filters down throughout the team. It took into well into the Second Period for the Lightning to start to play a more north-south game and try to get traffic in front of Varlamov, which eventually netted Killorn's goal. But, unfortunately, they decided to foresake that formula with the game on the line with a power play late in the Third Period, and it was all downhill from there. It's disturbing. These first 20 games are the danger zone for the Lightning trying to fend off a Stanley Cup Final hangover. They managed to navigate the first 10 games, barely, but this is a bad start to the second batch of 10 games. They can't afford to dig a big hole right now, because they might not get out of it.
Jonathan Marchessault had 1 shot and 1 hit in 7:50 of ice time. I'm just not quite sure Marchessault has the speed, at his size, to be a legit NHLer. He's got plenty of smarts and skill, but he struggles to find space because he hasn't really shown the extra gear and he's so slight.
Lightning lose against the run of play, and the iron, and the refs...
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 23 shots for the hard luck loss. I thought his rebound control got a little shaky for a little stretch in the Second Period, but overall he looked a lot sharper with rest.
15:59 STL Gomez (1), (Parayko, Brouwer)
19:19 STL Brouwer (3), (Pietrangelo)(EN)
Bishop was the game's third star.
This is a tough one to swallow. The Lightning can play better, especially in the way of manufacturing some greasy goals in the dirty areas, but this isn't like the Chicago game. They dominated possession and the run of play against St. Louis and they really probably deserved better than a loss. It was a pretty good road performance against a good squad and ultimately nothing for the team to hang their head about to close this road trip.
Of course, the outcome would've been different were it not for the horrific officiating the Lightning had to overcome tonight, especially in the Third Period as they pushed for the equalizer. J.T. Brown gets body slammed in the Second Period. No call. Ondrej Palat gets tripped along the wall in the Second Period. No call. Nesterov gets tripped in the offensive zone in the Third Period. No call. Condra gets tripped in the neutral zone in the Third Period. No call. The Lightning technically went 0-for-1 on the PP thanks to a generous 20 seconds of PP time awarded after an even-up call where the refs whistled Tampa Bay for too many men... on a play where St. Louis also had six skaters on the ice. When one team has a possession edge the way the Lightning did tonight and as well as their forecheck functioned at times, it seems a wee bit suspicious that the other team gets 3 times the PP time. Indeed, as the Third Period wore on, it became clear nothing less than first degree homicide was going to be called on St. Louis in this game. Tell me how depriving one of the most offensively talented teams in the league, Tampa Bay, of any real power plays while on national TV on NBCSN helps the NHL sell its product? I know, I know. Toronto says, "Shut up Lightning fans. It's a privilege for the team just to be allowed to play in the league." It's a total joke.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:51. He also had one of the more heinous turnovers in front of Bishop you'll ever see and the penalty he took was at a key time of the game when the Lightning were trying to get an equalizer. It was the very definition of a game where a young guy did the opposite of what he needs to do to make a case for himself to get steady ice time.
Gudlevskis gets the Lightning across the finish line...
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the OT loss. Truth be told, the Lightning threw him to the wolves tonight with the hope that he would somehow be able to steal a point or two and he did. For the first time in his career, and I hate to possibly jinx it, he's starting to show some consistency game to game. He's as athletically gifted as just about anyone to come through this organization with his size and freakish quickness. If he starts to settle down a play consistently, he's a legit future NHL starter with those gifts, although it might not happen in Tampa with the logjam in the organization.
0:17 CHI Toews (1), (Kane, Seabrook)
Gudlevskis was the game's third star.
Even in defeat, as frustrated as they were on offense, the Lightning have to be ecstatic to get a point out of this game. They were coming off an OT game against Winnipeg last night against the defending champs in their barn with the organization's third string goalie between the pipes. Gudlevskis was as close to a sacrificial lamb as there is in hockey tonight as the Lightning made the strategic choice to try to get Bishop rested for the road trip finale in St. Louis. Under those circumstances, I'm happy.
The Lightning got their 4th point of the road trip and will finish no less than .500 on a swing through arguably the NHL's toughest division. That's nothing to sneeze at considering the Lightning aren't playing their best hockey yet. More importantly, Gudlevskis delivered the Lightning their 12th point of the season. For the uninitiated to the site, we break regular season hockey into 10 game segments. If you get at least 12 points every 10 games, you stay comfortably on pace to get to the playoffs. Gudlevskis got the Lightning over the 12 in 10 finish line tonight with 1 more game to go in the segment. Getting a couple of insurance points in St. Louis would be fantastic, but either way the Lightning fought off any potential Stanley Cup Final hangover and got their 12 in 10. Now, they need to do it again.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 13:19.
Despite their best efforts to give the game away, Lightning pull 2 points from Winnipeg.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the OT win. That was certainly not Bishop's best effort. He looked shaky positionally and his rebound control was a bit of a hot mess and his puckhandling gaffe on Winnipeg's third goal was obviously inexcusable. However, he made key stops after that, including the stop on Little in OT, to insure that the team eventually got the opportunity to win the game. The big prize that comes out of that is it looks like they can play the freshly recalled Kristers Gudlevskis against Chicago with a clear conscience and finally give Ben his first rest of the season. With Vasilevskiy cleared to practice, hopefully Andrei can be back in another, say, 3 weeks and Tampa Bay can get Ben back into a more sane workload.
12:17 TB Coburn (1), (Johnson)
16:28 WPG Ehlers (2), (Scheifele, Perreault)
7:22 TB Paquette (1), (Condra, Hedman)
10:58 WPG Stafford (3), (Lowry, Burmistrov)
11:19 TB Namestnikov (3), (Paquette, Hedman)
1:17 WPG Wheeler (4), (unassisted)(SH)
0:36 TB Palat (2), (Stamkos, Hedman)
I'm absolutely ecstatic the team got this win, for reason I'll expound upon further later on, but I'm absolutely furious about how incredibly stupid they look defending teams on the rush so far this season. I just don't get how a team can look this braindead in coverage. No team in the NHL right now is better at turning what should be a harmless 2-on-2 or 3-on-3 stalemate coming at them on the rush into an odd man break and digging the puck out of the back of their own net. The d-men have an awful case of the yips anytime a forward is bearing down on them with speed right now, and the forwards aren't helping in the slightest by applying precious little backchecking pressure to help support their defenseman. The resulting brain crampage in positioning and communication is just intolerable to watch, and at some point Jon Cooper's got to get more aggressive with his players to correct the issue. This team won't win anything but a dog show defending the way they are right now.
On the good side, Cooper may have found another hundred dollar bill on the ground today by way of Brian Boyle calling into work sick. The makeshift line of Vladislav Namestnikov, Cedric Paquette, and Eric Condra was, start-to-finish, the Lightning's most consistent and dominant line tonight. Namestnikov's been playing really well lately, so it wasn't that surprising to see him pump home a goal. Paquette and Condra have flashed individually this year but they haven't really found chemistry with any linemates to any great degree until tonight. That line's got a little bit of everything, and you could see them becoming a regular item if they have another game or two like tonight's. Namestnikov's and deft playmaker with some higher level puck handling acuity. Paquette and Condra have laser releases that are really surprising for lower line guys. And, all three of these guys are aggressive on the forecheck and the latter two in particular are strong at body positioning to win 50/50 pucks. This really could be found money for Jon Cooper, and the makings of a third really good line he can put on his goldenrod game plan in ink every night. Now he just needs to figure out what to do with Val Filppula...
As I noted, one of the big benefits of the win tonight is it means you can give Bishop the night off against the Blackhawks. Te reason for that is that the Lightning now have 11 points through 8 games, meaning they need just 1 more point out of the remainder of the road trip to hit their target for the first 10 game segment of the year. So, they'll likely send Gudlevskis out and hope he can steal at least a point, but even if he can't they'll have a rested Ben Bishop ready for St. Louis to close the trip in his home town to try and clinch a successful first 10 game segment of the year.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 33 shots and 1 of 3 shooters to convert for the SO Loss. I thought he was average, maybe even slightly subpar by his standards on the first goal, and that may have ultimately been the difference because Rinne was splendid at the other end even giving up 4 goals.
19:07 NSH Fisher (1), (Weber, Neal)
3:25 TB Stamkos (5), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
8:51 TB Kucherov (2), (Palat, Coburn)
10:29 NSH Weber (1), (Ribeiro, Wilson)
17:41 TB Callahan (3), (Hedman, Stralman)
18:55 NSH Neal (4), (Forsberg, Fisher)
5:24 TB Condra (2), (Boyle)
14:30 NSH Neal (5), (Forsberg)
Steven Stamkos was the game's third star.
I hate losing, but not so much that I can't admit that was a whale of a game and absolutely the kind of product the NHL needs to put out on the ice. That had the feeling of a heavyweight boxing match with each team trading goals like they were trading haymakers. Just when one team would get a big possession push and a good cycle, the other team would answer in kind. It was a really, really good game.
Lots of silver linings in the loss. The obvious is the Lightning put up 4 goals on that goaltender and that defensive corps in a night where Rinne was on his game. They would've scored 7 or 8 goals, I'm fairly certain, on a mortal goaltender. The other obvious one is that the special teams, which have been dreadful to this point of the season, were a strong point in this game. They got the tying goal on the PP from Stamkos to get it to 1-1 and they were fairly solid going 3-for-3 on the PK. That's no small task considering the bomb launchers Nashville has back on the points. That looked like a bad matchup going into the contest, but the Lightning held stout.
What they'll want back is the semi-soft first goal late in the opening period, the Carle turnover on the Weber goal, and Condra getting absolutely lost in coverage on the rush on Neal's second goal. Get back any one of those and you obviously get the second point.
Interesting twist to see a more tactical, possession-minded approach from Nashville in the 3-on-3 OT. They held the puck for a minute, it seemed like, on the cycle in the Lightning zone and I give credit to Stamkos and Hedman for not dropping dead from exhaustion covering that much ice. Nashville didn't get an A chance out of that much possession and that much ice, which is pretty remarkable. I'd expect to see the Lightning start to install that kind of cycle to wear out the opposing defenders in the 3-on-3 in the future. It was definitely much different than the jailbreak odd man rush fest in the first OT game of the season, and was much closer in resemblance to real hockey, to boot.
Bishop is the truth.
Ben Bishop. 1 goal on 32 shots. Multiple key saves with high degrees of difficulty. He took the Lightning on his back tonight, and allowed them to survive a very subpar effort with their #1 defenseman, Hedman, out of the lineup. He was absolutely impressive, and one of the things I really love about Ben is he pretty much never has two poor games in a row. He was subpar against Dallas. Wipe the slate clean. He was a superstar tonight.
2:52 BUF Reinhart (1), (Ennis)
13:41 TB Namestnikov (2), (unassisted)
16:03 TB Killorn (1), (Johnson, Palat)(PP)
Alex Killorn and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
A win's a win, but mercy was that an ugly win. Tampa Bay was outshot 32-22 and probably outchanced by a similar margin by a Buffalo team that is still pretty wet behind the ears. Part of it is almost certainly from losing their number one defenseman, Hedman, but it's still an unacceptable effort. They struggled to get out of their own end all game long, and when they did get out they looked pretty disjointed in the offensive zone. It was so bad that Cooper broke up the Triplets and the Stamkos line and pretty much benched Jonathan Drouin for most of the Third Period after he hot dogged it on a power play in the latter half of the Second Period. I expect Jon Cooper to strip several coats of paint off the walls in that video session once they chop up this debacle.
Fortunately, the did get the two points, and it's a very important two points as the team tries to stay on schedule in the first ten game segment of the year. These first couple of segments are very critical to help fight through any ECF hangover from last season. They need 4 points in the final 4 games of this segment to make it good.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 10:21. He was partly culpable for the Sabres' goal, although the lion's share of the blame should go Filppula's way. Putting that play aside, though, you had to really like what you saw tonight. Koekkoek was very active at both ends of the rink, and at times was doing a Hedman Lite routine with more physical edge. Salary cap and waiver eligibility issues are the only things keeping him off the Lightning roster right now, in my opinion, and I truly believe he'll be in Tampa full time after the trade deadline, at the latest.
Lightning reminded about the importance of details.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 22 shots for the loss. He got outplayed by Lehtonen at the other end and he ultimately denied his team a chance to win this game. His poor rebound on Dallas' first goal allowed them to turn the momentum early in the game and the softie on the 5th goal killed any chance the Lightning had of completing the comeback.
2:24 TB Stamkos (3), (Drouin)
8:58 DAL Seguin (1), (Jokipakka, Benn)
14:14 DAL Benn (3), (Spezza, Seguin)(PP)
9:34 DAL Eakin (3), (Janmark, Sceviour)
18:12 DAL Demers (1), (Eakin, Hemsky)(PP)
7:06 TB Namestnikov (1), (Stamkos)
8:44 TB Stamkos (4), (Drouin, Boyle)
10:29 DAL Spezza (4), (Hemsky, Goligoski)
Steven Stamkos was the game's second star.
By all of the advanced metrics you want to put to this game, the Lightning dominated. Possession. Chances. Shots. They were all over Dallas. But, hockey's a cruel sport when you don't mind the details. Subpar goaltending will kill you. Poor defensive coverage against the rush will kill you. Special teams will kill you. The Lightning could have, and maybe should have slain Dallas in this game, but they allowed those three areas to completely undermine any possibility of getting a win tonight. Bishop will rebound, so I'm not overly worried about the goaltending. And, the defensive zone coverage against the rush is correctable by a quality coaching staff. It's the penalty kill that is incredibly worrisome right now. It has cratered to 2013-2014 levels through 5 games.
If there's a silver lining, it's that Drouin/Stamkos is turning out to be everything we envisioned it would be at Bolt Prospects. For everyone who criticized the editorial position of the website last season that Drouin needed to be playing with Stamkos, and for everyone else foolish enough to try to label Drouin a bust, the proof's in the pudding through 5 games. Right now they're the undisputed top line of the team and the Triplets are swimming in their jet fumes trying to keep up. Once the Triplets do start to get on track from a production standpoint, have mercy on the NHL.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 15 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 11:57. His major and game misconduct for boarding in the Second Period was deserved, and he will likely be suspended. Coupled with a likely concussion suffered by Hedman, expect one or two defensive callups from Syracuse. Nesterov's penalty, frankly, put the nail in the Lightning coffin tonight. As bad as their PK was playing, giving Dallas a 5 minute opportunity to build the 3 goal lead just before the Second Intermission was just too much for the Lightning to overcome. And, once again, it was made plain just how hard it is to overcome a 3 goal deficit in the final frame in pro hockey. It's just a death sentence when you're trying to come from that far down.
Road weary Lightning fade in 3rd game in 4 nights.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He was screened/was dealing with traffic on both goals he allowed.
17:52 DET Nyquist (1), (Kronwall, Zetterberg)(PP)
8:25 DET Zetterberg (2), (Larkin, Quincey)
11:03 TB Callahan (2), (Drouin, Stralman)
18:12 DET Quincey (1), (Miller, Richards)(EN)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's third star.
The Lightning really ran out of gas for much of the final two periods of the game. Playing their 3rd game in 4 days, they had very little push until they were chasing the game down 2-0. It didn't help that Detroit played the game like it was their Stanley Cup Final.
Nikita Nesterov was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 17:19.
Podolsk 1 vs. Khanty-Mansiysk 0
Nikita Gusev, Khanty-Mansiysk, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 5 SOG
Season totals: 20 GP, 6-6-12, +6, 4 PIM
Nikita Gusev was scoreless in 16:51 in Yugra's 1-0 loss to Podolsk. Podolsk goaltender Harri Sateri, an ex-Sharks pick, stopped all 39 shots he faced for the shutout.
Novgorod 2 vs. Dinamo Minsk 1
Carter Ashton, Novgorod, 0-0-0, E, 0 PIM, 3 SOG
Season totals: 14 GP, 3-0-3, -3, 10 PIM
Carter Ashton was scoreless in 17:36 in Novgorod's 2-1 win over Minsk. Vladimir Galuzin notched the winning goal for Novgorod.
Lightning overcome slow start to destroy Bruins.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory. He benefited from the fact that, at the other end, Tuukka Rask was pretty darned awful today.
2:59 BOS Krejci (2), (Krug, Bergeron)(PP)
11:02 BOS Eriksson (1), (Krug, Krejci)(PP)
15:42 TB Boyle (1), (Hedman, Namestnikov)
16:51 TB Palat (1), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
4:48 TB Boyle (2), (unassisted)
12:20 BOS Eriksson (2), (Krejci, Krug)(PP)
15:17 TB Stamkos (2), (Stralman, Johnson)(PP)
5:38 TB Drouin (1), (Condra, Hedman)
15:58 TB Filppula (1), (Killorn, Brown)
Brian Boyle was the game's first star. Only in Boston could a team get smoked 6-3 and still get 2 out of 3 star selections. Arrogance, thy name is Boston.
Speaking of arrogance, you get the feeling that the Lightning learned so much in last season's playoff run they've gotten to that elite level where they have the confidence to just toy with opponents. Regular season hockey might be child's play to this team, especially given how few roster changes there were to the Lightning. They came out flat and looked like they were going to get run off the ice down 2-0, and then ended up making it look easy as they cruised most of the rest of the way. I don't want to overstate it, because Rask really did allow two soft goals, but this Lightning team looks so much more deep and talented than the rest of the league they don't have to be perfect to kill you. Even better, it really looks like this Lightning team will be even better than last year's because they look like they'll have two elite scoring lines, four balanced lines overall, and a better power play. The latter was 2-for-4 today and you could see it coming on in the last contest.
The obvious nitpick is the penalty kill, which hasn't been sharp thus far this year. 1-for-4 on the PK is not sustainable.
When you play a matinee in Boston, I consider a day where your star player doesn't break his leg and the refs don't make some horribly controversial call against the Lightning a win. Getting two points was just gravy. My only regret was I didn't get to hear the NESN crew shriek in agony that their mighty Bruins (who missed the playoffs last year) could possibly get destroyed at home by the terrible Tampa Bay Lightning (who were Eastern Conference champs). I can hear the excuses from here.
In any event, after improving to 3-0-0, the Lightning have 6 points and are already halfway to the 10-game segment goal. The team is putting itself into good position to possibly build up a nice stock of insurance points right from the word jump, which is great considering some sort of Stanley Cup Final hangover would've been understandable.