Tampa Bay Lightning
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for December 2-8, 2013 is … Ondrej Palat, W, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).
The most underappreciated prospect in the Lightning system in recent years is finally getting the attention he deserves. Ondrej Palat, a seventh round pick of the Lightning in 2011, has been a coach’s dream since he forced his way onto AHL Norfolk’s roster in 2011 when the Lightning though he’d return to QMJHL Drummondville. He’s been an integral part of Norfolk, Syracuse, and now Tampa Bay ever since.
Palat is a do-it-all player who thinks the game at another level than most young players. Most times that description refers to offensive vision, but Palat’s is a big-picture, coach-like ability to read the game. His responsibility level is off the charts and he has the skating, size, and skill to fit in on any line.
Lightning keep letting shaky goaltenders off the hook.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the OT loss. He played great and really deserved better than he got from the team in front of him. Did he have one lucky save on a point blank rebound chance by Jokinen that was off one of his own rebounds? Sure. But he gave the Lightning every opportunity to win this game.
5:25 WPG Wheeler (7), (Trouba, Clitsome)
19:58 TB Thompson (2), (Gudas, St Louis)
1:04 WPG Scheifele (3), (Wheeler)
Lindback and Radko Gudas were the game's second and third stars.
Someone needs to have a very serious discussion with this team about letting backup/shaky goaltenders off the hook. Al Montoya looked like hot trash in net tonight. He was giving up rebounds. He was barely squeezing off chances that nearly went though him. He did not look confident or poised between the pipes. 5 shots in the First Period. 12 in the Second Period, but mostly from the perimeter. Not much zone time. Nothing that really created the conditions to get some greasy goals. It's always important to do that, mind you, but when you play a goaltender like Montoya I have no idea why the team isn't on it like a cat on catnip. They sleepwalked through the first 40 minutes and ended up losing in OT of a game they could've easily won in regulation if they hadn't completely let Montoya off the hook. They did the same thing in Columbus sleepwalking through so much of that game, and I just don't get it.
Gudas had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:38. He was a stud tonight and he was all over Andrew Ladd like a bad holiday sweater throughout the game.
Mark Barberio was -2 in 12:59. A lot of people ask me why I am hard on Barberio. He's lived a charmed life so far this year if you look at his overall plus/minus so people don't think he's a bad defensive liability. Please refer to the OT winner the next time you feel the need to ask me why I am hard on Mark Barberio. Scheifele manhandled Barberio on what should have been a very easy tie-up for an NHL defenseman to make. That's why he terrifies me in his own third of the rink. Even small forwards can rag doll him.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits and he was 39% on draws in 19:05.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 3 hits in 16:31. He almost did his Chris Drury impression again working himself into a breakaway in Overtime only to ring his shot off the goalpost after a nice move. One note on that play, looking back at the replay: I am absolutely positive Al Montoya threw his stick after getting faked out of his shorts by Killorn on the play. That probably should've been called a PS for Killorn (mind you, Killorn faked him out so bad he probably should've finished off the goal). Instead, the Jets came down the other way and the waste receptacle conflagration occurred on Scheifele's winning goal.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot. As he was in the AHL, I thought he was the straw that stirred the drink tonight on his line as a lot of chances were running through Palat's play.
J.T. Brown had 1 shot and 1 hit in 11:27.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 10:54. He had one really cringe-worthy shift in the Third Period where he looked physically overmatched a la Barberio.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 13:50. He's mesmerizing with the puck and I think Lightning players need to learn to have their sticks on the ice ready to shoot whenever Kucherov's in the offensive third.
Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 14:42. He had a glorious chance jumping up into the high slot on one play in the First Period and made another in the opening frame where he made a beautiful cross ice feed to Thompson for a near tip-in goal. He was also pretty responsible defensively, as usual. If you're going to get shifts like Taormina and Barberio had tonight, I'd rather Cooper just dress 6 d-men and play Sustr more, to be blunt.
Overcome. Survive. Advance.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 34 shots for the victory, which is amazing with just 5 d-men (one being Taormina) with Hedman and Aulie going down to injury.
16:45 TB St Louis (11), (Palat, Matt Carle)
6:11 OTT Wiercioch (1), (Turris)(PP)
13:19 TB St Louis (12), (Palat, Johnson)
10:56 TB Filppula (10), (unassisted)
It was a huge victory with Gudas out and Hedman and Aulie going down to injury during the game. Heck, it was a huge victory anyway. I've said for the past couple of games TJ and Palat needed a finisher on their line. Cooper gave them the future HOF'er tonight, and results were immediate.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 21:35. My God, it's come to this. Barberio is playing 20+ minutes.
Tyler Johnson was +2 with a helper, 2 shots, and he was 37% on draws.
Alex Killorn was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:54. He also only took 2 draws so the centerman experiment may be coming to a close.
Palat had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots, 9 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 18:07. Nicely done.
J.T. Brown had 3 hits in 14:04.
Matt Taormina was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 16:07. Not bad considering the spot he was thrown into.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:57.
Andrej Sustr was +2 with 2 penalty minutes in 20:51.
Lightning skate the final 40 minutes like they were in a turkey-induced coma.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the loss. He deserved better. He was hung out to dry 1-on-1 with an uncovered shooter on the only goal he allowed.
4:30 CBJ Foligno (7), (Johansen)
There haven't been many times this season where the Lightning have been outworked. Tonight, they got absolutely outworked by an arguably less talented team. That effort simply won't do. The power play was bad. The Blue Jackets double teamed the Lightning all over the ice to win puck battles. Their puck support was excellent, the Lightning's was terrible. They went to the net front. The Lightning acted like they were allergic to it. There's nothing good you can say about the night, other than thanking Ben Bishop for giving the team a chance. The Lightning will not reach 12 points in this 3rd 10 game segment of the season. They have to readjust their sights to at least salvage 8 points to leverage some of the extra points they got in the first 2 segments of the year to try to stay on track. It's bad. This was a bad, bad loss.
Mark Barberio had 2 hits in 17:16. I didn't notice any huge mistakes, but he was oddly invisible at the offensive end of the ice, too.
Tyler Johnson had 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 53% on draws in 17:19. He was the Lightning's best center tonight. That's a low bar to clear, though. You could trip on it.
Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 1 hit and was 50% on draws in 16:40. I'm beginning to think his game is too north-south to work at the center position. Seems like a pro winger.
Ondrej Palat had 2 blocked shots in 17:26. He came close a couple of times to working the Lightning into the scoring chance they needed, either with his forechecking or his stick handling. Just couldn't get anything to stick.
J.T. Brown had 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:27. He had a breakaway chance that he was stopped on that led to Bobrovsky leaving the game and he was one of the few Lightning forwards consistently going to the net.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots and 1 hit in 14:18. Had a slick little attempt on net in the First Period and helped spring Brown for his breakaway chance. I don't know why, with the team down 1 goal in each of the past 2 games, Cooper hasn't spotted him more with quality line mates. Cooper moved Tyrell onto the kid line in lieu of Panik, and I just face palmed. Tyrell wasn't going to finish off a chance from Johnson or Palat. Let's just be honest with ourselves about that. I have no idea why you don't spot a finisher like Kucherov on that line instead.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:15. He was one third of the rolling blunder that led to the game's only goal. At least he can say it wasn't a rookie mistake, because two veterans (including Filppula, who was exceptionally brutal tonight) chose to partake in creating that king-sized dumpster fire of a play.
Bounces don't go the Lightning's way.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 28 shots for the loss. He played well. It's hard to be upset considering the first goal he allowed was off a great cross ice feed from Crosby and the second was a centering feed that bounced off Hedman and in. Most nights that effort gets Bishop in the winner's circle.
6:53 PIT Kunitz (12), (Crosby, Letang)
8:27 PIT Sutter (5), (Crosby, Jokinen)(PP)
18:17 PIT Kunitz (13), (Malkin, Crosby)(EN)
J.T. Brown was the game's second star.
There's nothing to be ashamed of in tonight's effort. They held their own against an elite caliber team and just didn't get the bounce or two they needed. I'll take that effort 9 games out of 10 and take my chances that the bounces start to go my way. The unfortunate thing is that the loss is going to make it really difficult for the Lightning to get 12 points out of this 10 game segment of the season, now needing 7 of 8 possible points in the next 4 games. That's the problem with losing streaks like on the Lightning's West Coast swing. They really cut your margin of error down dramatically.
Mark Barberio had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 14:59. His delay of game penalty in the Third Period led to Pittsburgh's insurance goal and, as usual, he just isn't strong along the wall in his own end. He's got to improve there. Period, point blank.
Tyler Johnson was -2 with 1 shot and he was 62% on draws in 18:58. That stat line doesn't tell the tale. The kid line matched up head to head against the Crosby line all game long and they held their own. Crosby set up Pittsburgh's first goal, but they got nothing else until the empty netter at the end, and the balance of play between the two lines was surprisingly even. That's incredibly impressive for three rookies.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes and 2 shots and was 29% on draws in 15:01. QUIT TAKING OFFENSIVE ZONE PENALTIES! That is all.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:52. I'll echo my comments about TJ with regard to Palat and add that both Palat and Johnson were also outstanding on the PK.
Brown had 4 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:10. He worked himself into quite a few good chances and set up 1-2 others for his teammates. He's a little snakebit right now, but that will pass with time.
Nikita Kucherov had 2 shots in 14:31. He had a partial breakaway and a couple of other quality scoring chances. Sooner or later, he's going to put up a multi-goal game, I'm fairly certain. He's very dangerous, and I would actually like to see him spotted in Panik's place on the kid line just to see if a little more polished finisher on that line can yield some dividends.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 1 shot and 3 blocked shots in 18:05. He was on the ice for Pittsburgh's first goal, but that was a superstar play off the rush by Crosby. Beyond that, he also held his own. Nothing to be ashamed of.
Richard Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:27. He had maybe the chance of the game on his stick at the end of the Second Period all along in front of Fleury and target visioned it right into Fleury's chest. Ploof. I don't know how the Lightning can breath confidence into him at this point, but I do know that kid line is generating chances for Panik and they're not going in because he's the most snake bitten at all. Given its been feast or famine in the goal department since Stamkos' injury, I'm very serious that Cooper should consider spotting a finisher like Kucherov on that line if these late game situations come up where the Lightning are scrambling to find a goal.