Tampa Bay Lightning
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.
Whose idea was it to start a game at 5 pm?
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 9 shots for the loss before giving way to Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 20 shots the rest of the way. Sadly, Vasiy couldn't make that 1 more key stop he needed to give the team a real chance to complete the comeback bid.
1:33 LAK Toffoli (14), (unassisted)
12:30 LAK Williams (14), (Lewis, Muzzin)
19:58 LAK Doughty (5), (Regehr, Kopitar)
0:58 TB Kucherov (19), (unassisted)
1:34 TB Hedman (7), (Callahan)
7:46 LAK Williams (15), (Gaborik, Regehr)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.
The Lightning just didn't show up mentally until the game was already 3-0 at the end of the First Period. Chalk it up to the early start tonight, perhaps, but it was unacceptable. They need to be ready to go from the jump tomorrow against the Ducks or they'll have zero chance.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:22. He, unfortunately, fell down trying to backtrack on a Filppula turnover on the first goal against, but was otherwise quiet, as usual.
Nikita Nesterov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:15. He was very active on the first shift of the Second Period, with the resulting pressure ending up in Kucherov's goal.
Snatching victory from the jaws of defeat.
Andrei Vasilevskiy shined, allowing 3 goals on 36 shots for the victory. The Lightning would've had zero chance of winning tonight without Vasilevskiy.
3:11 TB Stamkos (28), (Callahan, Barberio)
6:42 TB Hedman (6), (Stamkos)
15:21 DAL Klingberg (10), (Seguin, Goligoski)
15:36 DAL Goligoski (2), (Fiddler, Horcoff)
12:27 TB Johnson (18), (Kucherov, Killorn)(PP)
13:41 DAL Daley (13), (Ja. Benn, Demers)
16:23 TB Johnson (19), (Boyle, Palat)
18:43 TB Kucherov (18), (Palat)(EN)
This was, in many ways, role reversal from the Lightning's performance in St. Louis. The Lightning were on their heels most of the night, ultimately getting outshot 36-29, and probably should've been run out of the barn if it weren't for the goaltending they got from Vasiy. Then things got really weird when Jason Garrison got hurt, forcing Brian Boyle to take shifts on defense where he made the play of the game on a clean check on Jamie Benn at center ice that eventually led to his point shot that was deflected in by Johnson for the GWG. Yes, Brian Boyle, from the point, on defense (not in the Conservatory with the Candlestick). Honestly, you can't feel too guilty about it because they deserved so much better against the Blues. So, things evened out on this little mini trip.
Unfortunately, if Garrison's injury is of any real severity, it puts the Lightning in a very tough spot with the California trip looming. Yzerman's basically got a week to bring someone in or he'll have to do something he probably doesn't want to do like raid the already thin cupboard in Syracuse. Paging Slater Koekkoek?
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 13:47. It was a hard luck minus with Daley's shot off the rush hitting Witkowski's leg and deflecting past Vasiy.
Snatching defeat from the jaws of victory.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 18 shots for the OT loss. It's a bitter pill to swallow, but I can't really fault Ben on either goal.
5:20 TB Paquette (11), (Killorn, Drouin)
16:50 STL Tarasenko (26), (Stastny)
1:16 STL Schwartz (18), (Butler, Elliott)
That hurt bad. That hurt really bad. The Lightning absolutely dominated almost the entire game. They outshop St. Louis 31-17 in regulation, and the chances were about that lopsided. Elliot made about a half dozen sparkling saves for the Blues and the Lightning continued to sputter on the PP, going 0-for-3 on the game. They just could not get the insurance marker and allowed the Blues to tie it off a clean faceoff loss by Brian Boyle, and in OT the defense just got out of sorts trying to stop a 2-on-2 rush situation, and in the end they left 1 point they should've gotten on the rink.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 15:42. He also set up Cedric Paquette with a long stretch pass in the Third Period that nearly became the key insurance marker, but Elliot stood up to the task. Tonight's game marks Drouin's graduation from prospect status on the website.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 14:20. He plays like a guy who understands his athletic limitations and plays efficiently within his boundaries. He moves the puck quickly to make sure he doesn't put himself in bad spots. He'll give a guy a pop if its there, but he won't go running out of position to do it because he knows he doesn't necessarily have the recovery speed to get away with it. He's just played like a smart, lower pair stay-at-homer so far.
We continue our Bolt Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for his recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Bolt Prospect of the Week for February 2, 2015 is … Cedric Paquette, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).
Cedric Paquette made his last few games as a Bolt prospect memorable.
The third-year pro hit the 42 NHL games played mark this past week, graduating him from prospect status on BoltProspects.com. Paquette spent the week lighting up the scoresheet, scoring five times in three games, including his first career hat trick in a division match-up against Detroit. He scored the game-winning goal for the Lightning against Columbus two nights later. Paquette was named the NHL’s Second Star of the Week behind Carey Price, but beat Price out for our Bolt Prospect of the Week (ignoring details involved there).
Bishop saves the day.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 35 shots for the victory. With the Lightning playing flat as a pancake in front of him, Bishop made a handful of key stops to give his club the time to pull away in the Third Period. Make no mistake, though, Bishop was the margin in this one and the game was closer than the scoreboard indicates.
19:36 TB Connolly (9), (Morrow, Garrison)
10:02 TB Paquette (10), (Drouin, Killorn)
11:43 TB Filppula (10), (unassisted)
16:34 CBJ Johansen (19), (Savard, Murray)
I can't help but be a little alarmed at how flat the Lightning have played recently going into games against lower-tier opponents like Carolina, Columbus, etc. There's some bad habits and a little bit of laziness/lack of focus (particularly on their continually awful PP) that crops up in these games that you don't see as much of against the big boys like Detroit. The mark of the really elite clubs is that they play their game regardless of who they're lining it up against, but that hasn't been the case lately for the Lightning. They'll need to get over that if they want to progress to the next level on their way to becoming a championship caliber team. Finding some sort of identity/concept on the PP would be a nice addition, too.
Cedric Paquette had a goal (GWG), 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:53. He was also 67% on draws. That's 5 goals in the last 3 games. Tonight was Cedric's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from prospect status here on the website. We've been online (officially) since the '05-'06 season, and in 9.5 seasons of hockey I can't recall a prospect hitting their graduation threshold with this kind of flair. You can't help but feel wonderful for the young man who was an overage 4th rounder who got passed over completely in his first draft year and had to work so hard to improve his skating to make it to the league, where he's now flourishing.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:29. It's lost in the meteoric rise of Cedric Paquette, but Drouin's got 4 helpers and is +4 in the last 3 games, as well. He's got 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website, too, and he's showing signs of finally starting to settle into the league now.
Luke Witkowski was +2 with 1 shot in 12:33. Not noticable = very good for a rookie defenseman.
Ben Bishop rebounded from his subpar performance against Carolina to allow just 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He was very sharp after shaking off the All-Star Break hangover he had in the last outing.
2:03 TB Paquette (7), (Killorn, Garrison)
11:59 DET Helm (9), (Ericsson, Datsyuk)
19:23 TB Paquette (8), (Drouin, Killorn)
4:18 TB Stamkos (27), (Stralman, Drouin)(PP)
11:03 TB Paquette (9), (unassisted)(SH)
17:39 TB Barberio (1), (Sustr, Johnson)
News of the Tampa Bay Lightning's demise appear to have been greatly exaggerated. As has occurred several times so far this season, this team seems to have the ability to raise their level of play to match the challenge at hand. Tonight they faced a Red Wings team that has been playing really well and had taken a 1 point lead on the Lightning in the division after a really poor performance against cellar-dwelling Carolina coming out of the All-Star Break. Momentum-wise, this appeared to be a tough mountain for the Lightning to climb.
But, in the end, the Lightning absolutely dominated the Red Wings. After a shaky First Period in which Ben Bishop had to play well to let his team overcome some turnover and defensive zone coverage issues, the Lightning took control of all facets of the game. Shots on goal. Scoring chances. Special teams play. They rolled the Red Wings, and sent Detroit (and their fans) back to Michigan with tails firmly tucked between their legs.
Tonight's victory put the Lightning at the end of the 5th 10-game segment of the season at 66 points, 6 points ahead of the minimum they need to have to be comfortably on pace for the playoffs. They gained 2 additional insurance points in this segment and are slowly inching their way to a position where their focus can turn from clinching the playoffs to loftier aspirations. It starts with the next 10-game segment and our well-worn mantra: "12 in 10, do it again."
Cedric Paquette had his first career hat trick and was +3 with 5 shots and 2 hits. He was also 67% on 12 draws. As noted a few games back, he looked due, and his goal against the Hurricanes appears to have opened up the floodgates in dramatic fashion. The man we affectionately call Dump Truck has 1 more game to go to graduate from prospect status on the website. I kind of wish he had hit the 41 game threshold for the season tonight, because tonight's performance would've been quite the mic drop moment for a prospect.
Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:49. He rebounded from an awful turnover early in the game that led to Bishop having to bail him out on the ensuing 2-on-0 chance given to the Wings. From there, though, he was dangerous offensively and his line with Paquette and Killorn put all kinds of pressure on the Wings all night long. Drouin's got 2 more games to go until graduation from prospect status on the site.
Nikita Nesterov had 1 shot in 14:58. He got caught in no-man's land on Detroit's first goal, failing to pick up Helm as he circled from behind the Lightning net, and he had some defensive zone coverage issues. He's taken a little half step back in the past couple of games, which coupled with the improved play of Barberio tells me perhaps more seasoning needs to be in the cards for Nesterov.