Tampa Bay Lightning
Sluggish Lightning nearly bailed out by Vasilevskiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy was brilliant. He stopped 45 shots tonight, only allowing a goal to an uncovered Tavares in the slot (no shame) and a tipped point shot by Lee (again, no shame). The Lightning would've lost this game 8-1, easily, without Vasilevskiy.
9:16 TB Connolly (6), (Johnson, Barberio)
16:51 NYI Tavares (13), (Okposo, Bailey)
17:03 NYI Lee (7), (Hamonic, Nelson)
18:49 NYI Kulemin (6), (Clutterbuck)(EN)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star.
Anyone in a Lightning jersey not named Vasilevskiy or Boyle probably didn't deserve to be wearing it the way they played tonight. I certainly hope there's a more innocuous explanation for what we witnessed tonight. Maybe the flu is running through this team, which was aggravated by Garrison leaving in the Second Period. I can't explain it, otherwise. The team looked slow. They made wave after wave of really idiotic turnovers. They looked physically and mentally fatigued to the extent that they didn't even seem to want to be there. Gudas and Carle looked like corpses out there, for crying out loud. Getting outshot 48-21 by anyone is just not acceptable, and in the absence of extenuating circumstances there needs to be a closed door meeting followed by a bag skate, because this just cannot happen.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 2 penalty minutes 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:11. If Yzerman looks to make a shake up move, I wouldn't be shocked to see Paquette and Namestnikov trade places soon. Paquette took a bad offensive zone boarding call and he's seen his offensive contributions vanish while taking about 1 minor penalty a night. That means, sadly for him, he might have to be the one who gets shook in the shake up.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 hit in 13:19. He ended up getting himself pulled off the Stamkos line because they were generating nothing. Zero shots on goal and only one even attempted isn't good enough.
Lightning manage to wrestle 1 point out of the quicksand.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 2 goals on 18 shots before allowing 1 of 3 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. I'll give him full marks for battling tonight, but that was hard to watch. The first goal was a fluky goal that he put into his own cage. Okay. But, the second goal cannot be allowed at any level of hockey and he got the benefit of 5 or 6 posts tonight on top of that. The Lightning have a real issue there, and the solution may be figuring out some way to shuttle one of the two good goaltenders they have in Syracuse up in back-to-back situations from here on out, which is a roster challenge, but may be necessary. You could've timed that second goal from shot to net with a sun dial it fluttered so slowly.
3:01 NJ Henrique (9), (Greene, Gomez)(PP)
15:17 NJ Elias (4), (Havlat, Henrique)
14:55 TB Stamkos (19), (Callahan, Drouin)
19:19 TB Kucherov (13), (Callahan, Garrison)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's first star.
Glass half full: they managed to squeeze a point out of a game where they trailed New Jersey in the Third Period. That's no small feat, and part of climbing out of the big hole that they were in was one of the better passing displays we've seen in the last 3-4 weeks, especially in the Second Period. I also thought Radko Gudas, coming off a stomach bug, might've played his best game of the season tonight at both ends of the rink.
Glass half empty: the goaltending was bad. The power play might've actually been worse, though. 0-for-5 on the power play tonight and one was a key double minor in the Third Period while they were pushing to tie the game where they got nothing going. Nothing. At some point as the season progresses, Yzerman seriously needs to find a righty PP QB to acquire via trade. Nothing they're doing to try to free up Stamkos with lefties at center point is working, and it's becoming counterproductive trying to force set pieces his way or asking him to force passes back through the seam to Filppula, who can't do anything with them because he's not a shooter.
Cedric Paquette had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:39 and he also was 44% on draws.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 21:15. Circle that ice time number. Playing with Stamkos for the full game, this was the first time Cooper really let Drouin out of the stable, and I think Stamkos in particular responded well with 10 shot attempts tonight. My big thing with Drouin now, though, is that team's are playing him as a pass first guy. He needs to shoot it more. 2 shots is more than he's been getting, but he only had 3 shot attempts total. I want to see him at a minimum of 4 shot attempts a game from here on out. Stamkos won't mind, Jonathan. 91 likes rebound goals, too.
Vasilevskiy plays the role of the slump slayer.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 24 shots for the victory in his first NHL start.
19:19 PHI Simmonds (14), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
1:50 TB Stamkos (18), (Drouin, Callahan)
6:34 TB Johnson (10), (Callahan, Kucherov)
19:18 TB Filppula (6), (Paquette, Johnson)(EN)
Ryan Callahan and Vasilevskiy were the game's first and third stars. The night offered Lightning fans a brief slice of the future, with Vasilevskiy in net and Jonathan Drouin playing on the top line with Stamkos. Both had important hands in the outcome of the game, with a cameo appearance by young Cedric Paquette on the EN goal to seal the game.
Paquette had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot. He was also 67% on draws.
Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 17:28. If I have a critique of Drouin, it's that I'd like to see him look to shoot a little more and generate some offense that way, too. I hope he stays on that line with Stamkos from here on out.
Bad news in Pittsburgh.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 5 shots before leaving the game after the First Intermission with what was deemed a "lower body injury". Evgeny Nabokov allowed 3 goals on 21 shots the rest of the way for the loss.
19:09 PIT Sutter (7), (Scuderi)(SH)
19:33 TB Drouin (2), (Johnson, Kucherov)(PP)
2:55 PIT Rust (1), (Ebbett)
19:26 PIT Downie (5), (Hornqvist, Malkin)(PP)
7:47 PIT Dumoulin (1), (Downie, Spaling)
16:56 TB Kucherov (12), (Filppula)
The Lightning came out flying in the First Period, and were betrayed by a mixture of bad luck and great goaltending by Fleury. The one goal Bishop allowed was a shot that was going wide that took a goofy bounce off the knob of his stick and bounded into his net. It was so goofy and unlucky, I wouldn't be surprised if Bishop hurt himself kicking something in the locker room about his buzzard's luck. It was that kind of night. You then had Nabby handing Pittsburgh a free goal on a puckhandling gaffe and then a fourth goal coming off a deflection off Hedman. Meanwhile, the Lightning couldn't buy another goal on Fleury until a breakaway goal from Kucherov late in garbage time. Just nothing is going right now, and you hope that Bishop being held out for precautionary reasons turns out to be over something minor like a stubbed toe rather than something being broken or torn.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot and 4 hits and was 60% on draws in 14:10.
Jonathan Drouin had a goal and 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 14:50. He was probably one of the three best players on the rink for the Lightning tonight, and that was reflected in his promotion to the Stamkos line in the Third Period. He could've easily had a 3 point night tonight if the Lightning were so cursed right at the moment.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the loss.
10:33 WSH Backstrom (6), (Wilson, Schmidt)
18:40 WSH Backstrom (7), (Ovechkin, Wilson)
2:17 WSH Backstrom (8), (Ovechkin)
15:36 TB Johnson (9), (Carle, Kucherov)
17:29 TB Carle (3), (Stamkos, Garrison)
19:21 WSH Fehr (6), (unassisted)(EN)
Frustrating. This was a game filled with self-inflicted wounds. I'm not going to dwell on the disallowed Stamkos goal in the First Period, because ultimately that's not what undid the Lightning in this game. They had a 5-on-3 for a full 2 minutes and only got a slow dribbler chance by Callahan that Holtby held out. Then Paquette loses a faceoff and loses his man. Little thing. Down 1-0. They have plenty of guys back in transition and they completely blow the coverage and Backstrom gets a rebound goal. Little thing. Down 2-0. They have a neutral zone turnover and the defense parts to let Backstrom get a prime chance in the slot. Little thing. Down 3-0. They even have 2 players collide at center with the extra attacker so Fehr can get the EN goal. Little things, and they surrender the 4th goal. It's not like the Caps have dominated these two games, but the Lightning have done everything in their power to make them look like world beaters. Other than the PK there was very little of value to take out of tonight, other than what little morale building you can get out of climbing to withing 1 goal late in a game where you were down 3-0 in the Third Period.
Moving back to basics: Cooper's got to get these guys to get 35 shots on goal a night. The shot totals have been anemic lately, and when shot totals are low you don't get a good diet of greasy goals. They need that, and they need a healthy Palat back. A functional PP would be a nice change of pace, too. Every season has a spot like this where the offense will just struggle to get goals. It seems like, more often than not, the Lightning's struggle seems to come in December. It happened in '03. It's happening now.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and he was 33% on draws. The first goal was on him. He lost the draw and then lost Backstrom, which allowed Backstrom to easily collect the blocked shot and roll to the slot to get the backhander. Not good.
Jonathan Drouin was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 10:55. He was on the ice for Paquette's faux-pas and the Fehr empty-netter, so the +/- is deceiving. He got more comfortable and looked more dangerous as the game rolled on.
Tonight's victory brought to you by Crisco.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory. After some rough sledding early in the season, he's put together quality starts in his last 2 contests and he just evened up his season record at 3-3-1.
6:35 TB Kucherov (10), (Stralman, Nabokov)(PP)
12:03 CAR Faulk (5), (Nash, Sekera)
19:29 TB Kucherov (11), (Killorn, Carle)
Nabokov and Nikita Kucherov were the game's first and second stars. Kucherov's two goals were of the extremely greasy variety: one a tap in of a dump in pass that took an odd hop in front of an unattended cage, and the second a pass that dribbled in off the foot of a Carolina defender. Nabokov, for his part, only surrendered one greasy goal off a weak point shot that deflected in off of Victor Hedman. It was one of those kinds of nights.
The Lightning still aren't playing their best hockey. It's not for a lack of effort, but they're just not sharp right now and they actually got outshot by the Canes tonight. Still, the win tonight put them at 13 points for the 10 game segment and they're now sitting on a total of 5 insurance points heading into the 4th 10-game segment of the campaign. There's worst places to be, certainly.
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 2 hits and was 60% on draws in 14:18. He had a very active First Period with a couple of quality chances set up by Drouin.
Jonathan Drouin was scoreless in 11:51.
Lightning in a mini-funk.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the loss. Unlike the Columbus game, I didn't feel any of the goals he allowed were soft. I can't say the same for the play of the defense in front of him.
0:40 WSH Ovechkin (13), (Wilson, Carlson)
13:49 TB Boyle (6), (Hedman, Brown)
14:23 WSH Niskanen (2), (Backstrom, Johansson)(PP)
0:47 TB Stamkos (17), (Callahan, Hedman)
4:36 WSH Laich (3), (Ward)
10:52 WSH Brouwer (7), (Johansson, Kuznetsov)
19:56 TB Filppula (5), (Johnson, Hedman)
19:59 WSH Ovechkin (14), (Backstrom)(EN)
Victor Hedman was the game's third star.
I don't want to sit here and say the sky is falling. The Lightning did outshoot Washington 36-35 and were it not for A.) Holtby, B.) A greasy goal off an unfortunate bounce of a centering pass that ended up in Stralman's skates, and C.) An inept Lightning PP in the Second Period, this game could've had a dramatically different outcome. The issue right now is the Lightning having an uneven effort level shift-to-shift, lack of sharpness in passing and positioning shift-to-shift, and a power play that looks devoid of an identity and a clue right now. The first two things can sort themselves out with a few good practices. That last thing? There's a young man who wears 27 who was serving popcorn tonight who's absolutely lethal as a playmaker in open ice on the PP. Just saying. It's time.
This one hurts. On paper, you'd have expected to get about 3 points out of these last couple of games, which would've allowed the Lightning to build a nice stash of insurance points and fortify their position in the division and in the conference. It's a heck of a time for a little losing streak, and now they'll have to rally and get at least a point out of the Carolina game just to make sure they get 12 points out of this 10-game segment of the season. It's a big-time wasted opportunity with harder parts of the schedule still to come.
Cedric Paquette had 4 penalty minutes, 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:56. The extra roughing minor he took in the First Period led to Niskanen's momentum crushing PP goal, but I kind of didn't mind Paquette giving the business to the larger Wilson, who was trying to pick on a rookie. I have a hard time criticizing a young man for defending himself.
Flat Lightning get Bobrovsky'ed.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the loss. The 2 softies he gave up in the first period became the margin of victory, as softies often do.
2:37 CBJ Jenner (4), (Calvert)
12:48 CBJ Savard (5), (Johnson, Atkinson)(PP)
4:51 CBJ Skille (4), (Chaput, Hartnell)
18:47 TB Palat (8), (Kucherov, Drouin)
I'm not going to go so far as to say the Lightning were completely terrible, effort-wise. They outshot Columbus 34-20 and got their fair share of scoring chances on the forecheck. The team's been very out of sync passing the puck the last 3 or so games, though, which is indicative of a lack of focus, and that bit them tonight like it did in the shootout loss against Buffalo. It's a coachable moment for Cooper and an opportunity to get his players' eyes back on the prize.
Cedric Paquette had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 13:19.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper on the Lightning's lone goal and 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:31.
Vasilevskiy makes his bid for the starter's job.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 34 shots he faced for the win and his first career AHL shutout. He's won 5 out of his last 6 starts and 3 of his last 4 starts have been high quality outings. It certainly feels like he's turned the corner and with Gudlevskis struggling, it's time to ride or die for a little while with Vasya.
SYR Samson, (1) (Namestnikov, Kunyk), 17:08
SYR Namestnikov, (2) (Witkowski), 19:47 (EN)
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Ben Bishop stopped all 13 (not a typo) shots he faced for his first shutout of the season. He had to stop maybe 3-4 quality opportunities, but could've put his feet up half the night otherwise. We resurrect the University of Maine Justice logo tonight, nonetheless.
2:33 TB Gudas (2), (Johnson)
4:28 TB Stamkos (16), (Callahan, Killorn)
5:39 TB Morrow (2), (Drouin, Sustr)
13:40 TB Garrison (3), (Stamkos, Sustr)
18:55 TB Connolly (5), (Filppula, Stamkos)(PP)
In the end, that's exactly the response you would want to see coming out of the 2-1 shootout loss in Buffalo. Mind you, the team was annoyingly lethargic in the First Period and really did not play well at all. But, from the Second Period on, their absolute dominance of Buffalo was only really interrupted by some sour grapes Third Period thuggery by the Sabres once the game was clearly into garbage time. The really scary thing is it could've been worse if the Lightning had capitalized on all the Sabres penalties in this game, but they only managed to draw blood on Connolly's late 2-man advantage goal.
The victory gives the Lightning a 3rd insurance point in the bank with 3 games remaining in this segment. They had 4 coming into the segment, so they've got an excellent chance to really improve their position before moving on into the fourth 10-game segment of the season, after which we may find they have so many points the bomb sights may need to start to be readjusted.
Cedric Paquette had a fight, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 15:10. He got in a scrap with Zemgus Girgensons and handled himself well, getting in a couple of really good shots right off the top of the fight. It's not every day you get to beat up the bogus leader in NHL All-Star voting.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 in 12:34. They tried him on a line with Boyle and Morrow tonight, and he had a wee bit of chemistry with the well-seasoned veteran Morrow, including setting up Morrow's second goal of the season. I'd still really like to see the Drouin/Filppula/Brown line I suggested a little while back, though, just in case Cooper decides he's going to start taking requests like a wedding singer.