Tampa Bay Lightning
This may be the first competent piece of work that Hockey's Future has published about the Tampa Bay Lightning in over a year. Kudos to Tanya Lyon for having the skill to write it, and even more so to somehow get it approved by the biased individual who currently occupies the online editorial position on the site. Yes indeed, the much maligned Lightning prospect system IS churning out NHL caliber players at a clip that the lazy reporting that went into HF's organizational rankings would lead many to believe was impossible. Here's to hoping the powers that be have finally had an epiphany. Or, if not, that the Lightning's four prospects slated to play at the upcoming WJC's further embarass HF into having one.
I was pretty apathetic to the Carolina Hurricanes prior to tonight. Just like any Southeast Division opposition the Lightning have faced over the past two seasons, they were the weakling kid the Lightning would beat up and steal the lunch money from. No threat, so no animosity. Tonight though? I hate the Carolina Hurricanes. I hate their arrogant, homer, idiotic announcers. I hate their fairweather fans (all three of them). And I hate the fact the Tampa Bay Lightning have allowed themselves to fall seven points behind the Carolina Hurricanes in the division.
Sean Burke allowed 6 goals on 30 shots faced, although only one of those (Staal's second) I would qualify as a soft goal. The Lightning skaters brought enough passion to the rink to win this game, but they apparently left their brains in the hotel rooms. Carolina capitalized on mistakes like the turnover at the Canes blueline that led to Cole's 2-on-1 goal, and they gave Carolina 9 opportunities on the power play in a game where they were constantly battling uphill to try to get that next goal. Being caught in the box also contributed to another low shot total night as the Lightning only got 24 through on Martin Gerber. The team continues to try too hard to find the perfect shot from the perimeter that they find blocked more often than not and too timid to pay the price to get the puck to the front of the net to produce those multiple shot dirty chances that should be the staple of any successful hockey team.
The one line that was creating those dirty chances was the line that had Ryan Craig and Evgeny Artyukhin on it. Both rookies played very well tonight and Craig had his second goal in as many NHL games going to the net and getting a garbage tally on a scrum caused by Artyukhin. Craig's lack of speed definitely inhibits what he can do off the rush, but he is proving that if you can get him the puck down low he will play strong on the puck and generate forecheck and scoring chances at this level just like he did in the AHL.
Tonight Craig receieved a sizable 18:42 of ice time, was even, and had two shots on goal. Artyukhin had 11 minutes even, two shots on goal, and three hits, but he got in the box at the end of the game which hurt the Lightning's comeback bid. Paul Ranger played a rather pedestrian 14:11 of even hockey. He certainly isn't hurting the team right now, but he isn't showing the upside he showed earlier this season either. Darren Reid played a sparing 5:38 with one hit, but he did draw a penalty early in the game. Much like Tarnasky in his callup earlier this season, Reid's working hard but he doesn't look quite steady enough yet to stick at this level.
As a whole, tonight should've been the Tampa Bay Lightning's wake up call. They now have the Rangers and Sabres and then a rematch with Carolina on Monday. All three are, for December hockey, must win hockey games. The Lightning have coasted to this point at about 85% of their capability. As the Christmas break looms, now is the time for the Lightning to start paying the price. Reputation alone can no longer carry this team. It's go time.
Game sheet from NHL.com. Lets kill these bastards on Monday.
The Lightning are still a long way from regaining their championship form.
The Lightning allowed three unanswered goals in the third period to seal the loss. The outcome overshadows the first game and first goal of rookie Ryan Craig's career, a deflection off a Cory Sarich point shot. Craig had three shots in 9:52 of ice time although he was on the ice for Martin Samuelsson and Pavel Datsyuk's third period markers to finish -1 for the night (although the first goal was a Grahame softie and the second a poor rebound kicked out by Grahame). Fellow premiering rookie Darren Reid finished -2 on the night in 9:12 of playing time although he did energize the Lightning by leading the squad with 5 hits on the night.
The experienced gray hair of the Lightning's four rookies, Paul Ranger, quietly put together 17:07 of even hockey. Evgeny Artyukhin, who got some scoring line shifts with Ruslan Fedotenko out of the lineup with an injury, was -1 with 3 hits in a relatively sizable 15:50 of ice time.
Post mortem from NHL.com.
Word on the street was accurate, and the Springfield Falcons have announced that the Tampa Bay Lightning have recalled C/LW Ryan Craig and RW Darren Reid from Springfield of the AHL.
Craig, who will turn 24 on January 6th, came to the Lightning as an eighth round selection in the 2002 Entry Draft from Brandon of the WHL. Last season he led the Springfield Falcons in scoring with 27 goals and 41 points in 80 games. This year, Craig ranks 4th in scoring with 12 goals and 22 points in 28 games with the Falcons. Although an accomplished faceoff man in junior, Craig has primarily played wing this season. His size and strength on the puck have made him a formidable opponent along the wall on the forecheck in his AHL career and he possesses a sharp, accurate snap shot and a quick release. His only limitation is his skating, which was adversely impacted by a knee injury he sustained early in his junior career.
The 22 year old Reid was also a selection from the 8th round of the 2002 Entry Draft out of Medicine Hat of the WHL. Now in his sophomore season as a professional, Reid has 4 goals and 10 points in 21 games thus far this season for the Falcons. Possessing of a strong work ethic and decent skating ability, Reid is an excellent penalty killer and a tenacious forechecker.
Both players will be available for tonight's tilt against the Detroit Red Wings at home in the St. Pete Times Forum.
And R2 started the first minor riot of his NHL career.
Curtis Joseph kept this one respectable, but the Lightning were in control throughout and could've easily won this game 5 or 6 to 1. It was a very nice reversal from last night's debacle in Anaheim. Evgeny Artyukhin made quite an impression in his 10:24 of ice time which included a third period incident where he bumped Dave Scatchard and sent him flying into the boards which prompted Jamie Lundmark of the Coyotes to jump on Artyukhin's back in immediate retaliation. A couple of short punches by Artyukhin later while on the ice, and R2 was ushered off to the showers with a major for boarding and a minor for roughing. Paul Ranger, who has seen his ice time decreasing slowly of late, had 12:59 of playing time. The biggest chunk of minutes lost have come on the power play where Ranger only had 13 seconds of ice time tonight. He did have a glorious opportunity at even strength jumping into the play in the first period tonight to take a cross ice pass and send a low wrister just wide far post on Curtis Joseph.
Game sheet from NHL.com.