Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning break into November with a vengeance.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 27 shots for the victory. He made a handful of critical situational saves in the first 40 minutes to allow the Lightning to establish the monster lead and then stood on his head in garbage time to run up his save percentage. It was a really good night for Ben.
3:21 TB Kucherov (2), (Stamkos, Hedman)(PP)
12:18 TB Kucherov (3), (Hedman, Killorn)(PP)
13:34 TB Stamkos (7), (Koekkoek, Kucherov)
6:17 TB Boyle (2), (Callahan, Filppula)
9:30 TB Brown (1), (unassisted)(SH)
11:19 TB Filppula (4), (Kucherov, Koekkoek)
19:30 NYI Seidenberg (3), (DeHaan, Tavares)
That game was everything the Lightning desperately needed and more to complete the road trip and the first 10 game segment of the season. The Lightning put arguably their best skating lineup onto the ice, and put forth a better effort to apply back pressure in the neutral zone to control the balance of play nearly the entire first 40 minutes of the game before garbage time set in. They also were opportunistic, using the penalty on Calvin DeHaan for a head shot on Jonathan Drouin to get the early power play goal they needed to exorcise their First Period scoring demons and get the flood gates open. It didn't come without a price, because it's safe to assume Drouin immediately went under observation for a concussion, but the Lightning at least made the Isles pay a terrible price for the infraction.
With the win, the Lightning finish the first 10 game segment with a winning 12 points that hit the minimum they need to comfortably be on playoff pace. 12 in 10, now do it again.
Brayden Point had 1 blocked shot in a very quiet 17:27 of ice time.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 13:12 of meaningful ice time. Your Honor, I rest my case. There's no doubt who should be playing between Koekkoek and Nesterov. None. Koekkoek is a stud. He's Hedman Lite. He's big, he moves like a thoroughbred, has solid offensive instincts, and he mixes in some physical edge. Nesterov is exactly none of those things right now. A blind man could make this lineup decision. Truly.
The bottom falls out at MSG.
Ben Bishop allowed 6 goals on 37 shots for the loss. I legitimately feel angry for Ben. It's rare your see a goaltender give up 6 goals in a night where not one is a softie, but the Lightning were that bad defensively tonight. Nothing about the effort in front of Ben was acceptable, and I would've taken him out after 40 minutes just to spare him from having to endure that mess.
4:45 NYR Nash (4), (Holden)
6:42 NYR Grabner (3), (Skej, Hayes)
7:04 NYR Vesey (5), (Nash)
18:10 NYR Miller (3), (Hayes, Girardi)
9:02 NYR Grabner (4), (Miller, McDonagh)
14:47 NYR Grabner (5), (Hayes, Miller)
16:36 TB Stamkos (6), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
With a loss like this, you have to take a critical look back at everything that has occurred to this point for things to get this bad. You had a disjointed/strange training camp because of the World Cup of Hockey which robbed the team's regulars of a lot of cohesion. But, you overlooked it because you knew they had the talent on paper. You had the team falling into big holes early in games at the start of the year, but you overlooked it because they leveraged that talent to pull out points. You had the team playing loose defensively and giving up too many shots, but you overlooked it because they were getting enough quick strike goals against bottomfeeders like Toronto for it not to matter. You had a team with turnover issues in its own end not going to the traffic areas against New Jersey to get greasy goals when it needed to, but you overlooked it because they had possession and it seemed like a small adjustment. Tonight, the structure completely collapsed underneath the weight of all the bad habits that the team has accumulated over these first nine games, and you can't overlook it anymore. The number of breakaways and odd man rushes surrendered tonight were unacceptable. The lack of compete level for 50/50 pucks or back checking pressure was unacceptable. Giving up a hat trick goal on an odd man rush surrendered by a clean breakout triggered on a clean OFFENSIVE zone faceoff loss was completely unacceptable. Hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. The Lightning's talent isn't working hard enough AND they're not playing with the necessary cohesiveness and structure. The team desperately looks, to me, like it needs practice time that the road schedule simply has not afforded them. But, they need to find that time because they need to get back to basics in a mini-training camp. Strip it back down to the foundations and start over.
The loss means the Lightning have to win at the Islanders to close this road trip to hit 12 points for the first 10-game segment of the season. If not, they start the year in a hole to try to make the postseason which is a tremendous let down after a hot start in the win column.
Brayden Point was -3 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:28. He's in Tampa for the time being, but with Callahan and Kucherov returning tonight, he might eventually be earmarked for Syracuse. Bottom line, I could make a really good argument it's best in the long run for Point to be down with the Crunch playing center 20 minutes a game and giving the Lightning an option at that position moving forward over the next few seasons. In case you've missed it, Tyler Johnson was a shadow of himself last season due to his lingering injury recovery and this season he's been as elusive to find as the Sasquatch and the Lock Ness Monster. Long term cap considerations being what they are, it's fairly obvious to me Point would be a nice option to eventually replace Johnson, and the best way to optimize that option would be to get him fully trained to play the center position as a pro. He's only playing wing in Tampa because the coaching staff doesn't trust him with the defensive or faceoff responsibilities of playing center in the NHL yet. He needs to get that seasoning down in the AHL first. That's not a shot at Point at all. He's played well... well enough I would have much bigger long-term plans for the young man than pigeon holing him on the wing.
Frustrating performance leaves first segment of the season in state of doubt.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss. The goals he allowed were not necessarily soft goals, and he made one or two really dazzling ones late in the game, but it wasn't good enough to make the game competitive on a night where the offense was struggling.
3:57 NJ Henrique (2), (Severson, Cammalleri)
13:13 NJ Severson (1), (Henrique, Greene)
5:22 NJ Smith-Pelly (1), (Lappin, Quincey)
1:59 TB Johnson (2), (Point)
Just a frustrating night for the Lightning, which may have carried the balance of play throughout the game in outshooting New Jersey 33-23. But, New Jersey was opportunistic capitalizing on mistakes early to throw Tampa Bay into a hole, and without Kucherov in the lineup the Lightning didn't seem to have the offensive dynamism to crawl out. Also, if we're being honest, the Lightning played one of their all-too antiseptic games where they didn't create enough traffic and get in front of the goaltender's eyes enough to make it hard on a netminder as strong as Schneider. They were just a little too easy to play against tonight. Against a team like New Jersey, you do yourself a big disservice by not finding a greasy goal or two in those high traffic areas, and that building in particular is not one you want to fall in a hole in and then play a white gloves kind of style.
Heading into the final 2 games of this opening 10 game segment of the season, the Lightning need 2 more points, at least, to stay on playoff pace. That looked like a lock heading into the Montreal game, but it's looking a little dicey now. Hopefully Ben Bishop will have a performance tomorrow that will be the slump snapper. The Lightning need it.
Brayden Point had a beautiful helper and 3 shots in 16:50. His assist was so good he got Tyler Johnson off the side of the milk carton. I just hope he gets to collect the reward for finding a missing person like that.
Lightning blow Third Period lead to miss out on Canadian swing trifecta.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the hard luck loss.
16:08 TB Killorn (6), (Hedman, Stralman)
6:12 MTL Galchenyuk (2), (Markov, Petry)
10:23 MTL Pacioretty (2), (Pateryn, Shaw)
19:16 MTL Mitchell (4), (unassisted)(EN)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's third star.
I'm absolutely shocked... SHOCKED!... to hear of selective non-enforcement of goaltender interference in this game. In Montreal. Oh, and in related news, water is wet.
Brayden Point had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:11 of ice time. That's a SIZABLE chunk of ice time for a rookie in a tight game on the road, which speaks volumes about the coaching staff's faith in young Mr. Point.
Lightning crush Maple Leafs with minimum effort and maximum ease.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 43 shots for the victory. The whole game was played under score effects (as the fancy stat people say) conditions with the Lightning putting together a commanding lead early and coasting most of the rest of the way.
1:19 TB Stamkos (4), (Sustr)
7:15 TB Killorn (5), (Coburn, Point)
17:12 TB Stamkos (5), (Sustr, Kucherov)
7:23 TB Hedman (1), (Stamkos, Kucherov)
19:03 TOR Nylander (4), (Kadri, Matthews)
6:45 TB Kucherov (1), (Stamkos, Namestnikov)
8:28 TOR van Riemsdyk (3), (Zaitsev, Rielly)
9:47 TOR Matthews (6), (Nylander)
15:10 TB Namestnikov (2), (Stralman, Johnson)(PP)
15:56 TB Drouin (2), (Kucherov)(PP)
This was an absolute squash from just about the second shift, and the Lightning barely had to put forth an effort against Toronto to get the result. That kind of effort won't work most nights, but mercy did Toronto offer little to no resistance to the Lightning tonight. Scary for the NHL: Nikita Kucherov got well in this contest. His quick release on his first goal of the season signaled the rust is off, and his reign of terror is set to begin this season.
Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 17:19. He got to dip into the deep well of garbage time for some extra experience tonight. Bonus.
Determined Lightning outclass Ottawa.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 28 shots for the victory. He had next to no work for the first half of this game, so when Ottawa made their push toward the end of the Second Period he looked a little shaky, particularly on his rebound control. He collected himself and made some key saves at the start of the Third Period to keep the Sens at bay and eventually allow the Lightning to cruise to the win.
2:36 TB Namestnikov (1), (Palat, Stralman)
6:45 TB Stamkos (3), (Namestnikov, Kucherov)(PP)
15:27 OTT Neil (1), (unassisted)
8:02 TB Killorn (4), (Filppula, Garrison)
18:03 TB Filppula (3), (Point)
The Lightning showed me something tonight after a bit of a clunker last time out against Colorado. They came into this game... maybe not grumpy... but certainly determined to get the bad taste of that match out of their mouths. They completely dominated the First Period and most of the Second Period to build a 2-0 lead. In the future, you'd hope they'd build up that 3-0 lead to make things easy on themselves, but they did give Ottawa a couple of power plays that allowed the Senators to build some momentum and make a game of it cutting the lead to 2-1. The Lightning showed composure, though, and eventually reasserted their dominance and eventually turned the game into a laugher.
Side note: Stamkos' power play goal was a textbook example of what I was clamoring for last season and what Washington does so well: create a pressure point with Kucherov and Namestinkov on the opposite side of the ice from Stamkos' circle, and allow Steve to drift to the open spots/seams for easy goals away from the play. That's how you make this power play unstoppable if you don't have a quality righty point man who scares people.
Halfway through the opening 10 game segment of the season, Tampa Bay has a brisk 8 points. They need just 4 over the next 5 games to stay on minimum playoff pace. When you get off to a hot start like this, though, it's a perfect opportunity to put the hammer down and bank some insurance points to cover any potential bumps in the road as the season drags on.
Brayden Point had a helper and was +2 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:35.
Clunker to cap opening homestand.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 16 shots for the loss. First goal was a breakaway where the shooter got their own rebound. The second was a perfect tip. The third was a crazy bounce off the corner boards. The fourth was a perfect shot by Soderberg. I can't throw Bishop under the bus for this.
19:35 COL Duchene (1), (MacKinnon, Tyutin)
19:08 COL Duchene (2), (Wiercioch, Grigorenko)
7:53 COL Martinsen, (Colborne, Wiercioch)
12:22 COL Soderberg (2), (Duchene, Zadorov)
Colorado played about as good a game defensively as they're capable of and the Lightning were just a hair off offensively and that was a recipe for frustration tonight. Then you had a badly bouncing puck result in the breakaway for Colorado's first goal and another crazy bounce off the corner boards result in their third goal, so they had some luck to go with their other two goals, which were opportunistic. I can't really get overly upset about a little bad luck considering the Lightning stole 3-4 points in the first few games of the homestand. Chalk up tonight as things evening up and move on. Things have gotten a little stale with this many home games stacked to start the year, so it's probably a good thing the team is going to hit the road now and shake things up a little bit and do a little more team building. That should be a good thing.
Brayden Point had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:34.
Lightning thieve a win, twice.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 31 shots before mastering his five-hole problem to stop 5 of 6* in penalty shot session for the SO win. He's still not completely on top of his game, but he's rounding into form.
2:38 FLA Sceviour (2), (MacKenzie)(SH)
6:18 TB Killorn (3), (Kucherov)
16:21 TB Palat (1), (Stamkos, Drouin)
5:26 FLA Trocheck (2), (Jokinen, Smith)
15:52 FLA Matheson (1), (McKegg, Demers)
19:54 TB Stamkos (2), (Hedman, Filppula)
TB- Drouin, Point
Overall, the Lightning probably didn't deserve the points tonight, but considering the travesty that unfolded in the Shootout, I can't say justice wasn't served. First off, let's repeat this as many times as it takes for the Lightning to get it into their heads: hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard. Tampa Bay is playing this unsustainable game of taking periods off and they're managing to escape with their lives, but eventually this will catch up to them. Their puck management and overall effort level in the Third Period was shambolic, and their performance on the 4-on-3 power play in the Overtime session was nothing short of an absolute embarrassment. It took a perfect Steven Stamkos one-timer from an impossible angle with the extra attacker for the Lightning to get a point in this one. That's a one in a million shot. You're not getting another one of those "Get Out of Jail For Free" cards this year.
Once the game got into the Shootout, the NHL once again reasserted its long-standing unstated policy that the Tampa Bay Lightning can, will, and almost always will be shafted if a play goes to video replay. I never in my life thought I'd see a call worse than when Zdeno Chara batted in a puck at his eye level in Boston and the league dared to say his stick wasn't above the crossbar. That used to be the gold star standard of awful video replay decisions, besting a prestigious list of candidates that included the Mike Smith "thrown stick" automatic Shootout goal and the old Brendan Shanahan play at MSG where he covered a puck with his glove that was completely over the goal no-goal call. There's a new face on Mount Rushmore, so move aside for Vincent Trocheck scoring* on a SO attempt where he completely lost control of the puck on a deke to his forehand, whiffed on a shot attempt, the puck drifted back diagonally after the whiff, and as the ref was waving off the play and Bishop was casually strolling out of his crease to celebrate Trocheck shot the retrieved puck into the open side. It's like every once in a while the league is bound and determined to smack the Lightning in the face with a decision that is so blatantly awful and slanted that you can't help but get a persecution complex about it. Nobody's THAT incompetent, right? There HAS to be an agenda, right?
So, the Lightning managed to refocus and got the win when young Brayden Point coolly buried the dagger a second time in Panther Nation's sad little hearts (all three of them). Given the circumstances, I felt a lot less dirty about stealing the points. Aw heck, it was the Panthers. I never feel bad about stealing little brother's lunch money. Why lie?
It made for a happy ending to Vincent Lecavalier night. A word about Vincent: I own a lot of Lightning jerseys, but there's only one Lightning player whose jersey I own, and that's Vinny's. He easily occupies a spot among my personal all-time favorite Lightning players beside the likes of John Cullen and big Freddy Modin. Vinny's career in Tampa Bay and his relationship with the fan base was a complicated one. In many ways, I look at Vinny like the Lightning's first born child. Phil Esposito certainly, desperately tried to hype the Lightning first number one overall pick, Roman Hamrlik, as its first real franchise player. But, as good a player as Hamrlik was, we all knew smoke was being blown when comparisons to Raymond Bourque were being made. Many years passed before the Lightning got another crack at the top pick, and it was very obvious almost immediately that Vincent Lecavalier was the real deal franchise player that Tampa Bay hadn't really had to that point in the franchise's existence. And, to his credit, he didn't run away from those expectations even when the going got tough, or publicly pout or pull the ripcord and run out the door to Montreal or some other city where he wasn't being asked to be the main guy to grow a culture of winning from scratch. Was Vinny perfect? No. His defensive game was inconsistent, at best, much to the chagrin of John Tortorella for a great many years and he was routinely abused on faceoffs early in his career. No one would ever accuse him of being the second coming of Mark Messier in the natural born leadership department either.
His time in Tampa Bay, despite whatever faults he had, was still unbelievably impressive. Twelve straight seasons of 20 goals or more between 1999-2000 and 2011-2012, before a strike shortened season finally killed an impressive streak of consistency that underlined his talent and professionalism. He was a key cog on the 2004 Stanley Cup Championship and made the two critical assists on the goals that sealed Game Seven in the Stanley Cup Final that year. A few years later he emerged for a brief time as the most dominant player in the sport scoring 52 goals and 108 points en route to winning the Rocket Richard Trophy in 2007. He may have stayed at that level were it not for a cheap shot and a shoulder surgery that robbed us of seeing more of Vinny in his prime. Still, he was a productive asset to the organization and the city and in 2010-2011 he narrowly missed laying the cap stone of his Lightning legacy when the Lightning fell just short in Game Seven of the Eastern Conference Finals against Boston. Lecavalier was brilliant in that playoff season, scoring 6 goals and 19 points in 18 games during that run. He darned near single-handedly ripped out the Washington Capitals' hearts in the second round of the playoffs that year, and we can only speculate what would have happened if the Lightning had just found a couple more goals against the Bruins, or hadn't squandered a game or two early in the series when they outplayed the B's and didn't get the result. The Lightning, under Lecavalier's captaincy, likely would've gone on to defeat Vancouver in the Stanley Cup Final and he possibly would've gone on to win the Conn Smyth Trophy in the process, completing his resume and sealing his place as the face of the Lightning franchise forever. Alas, it wasn't meant to be (of all the close calls in Lightning history, including the last two seasons, that year's playoff run is the one I'll take to my grave as the bitterest pill to swallow), and as time went by and Lecavalier struggled against father time, elements of the fan base were left feeling unfulfilled.
Part of it, I think, was that Lecavalier is in many ways a renaissance man with hobbies and interests outside of hockey. Personally, I respect him for it, but for the devoted, rabid fans of a franchise it can be difficult to see their franchise player concentrating on anything other than the sport. No, Vincent wasn't the perfect franchise player, but he was OUR franchise player and in my opinion you have to measure his success or failure by one metric only: did he make the franchise relevant? Yes he did.
And, as a human being, nobody could ever be frustrated with Vinny's ultimate commitment to the community when in 2007 he gifted All Children's Hospital with a $3 million dollar donation to build its Pediatric Cancer and Blood Disorders Center in St. Petersburg, long before the the PK Subbans and Jeff Viniks of the world made that kind of philanthropy the cool thing to do in hockey circles. This is a man who grew up in Tampa Bay and comported himself with class and dignity through both successes and failures. A perfect man? No. He wasn't "The Micheal Jordan of Hockey," but he was a pretty darn good man on all levels, and isn't that the kind of people you wish to build a community with, after all?
Point had 4 shots and 1 hit in 14:42 and scored the winning goal in the Shootout session.
Lightning overcome another sluggish start to advance to 2-0-0.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 34 shots for the victory. Both goals allowed were redirections, and he showed a lot of maturity after getting down on a couple of quick early goals. The really good ones shut the door the rest of the way when they get in that situation, and that's what Andrei did tonight. He was strong on his angles and wasn't giving New Jersey anything to shoot at and his rebound control was strong, as well. It was a really solid season debut.
0:52 NJ Palmieri (1), (Moore)
4:26 NJ Zajac (1), (Parenteau)
7:53 TB Stamkos (1), (Palat, Drouin)
10:07 TB Killorn (1), (Kucherov, Johnson)
5:43 TB Filppula (2), (Garrison, Point)
Glass half full: Yet another resilient effort where the Lightning stayed the course, got it together, and eventually pulled off the win. The Lightning got goals from three different lines tonight and they have nine goals from eight different goal scorers so far this season. Balance is a good thing. And, as mentioned, Vasilveskiy was solid.
Glass half empty: Spotting opponents two goal leads to start the game isn't sustainable. I think the Lightning, psychologically, come out a little too comfortable in these home games with the attitude that, because of their talent, it'll be more of a coronation than a contest. They haven't paid the price for it thus far this year, but eventually they will. Bottom line, hard work beats talent when talent doesn't work hard.
Two games down, four points earned. The Lightning need at least eight points in the next eight games to establish postseason pace.
Brayden Point had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 5 shots and 1 hit in 15:09. He keeps putting 5 on net every night and he'll have that first NHL goal soon, too.
Lightning come from behind to win a game that could be defined as both "wild" and "wooly."
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 32 shots, but still got the win. He'll be burning the tape of that performance. He had a less than artful effort trying to handle a puck flipped at him from below the goal line on Detroit's first goal, an awful rebound allowed on a slow, change up point shot on Detroit's third goal, and a ridiculously unlucky ricochet on a center ice shot off the corner boards and into his net for Detroit's fourth goal. He owes his guys in front of him a steak dinner. Well, all but Nesterov, perhaps.
3:12 DET Vanek (1), (Zetterberg, Nielsen)(PP)
8:26 DET Vanek (2), (Nyquist)
7:33 TB Drouin (1), (Killorn, Hedman)
8:18 DET Nielsen (1), (Green, Larkin)
13:05 TB Paquette (1), (unassisted)
3:17 TB Boyle (1), (Paquette)
8:34 TB Johnson (1), (Stamkos, Palat)(PP)
16:50 TB Killorn (1), (Drouin, Hedman)(PP)
17:55 DET DeKeyser (1), (Green, Helm)
18:39 TB Filppula (1), (unassisted)(EN)
Glass half empty: Ben Bishop looked unusually awful in tonight's opener while Nikita Nesterov had an embarrassing turnover that led to Detroit's second goal and took a holding call at a critical juncture in the Third Period that he's very lucky didn't jump up and bite the team. Bishop and Nesterov put the Lightning behind the eight ball and it took a horrific softie gift returned by Mrazek on Paquette's goal to give the Lightning the lifeline to turn the game around.
Glass half full: Good Lord, the Lightning may have a bona fide power play this season. Jon Cooper finally swallowed his pride and made the decision to delegate control of the PP to new assistant Todd Richards this offseason, and it yielded instant dividends in the form of 3-for-6 performance tonight. Also, while it's true to say the Lightning needed Mrazek's softie as a lifeline to climb back into the game, it's also fair to say that if you put Bishop and Nesterov's mistakes aside the Lightning controlled possession and had the better of the chances over the entire balance of the sixty minutes. They were, ultimately, the better team on the ice.
Overall, the Lightning showed some resiliency and maturity over the course of this one to eventually earn the 2 points. And so, we begin again with our trusty old 12 in 10 rule. The Lightning need to get at least 12 points in every 10 game segment of the season to be on pace to make the postseason tournament. Good win, but they know they've now got to get 10 points in the next 9 games to stay on track. You can't get too high or too low. Just mind your 12 in 10 and then do it again.
Brayden Point was -1 with 1 shot in 16:12. He looked very good in his NHL debut. He had good top end speed, looked dangerous offensively including nearly beating DeKeyser one on one on the rush for a goal, and I thought he looked surprisingly strong along the wall on the forecheck for a player his size. He certainly didn't look out of place on a very good, elite Lightning club, that's for sure.