Tampa Bay Lightning
Poised Lightning handle adversity with ease.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 33 shots for the victory. He was extremely important in the First Period while the Lightning looked a little out of sorts 5 on 5 trying to sort out their new lines. Overall, with a couple of near disaster puck handling gaffes aside, it was a pretty typical Ben Bishop effort as he tries to round into form from a disjointed start to the year.
8:15 TB Nesterov (2), (Filppula, Drouin)
7:39 TB Killorn (7), (Filppula, Point)(PP)
12:50 BUF Franson (1), (Kane, Fedun)(PP)
19:42 TB Kucherov (9), (Killorn)
18:00 TB Point (2), (Johnson)(PP)
So, the Lightning found out today they will lose Steven Stamkos for approximately 4 months to knee surgery. Now, granted, it was Buffalo they were playing tonight. But, it's not like the Lightning haven't played without Stamkos and Stralman before, and they looked unphased by it tonight. Indeed, if you want to grab some silver linings from the Stamkos injury: 1.) It probably forces the team to play a more honest, well-rounded game knowing they have to win games 3-1/3-2 or so rather than 4-2/4-3, and 2.) It gives Yzerman a lot of cap room to play with if he wants to add a piece to put the club over the top. If they survive this, it'll make them stronger, and they know how to survive this. Now it's just a matter of grinding out the 10-game segments of the season and making sure they get into the postseason tournament.
Speaking of which, the victory moves the Lightning to 23 points through 18 games, meaning they need just 1 point in the final 2 games of the road trip to stay on our 12-in-10 pace. The response from the team in these three straight road wins after the debacle against San Jose has been solid.
Brayden Point had 1 goal and 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 11:28. Interesting to see his minutes go down and his production go up.
Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 3 blocked shots in 16:15. I like the idea of slowly raising Koekkoek's ice time. Athletically, he can take what you feed him.
Lightning get a big win, but possibly at a terrible price.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. Obviously it would've been nice if he could've maintained the lead in the Third Period by himself, but that 4-on-3 opportunity against was just a tough scramble play to defend. I can find no fault with either goal.
3:30 TB Kucherov (7), (Nesterov, Namestnikov)
6:09 TB Stamkos (9), (Hedman, Kucherov)
18:41 DET Nielsen (3), (Glendening)
1:29 TB Nesterov (1), (Filppula, Namestnikov)(PP)
7:12 DET Sproul (1), (Green, Nyquist)(PP)
9:38 DET Zetterberg (3), (Mantha, Sproul)(PP)
18:50 TB Kucherov (8), (Coburn, Johnson)
The Lightning got a crucial point in a tough game on the back end of a back-to-back situation and generally did it the right way. They were opportunistic and made sure they jumped out to the fast start. They got a big assist from Petr Mrazek on a puck handling miscue that led to the first goal. That soft goal ended up being the margin of victory, as soft goals usually are. The Lightning then used the power play in the Third Period when King Chicken, Justin Abdelkader, took an undisciplined call at the end of the Second Period that Nesterov cashed in for the two goal lead. If there's a critique to be made in this game, it's getting undisciplined while trying to protect the lead and eventually letting Detroit tie it on two power play goals. I thought the Lightning were generally good 5 on 5 until their legs got heavy in the Third Period, so giving Detroit man advantages (albeit because the game was getting out of hand because the refs failed to throw Ott out for a clear charge where Ott left his feet and elbowed Paquette in the head in the Second Period) gave them a lifeline the Lightning didn't need to be giving them. Still, you have to be proud of the response by the Lightning to dig deep and get a couple of decent forechecking shifts late that led to Kucherov's game winning greasy goal.
These back-to-back wins were absolutely critical in the standings calculus. The Lightning now need just 3 points the remainder of this road trip to hit their quota of 12 points every 10 game segment to stay on playoff pace. Sneaking out of Detroit with 2 points is a fantastic result because of that.
But... it came at a price. Late in the First Period, while battling for a loose puck, Steven Stamkos appeared to twist his leg slightly and left the ice grabbing the back of his right knee. It didn't look like a particularly awful or awkward movement that he got hurt on, but it doesn't have to be to cause a serious injury. I'm not a doctor, but I'll play one on the internet right now: I'm hoping this is just a knee sprain and Stamkos just needs a week or two off to heal. Obviously, some sort of tear will be a far more significant blow to the team. Either way, it takes Stamkos off the ice at a time where he was starting to form one of the best lines in hockey with Kucherov and Namestnikov. If you're trying to find a silver lining, it's not like the Lightning don't have a clue how to win with Stamkos and Stralman out of the lineup. However, part of the reason the Lightning weathered that storm the last time was a healthy Jonathan Drouin, who needs to return from his (presumed) concussion soon, please.
My apologies to the entire Tampa Bay Lightning fan base for having to watch the game on NBCSN tonight. The play-by-play and color was fine, but the studio crew of Mike Milbury and Keith Jones continues to prove they are, collectively, dumb as a stone. How do I hate thee, Mike Milbury? Let me count the ways. Was it the condescending way you remarked in pregame that somehow Steven Stamkos must like playing in Tampa Bay, as if that somehow makes him a strange dude? No, you're right, Mike, Stamkos is totally wrong to want to play for a now perennial Stanley Cup contender in a town where the average temperature in January is approximately 75 degrees and his effective tax rate is pennies on the dollar. He's clearly the wrong one, not you, Mike Milbury. Was it Tappen then asking Milbury what the Edmonton Oilers need to do to turn their season around? As if Milbury has a clue!? Folks, there's two things Mike Milbury is an expert on: beating people with shoes (not tying his own, though), and burning down a once proud franchise like he did to the Islanders as GM (big ups to you, Alexei Yashin). If you need advice about that, turn to Milbury. If you need advice about anything else, including basic arithmetic, you're better off consulting a trained monkey.
Then, oh how I enjoyed the NBCSN lionizing of King Chicken Justin Abdelkader. Yes, NBCSN, it truly takes a warrior to needlessly spear Alex Killorn at the end of the Second Period and eventually give Tampa Bay a critical power play goal. If I'm starting a Zaxby's franchise, I'd love me some Justin Abdelkader. For my hockey team, not so much. The capper was, of course, the snap reaction to the game praising Detroit's heart after they got stomped by Montreal in their last game. Wait, WHAT? They give trophies for trying now on NBCSN!?!? Are you kidding? And, you're going to praise DETROIT'S heart? Not the team that dug down to pull out a win on the downside of a back-to-back? Not the team playing without it's #2 defenseman already and that saw it's captain and best goal scorer leave the game late in the First Period to a potentially scary knee injury? No, you're right, the Detroit Red Wings, possessors of plenty of chickens and no nuggets, are the ones with HEART! Because Milbury and Jones proclaim it!
I pray for a day when the NHL grows enough in prominence the United States that people take more notice of this buffoonery and demand these fools be swept off the airwaves. In the meantime, their sole utility is to remind us that maybe Paul Kennedy and Brian Engblom aren't so bad on the local broadcasts after all. Maybe.
Brayden Point was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot on goal in 13:14. Very brave move by King Chicken Abdelkader to decide to thug it up on young Point after the whistle in the Second Period. Truly, that was a moment of bravery that was worthy of NBCSN's praise. It takes a real manly man to pick on a 20 year old rookie who is listed at 166 pounds. Heck, Abdelkader probably lays eggs that weigh more than Point. Is this really the guy you want to hitch your hype machine up to NBCSN? Really? Care to rethink that?
Slater Koekkoek had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 13:29.
UNLEASH THE KITTENS!
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 34 shots he faced for the shutout win. He looked about as solid as the security around Fort Knox all night. He didn't face a ton of chances in the middle frame, in particular, but even if he had, the Isles were getting nothing from Vasiy tonight. Vasilevskiy's next decision will graduate him from prospect status on the website.
18:58 TB Brown (2), (Paquette, Coburn)
19:40 TB Callahan (1), (Sustr, Hedman)
14:24 TB Kucherov (6), (Stamkos)(PP)
17:02 TB Namestnikov (3), (Stamkos, Kucherov)(PP)
Steven Stamkos, Vasilevskiy, and Nikita Nesterov were the game's three stars. Why Nesterov? 19:24 of ice time filling in for the injured Anton Stralman. Nesterov played almost 20 minutes and the Lightning got a shutout? You'd have gotten good odds in Vegas against that, I'm sure.
The Lightning should just petition the league to play the Isles every single game. They'll go 82-0. The Islanders really tried in this game, unlike how they folded like a cheap tent in the first of the three encounters against Tampa Bay. But, with two quick strikes at the end of the First Period, the Lightning again took the heart of the allegedly rough, tough, and gritty Islanders. The Lightning then put on an absolute clinic in the Second Period before garbage time in the Third Period when Vasilevskiy raised the force fields to preserve his shutout.
Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot in 16:07.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:16.
Inconsistent Lightning continue to struggle to stay on track.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots for the loss. He did stop a First Period penalty shot in the game, but on balance it's fair to say that was a subpar outing for Ben.
7:18 SJ Marleau (4), (Burns, Martin)
10:04 SJ Wingels (3), (Tierney, Karlsson)
8:52 SJ Vlasic (3), (Hertl, Donskoi)
5:43 TB Stralman (1), (Boyle, Paquette)
Tampa Bay fell behind early and never crawled back into the game. The effort wasn't bad, necessarily, but you can't spot good teams two goal leads and expect to win. And, frankly, the Lightning have not been themselves 5 on 5 so far this year from a possession standpoint. The problem with the inconsistency is that the Lightning have put themselves in a position where they need to get 7 of a possible 10 points on this upcoming 5 game road trip just to stay on track for the playoffs by the 12 points in every 10 games formula. That's a bad spot to be in, and the Lightning really needed to get at least a point out of this game.
Brayden Point was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:19.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 15:49 of fairly quiet ice time.
Lightning continue absolute ownership of the Islanders.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 32 shots for the victory. He made a bevy of key, difficult saves at important times to allow the team in front of him to eventually build the game into a laugher. Vasilevskiy is now 3 decisions away from graduation from prospect status here on Bolt Prospects, by my count.
8:03 TB Stamkos (8), (Johnson, Namestnikov)(PP)
11:00 TB Kucherov (5), (Hedman, Stamkos)
2:50 TB Johnson (5), (Stamkos, Palat)(PP)
8:04 NYI Ladd (2), (Boychuk)
1:08 TB Boyle (4), (Paquette)
In boxing, the old saying goes "Styles make the fight". Sometimes, though, the "styles" or the matchups simply align to where one team just has absolute dominance over the other. Such is the case between Tampa Bay and the Islanders. Something about the styles and the matchups just gives the Lightning an absolute leg up on Brooklyn's team. The Lightning obviously have a skill and speed advantage between the two teams, but the familiarity between the two clubs out of the playoff series last year seems to have bred a contempt that leads the Lightning skill to bear down on the Islanders and bury them with added zest and zeal.
Making it worse for the Islanders is that they played a horribly undisciplined game. The Lightning spent half the game on the man advantage and made the Isles pay on two of them. By the end, it looked like the dispirited Isles had given up, and I honestly wonder how much longer the shabbily clad and quaffed Coach Capuano keeps his job after an effort like that. They were a hot, sad mess.
Brayden Point had 1 shot in 16:10 of a very quiet outing.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 14:46 of a very quiet outing.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.
Inexplicable mistakes rob Lightning of fruits of a decent effort.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the loss. Played very well in a goaltending duel, but lost on an inexcusable mistake by his best d-man.
3:10 FLA Marchessault (7), (Yandle, Barkov)(PP)
1:15 TB Palat (2), (unassisted)
15:32 FLA Smith (3), (unassisted)
19:24 FLA MacKenzie (1), (Yandle)(EN)
Bishop was the game's third star.
The Lightning played better than the scoreboard indicated tonight, as they really matched and exceeded the Panthers' intensity level and had one of their better forechecking nights of the year from about midway through the First Period on. Luongo held serve for the Panthers long enough for Victor Hedman to make the inexplicable mistake of allowing his pocket to be picked at the Lightning blueline allowing the winning goal to be scored against. It squanders an effort that, in my opinion, showed marked improvement from players like Palat and Johnson who have struggled to find their form early in this campaign.
Brayden Point had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:15.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 3 hits in 11:11 as his minutes suffered with the return of Nesterov in the 7 d-man lineup.
Lightning get some get back. Payback.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 38 shots for the victory.
14:39 NJ Severson (2), (Hall, Zajac)
2:25 TB Boyle (3), (Hedman, Brown)
8:27 TB Hedman (3), (unassisted)
5:01 TB Point (1), (Kucherov, Filppula)(PP)
14:14 TB Kucherov (4), (Stamkos, Stralman)
The first twenty minutes of this game had the same unfortunate tinge as far too many contests against the Devils often do. The Devils stifled the Lightning attack in a boring frame and eventually took the lead on an opportunistic rebound goal off a shot generated from a turnover. There was much hand wringing. Fortunately, the Lightning took control of the final forty minutes of this game an ultimately made it a laugher. The method of the final forty should be instructive for the Lightning, as they manufactured their second and third goals off of, gasp, offensive zone faceoff wins. Recall, the Lightning may have lost the Stanley Cup against Chicago two years ago when the Blackhawks were able to create possession and chances against the run of play in order to manufacture wins and eventually take control of the series. Last year, the Lightning found themselves within an eyelash returning to the Stanley Cup Final when they ran out of gas and were unable to win offensive zone faceoffs to generate some cheap possession and chances like the Blackhawks did against them the year prior. Let me make this very clear: the Lightning's ability to win offensive zone faceoffs when they're a little stagnant at 5 on 5 and keep the other team from winning them when they have control of a game from a possession standpoint is one of the last pieces to the Lightning's championship puzzle. If they keep showing me faceoff wins and chances manufactured off of them, I'll eventually show you a Stanley Cup Champion some time in roughly June of 2017. Dead serious.
Point had his first NHL goal, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:38.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 4 hits in 14:48. What, no helper?
Lightning manufacture a point in their first game back from a long road trip.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 3 goals on 31 shots before allowing 2 of 10 to convert in the penalty shot session for the Shootout loss.
4:01 BOS Carlo (2), (Bergeron)
10:47 BOS Spooner (2), (Krug, Krejci)(PP)
15:09 TB Hedman (2), (Kucherov, Filppula)(PP)
4:38 BOS Pastrnak (6), (Bergeron, Marchand)
8:30 TB Johnson (3), (Stralman, Stamkos)(PP)
10:04 Johnson (4), (Coburn, Koekkoek)
BOS- Nash, Hayes
The Lightning were unsurprisingly a little flat in their first game back from a long road trip. Using the power play to overcome that flatness, along with decent goaltending, is a pretty textbook way to weather the storm. The inability to score on a 4-on-3 power play in OT to steal the second point was regrettable, but under the circumstances there are some silver linings to take out of the contest.
Brayden Point was +1 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 17:05. He also had Tampa Bay's lone goal in the penalty shot session, where he's been money so far this season.
Slater Koekkoek had a helper, 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:20. That's three assists in his first two games up with the team this year, for those keeping score at home. Keep raising his minutes up.
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.