Tampa Bay Lightning
Finish line coming into view.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 39 shots for the victory. He'll rightly regret the Kulemin deflection goal, but he closed out the game strong with 21 saves in the Third Period against a desperate Leafs team.
0:59 TB Gudas (3), (Filppula)
3:31 TOR Kessel (35), (Gunnarsson, Bozak)
10:32 TOR Kulemin (9), (Gleason, Rielly)
13:22 TB Stamkos (17), (Filppula)(PP)
15:39 TB Stamkos (18), (Johnson, Salo)
5:55 TB Stamkos (19), (Malone, Brewer)
8:20 TOR Gardiner (10), (Franson, Bozak)
12:56 TB Johnson (22), (Purcell)(PP)
Much like the Vancouver game, do you see the glass as half full or half empty? Half full, the Lightning again played a strong first 35 or so minutes and built a solid 2 goal lead going into the Third Period. As an added bonus, they showed new strength on special teams with 2 PP goals in this game and the kill of an Alex Killorn boarding major after knocking Paul Ranger out of the game. And, oh by the way, Steven Stamkos is back with the hat trick, which will take the Lightning from good to great offensively. Glass half empty? The last 25 minutes of the game were mentally lazy hockey, and lazy minds lead to lazy legs. They looked like they were coasting, possibly to try to save energy for Ottawa. Whatever that was, it was aggravating, and it took Bishop standing on his head to preserve the win. Being outshot 22-8 in the final frame was a bad joke, and speaks to the Lightning still having problems closing out victories.
With all that said, the Lightning move up to 83 points in 69 games played. With 1 more game to go in this 10-game segment of the season, they need 2 points to hit the segment goal or 1 point to stay on the 12 points per segment pace for the season. They're also now 13 points shy of the 96 point goal I set at the start of the season with 13 games to go, meaning they could go .500 the rest of the way and hit the season target. That's a good feeling. The finish line is coming into view.
Mike Kostka was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:15. He played well in front of the home town. I wasn't too happy he missed the net on a couple of wide open looks, but he was much more active offensively than against Vancouver and he had some really good chances.
Good win tainted by lackluster garbage time performance.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 28 shots for the victory. For the longest it looked like he was going to get his second straight shutout, but then the Lightning decided to dog it a bit in garbage time. They'll learn. Eventually.
17:56 TB Stamkos (16), (Palat, Callahan)(PP)
6:54 TB Palat (18), (Carle)
19:51 TB Filppula (22), (Stamkos)
5:44 VAN Burrows (4), (Bieksa, Edler)(PP)
8:47 TB Pyatt (3), (Brown, Hedman)
11:44 VAN Burrows (5), (Jensen, Sedin)
15:16 VAN Hansen (11), (Burrows)(SH)
Are you a glass half empty or a glass half full person? A glass half full person notes that the Lightning controlled the first 40+ minutes of play in this game and looked like a very polished, well-structured team in the process. A glass half empty person will note that their garbage time stumbles could've easily cost them 2 points were it not for the team getting 2 greasy goal deflections off Canucks defensemen and that absolute gift of a soft goal Lack gave Pyatt. I'm feeling like more of a glass half full person tonight, with the caveat that these garbage time SH goals need to stop. Now. They're the root of a lot of the recent late game drama, and very easy to avoid/correct.
The victory puts the Lightning at 81 points with 14 games to go, now tied with Montreal for 2nd in the Atlantic Division, vaulting over their next opponent, which is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Needless to say, that's a big game. Through 8 games of this 10-game segment of the season, the team has 8 points. They'll need to win the next 2 to hit the 12 point segment goal or earn 3 of the next 4 available points to stay on the season pace to comfortably make the playoffs given the 1 insurance point they had coming into the segment.
My target for the season has always been not less than 96 points, so the magic number of points they need is 15 to hit that goal. Yes, they would likely make the postseason with 94 or 95 points, but 96 is the comfortable target that avoids last minute drama. Keeping this winning streak going at least another couple of games would go a long way to making sure that target goal is achieved.
Mike Kostka was -1 with 1 shot in 15:41. This was the most inactive I've seen him in a game since his first game coming over from the Blackhawks. He might've opened the door for Barberio to get back in the lineup. We'll see.
Win if you can. Survive if Kostka lets you.
Ben Bishop stopped all 23 shots he faced for his 5th shutout of the season, besting the living legend Marty Brodeur in the low-scoring battle. U of Maine Justice, to be sure. He's had a rough last couple of weeks, and while he didn't have to be terribly active in tonight's game he made key saves when he needed to and looked rock solid doing it, which is the best takeaway of the whole night.
With the victory, Bishop breaks the Lightning single-season record for wins by a goaltender, and there's a lot of hockey left to be played in this regular season.
12:26 TB Crombeen (3), (Kostka, Filppula)
16:58 TB Kostka (4), (Palat, Filppula)
16:41 TB Thompson (9), (Brown)
The Lightning finally played a complete game tonight against a team they have traditionally not played well against. That's probably a big part of the focus they showed tonight, because they knew going in how frustrating playing the Devils can be if you make mistakes. They came out with a lot of energy and got a lot of possession, but did not allow themselves to get impatient when that possession didn't yield chances. When the Devils made the flash surges they make, the Lightning handled them with solid work on the backcheck and the handful of key Bishop saves. And, when the chances finally came, they potted them. Most importantly of all, with the 2-0 lead going into the Third Period, they did not sit back like they've done on other leads recently. They went for the throat and eventually expanded the lead to the final 3-0 score. The Lightning finally look to have learned a hard lesson, and not a moment too soon.
Mike Kostka had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 3 shots in 16:16. You saw why Kostka has passed Barberio on the depth chart in full display tonight. He gets a center point wrist shot through traffic on the Crombeen goal for the tip-in and then he reads the play and jumps into the rush at the right time on his own goal. Yes, there are times Kostka makes some poor decisions in his own end. He gives you a lot of positives as a tradeoff, though. He jumps into the play well and he's been very good in his time with the Lightning at getting shots through and onto the net. I find myself remembering when the Lightning picked up Dan Boyle from the Panthers way back in the day. Boyle came to the Lightning with an atrocious reputation defensively (just short of Andy Delmore-bad). But, he kept finding the scoresheet every other game for the Lightning, forcing me to, tongue-in-cheek, say "You FEAR Dan Boyle" every time he got a point. I ended up saying that a lot of times over the ensuing 5 seasons Boyle was with the team. I, tongue-in-cheek, started saying, "Win if you can. Survive if Mike Kostka lets you." since the team brought Kostka in off waivers, and darnit all if he hasn't made me say that a lot so far, too. Boyle was my guilty pleasure back in 2001-2002, and Mike Kostka is very quickly becoming my guilty pleasure in 2013-2014. He's got 2 goals and 5 points in his first 7 games with the team. Will he keep it up like Boyle eventually did? Chances are he won't. But, he has me dying to see if he can.
Lightning sweep up the trash.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 27 shots for the win. He was very off positionally tonight, including a wickedly bad short side softie, but goal support is a beautiful thing.
1:44 FLA Fleischmann (7), (Kulikov, Bjugstad)(PP)
5:38 TB Salo (3), (Filppula)
5:50 FLA Howden (1), (Hayes, Pirri)
8:18 TB Kostka (3), (Purcell)
12:04 TB Callahan (12), (Palat, Filppula)
18:53 TB Johnson (21), (Stamkos)
10:47 TB Stamkos (15), (Filppula, Hedman)(PP)
18:55 FLA Upshall (12), (Bjugstad, Boyes)
19:33 FLA Pirri (8), (Petrovic, Campbell)
This win wasn't the elixir. Florida is terrible and you still saw some concerning signs including bad penalty killing, subpar goaltending from Bishop, and late game lapses while the team was trying to close out a win. So, if you're a glass-half-empty person, there's plenty to complain about. On the other hand, Callahan got his first Lightning goal, Stamkos got his first points since coming back from the broken leg, and the Lightning finally got a W, if you're a glass-half-full person. I'd say the game was a building block, and if they work on correcting the problematic things they will be ok moving forward. The effort has been very good the past few games and they finally got the positive feedback tonight.
10 hits for Radko Gudas in his return from injury. Double digits. Clearly, the trainer's table puts him in a foul mood. Everyone else on the team only had 8 hits combined.
Mike Kostka had a goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:44. Is he perfect defensively? No. But he's given the Lightning the offensive dynamism in the tradeoff you want from an offensive defenseman. So much so, in fact, that he's temporarily supplanted Barberio on the depth chart.
Nikita Kucherov was -2 in 10:09 as he graduates from prospect status on the website with a whimper. With the other new lines Cooper put together playing pretty well, the one casualty was the 4th line with Brown and Kucherov, which saw the ice very little.
Lightning won't be able to nickel and dime their way into the playoffs.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 20 shots before surrendering goals to 1 of 2 shooters for the SO loss. Hedman absolutely hung him out to dry with a bad pass off the end boards that ricocheted out in front on an innocuous play for an easy Erat tap in, and that ended up making a big difference in the game.
11:26 TB Johnson (20), (Palat, Brewer)(SH)
1:01 PHX McMillan (2), (Yandle, Doan)
19:07 TB Palat (16), (Callahan, Aulie)
2:13 PHX Erat (2), (unassisted)
7:48 PHX Boedker (16), (Vermette, Michalek)
19:22 TB Palat (17), (Filppula, Carle)
Ondrej Palat and Ryan Callahan were the game's first and second stars. Their line (along with Filppula) and the Pyatt line were good tonight. It's just a shame that Palat, Filppula, and Callahan came up dry in the shootout.
With all that said, 25 minutes of hockey isn't good enough. The team played a very good First Period, sleepwalked through the Second and most of the Third, and only woke up once they fell behind 3-2. They salvaged a point, but that wasn't good enough. With the spot they are in, they need 2's, not 1's. Period. Urgency needs to be there right now, and it hasn't always been on display.
Mike Kostka had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 19:13 of service with Gudas out and Salo leaving the game in the First Period. He nearly set up Palat for a OT GWG and a hat trick with a point shot that left a nice rebound. Good decision-making on that play.