When Kucherov got his mojo back.
Ben Bishop turned aside all 28 shots he faced for the shutout victory. Got help from his horseshoe to usher back in a night of U. of Maine Justice.
7:46 TB Drouin (16), (unassisted)
6:55 TB Kucherov (20), (Namestnikov, Sustr)
11:02 TB Dumont (1), (Brown, Hedman)
18:18 TB Kucherov (21), (Namestnikov, Witkowski)
13:08 TB Coburn (2), (Drouin, Vermin)
Nikita Kucherov, Bishop, and Vladislav Namestnikov were the game's three stars. After struggling to regain his usual form for more than a month, Kucherov showed signs of getting back to his hold self in the last game against Anaheim. I'm happy to say the indications from that game were real and that Kucherov looks like he might be ready for a strong stretch run. As for the much maligned Namestnikov, he needs more nights like this because he's playing for his job in Tampa Bay at this point.
Do these back to back wins mean the Lightning suddenly have a chance to stride back into the playoff chase? Well, to comfortably make it in at 96 points, they'd need 42 of a remaining 56 points. Is a .750 winning clip realistic? There's your answer.
Brayden Point was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 14:49. He was also 29% on 7 draws. Point's next game will be his 41st of the season and he will graduate from prospect status on the website.
Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 8:25.
Jake Dotchin was +1 with 5 hits in 14:00.
Gabriel Dumont had his first goal in a Lightning jersey and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:42. He was also an uncharacteristic 17% on 6 draws.
Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 10:29.
Mine eyes have seen the glory of a losing streak being snapped!
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 16 shots before conceding to 2 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Stat line isn't great, but he made some key situational saves over the course of the game to eventually get the victory.
8:14 ANH Montour (1), (Silfverberg, Kesler)
9:48 TB Drouin (15), (Johnson, Kucherov)
10:56 TB Killorn (16), (Kucherov)(PP)
4:02 ANH Getzlaf (8), (Bieksa, Kesler)
ANH- Silfverberg, Kesler
TB- Point, Kucherov, Boyle
Styles make the fight, and the quicker Tampa Bay Lightning drew a good matchup against a more plodding, big Anaheim team on the back end of a back-to-back situation. Tampa Bay didn't squander that advantage, playing with far more hustle than they did in the previous two contests. Clearly Jon Cooper challenged his guys to show some heart after the travesty of the past couple of outings, and it showed. More importantly, they actually got the payoff.
Brayden Point was -1 with 1 shot in 16:29. He was also 60% on 5 draws. He played well on some shifts with Drouin, which is something to watch going forward, in my opinion. And, he remains cash money all night in the Shootout.
Jake Dotchin was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:08. This was probably his best game at the NHL level thus far. Again, styles make the fight, and these Anaheim players aren't necessarily the speedsters who will give Dotchin trouble. He was assertive physically in separating guys from the puck and starting the breakout thereafter throughout the night.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 6:00 even. He also was 83% on 6 draws.
Joel Vermin had 2 hits in 6:45.
Dumpster fire continues to rage unchecked.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 29 shots for the loss. He had one goal he probably needs back that went in off his glove. I can't fault him the rest, considering the drive by defense we saw most of the night. Still, it's a step backward after a string of quality starts by Vasilevskiy.
3:39 TB Johnson (16), (Kucherov)
6:33 OTT Stone (17), (Smith, Ceci)
11:03 OTT Turris (18), (Hoffman, Karlsson)(PP)
2:53 OTT Hoffman (18), (Turris, Stone)(PP)
7:46 TB Point (5), (Boyle, Palat)
9:22 OTT Stone (18), (Karlsson, Brassard)
19:35 OTT Kelly (4), (Karlsson)(EN)
Brayden Point was the game's third star. He's one of the players who needs the most vetting coming down the stretch of this lost season. He's responded well so far, and if he shows he's up to the task of playing center at the NHL level he may make Tyler Johnson expendable. Johnson, despite the goal he scored tonight, continues to make some very questionable decisions with the puck that are just infuriating to watch. He was a very good north-south player who has suddenly turned into an Old Marty St. Louis-style backward passing pain in the buttocks/liability, without the garbage time points.
At this point, we're watching the sad shell of a team that already appears to be going through the motions and anticipating their offseason tee times. I'm seeing players in position defensively but not making the extra effort to close out opposing shooters. I'm seeing board battles routinely lost by the team's best defenseman, Hedman. I'm seeing numerous mental mistakes at both bluelines with the puck by players who are just playing unfocused, careless hockey. At this point, it's clear the leadership of this team has evaporated and I've written off the chance of this team waking up until, maybe, Stamkos returns from injury. Get ready for a savagely bad next dozen or so games, at least.
Lay Down for Liljegren?
Make #2 for Makar?
Point had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:18. He was also 29% on 7 draws. He's been the silver lining in the past two very dreary games.
Luke Witkowski had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:58.
Jake Dotchin was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 19:09.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 8:14.
Lightning go meekly into that good night.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 35 shots for the loss. His inability to make situational saves cost the Lightning dearly in this one. Short of showcasing Bishop for a trade, I don't see much purpose in feeding him starts moving forward. Vasilevskiy got rolling a little before the All-Star Break. The Lightning need to make sure of what they have in Andrei.
8:41 TB Killorn (14), (Hedman, Johnson)
18:08 BOS Bergeron (12), (McQuaid, Marchand)
19:59 BOS Krejci (12), (Marchand, Miller)
4:46 TB Killorn (15), (Hedman, Johnson)
7:51 BOS Chara (4), (Miller, Beleksey)
12:23 BOS Vatrano (6), (Krejci, Miller)(PP)
17:56 TB Point (4), (Hedman, Dotchin)
Alex Killorn was the game's second star.
The Lightning played a really solid first half of this game to build a 1-0 lead, and then waved the white flag of surrender for the final thirty minutes. What you witnessed was a Lightning team that lethargically gave away a couple of goals with sleepy play late in the Second Period and then played back on their heels most of the Third Period. And, even when they fell behind 3-2, they had a chance to turn the momentum of the game when Tyler Johnson did the unthinkable and passed out of a breakaway. Let me reiterate that: Tyler Johnson passed out of a breakaway. I just... what do you say about that. He passed... out of a breakaway?
Brayden Point had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:47. He also was 33% on 6 draws. You could make an argument he was the Lightning's best player in his return afer missing about a month due to injury. He's now 4 games from graduation from prospect status on the website.
Jake Dotchin had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 20:25. Re-read that minutes total. There's no more resounding an indictment of the Lightning right side defenseman situation that that.
Gabriel Dumont was +1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 10:34. He was also 67% on 9 draws. He's been hot fire in the faceoff circles and shown a lot of hustle in his checking line role.
Lightning waste inspired performance by young Vasilevskiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 37 shots for the OT loss. I feel sick for the kid, because he absolutely deserved the win tonight and had no chance on the two goals he allowed. The good news is that, with back-to-back quality starts, he's starting to answer some questions in the affirmative about his ability to be the starter. And, make no mistake about it, the mere fact he was given back-to-back starts is no coincidence. The Lightning are in full evaluation mode now with the season pretty much out of hand.
9:55 FLA Jokinen (5), (Trocheck, Yandle)(SH)
11:33 TB Kucherov (19), (Drouin, Killorn)(PP)
1:49 FLA Marchessault (14), (Yandle, Jokinen)(PP)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star. Well deserved.
Prior to the game defenseman Nikita Nesterov was dealt to Montreal for a 23-year old minor league depth defenseman (Jonathan Racine) and a late round draft pick. Moving Nesterov should be viewed as the team giving up on a young defenseman whose anemic offensive production never really balanced out his defensive deficiencies, which simply weren't improving.
As for the game, the Lightning played a pretty emotionless, antiseptic game in the First Period. But, as the Panthers acted like the classless lumberjacks they always do, the intensity level came up and the team played a fairly even game with a reasonable work rate. Still, we're not seeing certain players like the Triplets play as well as you'd like to see them right now in this evaluation period. Tyler Johnson ultimately wore the goat horns for taking a penalty following a terrible turnover in OT. That's not good from one of the guys on this roster who I honestly believe is being scrutinized to determine his long term role (or lack thereof) in the organization.
Jake Dotchin had 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 17:20. Mixed bag. I detected at least one bad turnover and his lack of foot speed and experience probably contributed to his two interference calls. That said, he did make some nice plays in all three zones, too. The issue I have with Dotchin is that, with his skating being what it is (and this probably goes with Witkowski, too), I have a hard time seeing him as more than a Band-aid. Can he be an NHL'er in a 6th/7th defenseman role? Perhaps. But, on an elite club like the Lightning should be?
Gabriel Dumont had 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 7:27. He may be small, but he sure did beat the stuffing out of McKegg tonight.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.
Too little too late?
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the victory. Vasilevskiy needs to string together some quality starts like this to begin to answer the question as to whether he can take over the starting duties from Bishop full time next season. That's one of the big agenda items still to be sorted out this year.
10:23 CHI Toews (9), (Panik, Hartman)
18:35 TB Boyle (12), (Filppula)
1:26 CHI Keith (3), (Panarin, Toews)
2:47 TB Nesterov (3), (Boyle)
6:14 TB Johnson (14), (Killorn, Filppula)
6:44 TB Johnson (15), (Killorn, Vasilevskiy)
17:55 TB Kucherov (18), (unassisted)(EN)
It's a good win against a quality opponent, take nothing away from it as an individual game. But, in the grand scheme of things, barring a crazy 10-game winning streak thrown in somewhere, the standings math is just too dire right now. Sitting on 49 points through 49 games, for the Lightning to get on pace to hit 96 points by game 80 with 2 games left to play, the team would have to get 47 of the next 62 possible points. That's .758 hockey to get on a comfortable playoff pace. Even if you want to gamble the team can get the 4 extra points in games 81 and 82 to get over the finish line and lower the target to 92 points by game 80, that's still .694 hockey and relying on a lot of help/tie breakers to fall the team's way. That's just nearly an impossible ask for this group.
Still, there were some positive developments in this game. I think the Lightning have some hard questions to ask of the three former members of The Triplets as to what degree they ride or die with them in the long run. Palat and Johnson have been inconsistent and Kucherov hasn't fully been himself since returning from injury earlier this season. So, for Johnson to step up and pot a couple of key goals in this game is hopefully the harbinger of a great stretch run the rest of the year.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:00 even. This was an extended look-see for the Lightning to diagnose what they have in a prospect, no doubt. I expect to see more of these types of cups of coffee the rest of the year with better ice time for young players to show their wares.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 hits and was 86% on 7 draws in 10:56.
Lightning's season dies in the desert.
8:05 ARI Reider (9), (Vrbata, Ekman-Larsson)
10:19 ARI Vrbata (11), (Hanzal, Reider)
18:39 TB Paquette (4), (Dumont, Bournival)
14:56 ARI Stone (1), (Hanzal, Vrbata)(PP)
18:25 ARI Fischer (1), (McGinn, Burmistrov)
19:44 ARI Hanzal (10), (Vrbata, Reider)
9:45 TB Namestnikov (6), (Filppula, Palat)
14:18 TB Palat (10), (Johnson, Nesterov)(PP)
Tampa Bay outshot Arizona by a very significant 48-23 margin, but that only underlines what a mess the team's goaltending has been this season. Bishop allowed two of the softest goals you'll see in your life in the First Period to put his team down 2-0, and lookee there, the team lost the game 5-3. Soft goals, as they often are, turn out to be the margin of error. Unfortunately, the Lightning have had a soft goal or questionable goaltending gaffe in each game of the current road trip, which is horribly demoralizing to a team. When you have to work twice as hard as the other team for a goal because your goaltending is faulty, it robs your team of its spirit. It really does.
The calculus now is pretty much impossible to overcome, to the extent that I'm ready to write the team's eulogy. They'd have to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to get back on playoff pace, and that seems impossible given all the challenges the team is facing. The goaltending has been disappointing all season long. The center play has been steadily devolving since Steven Stamkos and subsequently Brayden Point got injured earlier in the season. Key forwards like "The Triplets" have suddenly gone missing on the scoresheet over the past several weeks. And, the defense continues to struggle to compensate for the team's inability to consistently play its possession style game and against the counters they routinely face when that style goes off the rails.
The Lightning have an excellent core of their hockey team, in general, and a rebuild is certainly not warranted. But, a serious in-season evaluation and a retooling is definitely in order. Bottom line, this team probably has one goaltending move, two or three moves on the blueline, and three or four moves at forward to make. Not big moves, in all cases, but necessary moves. If done shrewdly, and if the Lightning can get a little more luck with injuries in 2018-2019, there's little to suggest this year won't just be a little bump in the road and not a sinkhole.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06.
Jake Dotchin was -1 with 4 hits in 11:47 in his NHL debut.
Gabriel Dumont had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:53. He was also 71% on 7 draws. His game tonight was the continuation of a fantastic road trip by the line of Paquette/Dumont/Bournival, which along with the play of Jonathan Drouin has been the real bright spot of going out west.
Crunch drop heartbreaker against the class of the league.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the hard luck loss.
15:34 SYR Dotchin (3), (Richard, Conacher)
5:33 WBS Rowney (7), (Simon, Gaunce)
8:37 WBS Simon (5), (Guentzel, Pouliot)
19:26 WBS Guentzel (21), (Ruhwedel, Kostopoulos)(PP)(EN)
Jake Dotchin was the game's second star.
Syracuse slips 1 point behind Albany in the North Division with 3 games in hand on the Devils. Wilkes-Barre/Scranton had a gaudy .770 winning percentage coming into the contest, so it bodes well that the Crunch could play them as even as they did.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Jake Dotchin is adding more facets to his game in his third pro season.
Despite being known more as a physical people-mover than a flashy puck-mover, the Crunch blueliner is coming off a career week statistically. Dotchin registered five points and was a plus-five on Syracuse’s three-game homestand last week.
Dotchin is working to become more than a traditional stay-at-home defenseman.
“I think I’ve come a long way in the defensive zone, and I’m just bringing more aspects to my game now,” Dotchin said. “Bringing more offense will not only help me, but help the team win as well.”
Crunch top Devils in key 4 point game atop the division standings.
Adam Wilcox allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory.
8:08 ALB Quenneville (8), (Mandat)
14:07 SYR Richard (7), (Condra, Dotchin)
11:04 ALB Coleman (6), (Pietila)
5:42 SYR Erne (6), (Peca, Thomas)(PP)
14:36 SYR Gourde (7), (Dotchin, Condra)
18:42 SYR Condra (5), (Gourde, Dotchin)(EN)
Yanni Gourde, Adam Erne, and Jake Dotchin were the game's three stars. Dotchin with assists in triplicate is making waves at right side defense with Witkowski shuttling back and forth to the big club and Blujus out injured.
Syracuse pulls 3 points clear atop the North Division.
Box score from TheAHL.com.