New look Lightning survive sleepy start to annihilate Ottawa.
Andrei Vasilevskiy began life as the presumptive number one goaltender in Tampa Bay with a 39/40 command performance for the win that included some pure Vasilarceniy in the First Period to allow his team to keep contact and eventually secure the win. That's about all you could ask for from Andrei in his first night as "the man."
6:26 OTT Turris (22), (Karlsson, Hoffman)(PP)
1:39 TB Point (9), (unassisted)
5:37 TB Kucherov (24), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:26 TB Kucherov (25), (Drouin, Johnson)(PP)
19:46 TB Kucherov (26), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
10:57 TB Coburn (3), (Kucherov, Johnson)
Nikita Kucherov, Vasilevskiy, and Jonathan Drouin were the game's three stars. Kucherov had the natural hat trick and a four point night overall and appears to be fully back to unstoppable form after a very pedestrian middle part of his campaign. When Kucherov is Kucherov, the Lightning are awfully hard to beat.
The Lightning, probably reeling from the trades of veterans Ben Bishop and Brian Boyle, frankly looked lost in the First Period tonight. It took Vasilevskiy stepping up in that opening frame just to give the team a chance because honestly an ordinary goaltending performance would've left them run out of their own barn. A good forecheck on an early shift in the Second Period led to an awful turnover into the slot that led to a Brayden Point quick release goal, and from that point on the Lightning looked like a giant weight had been lifted off of them. Here's the thing about when veterans move out of your locker room: sometimes the vacuum actually gives oxygen to your younger players to step up and take bigger leadership roles. Point and Drouin, in particular, had great body language in that Second Period and you hope they seize the opportunity now to fill the void and imprint their identity on the Lightning now moving forward.
There's still a long way to go to the deadline on Wednesday and a few veteran contracts the Lightning would probably not mind getting out from under if they could, so there could be more changes in the offing. But for now, so far so good. Standings-wise, Tampa Bay needs 32 of a possible 42 remaining points to get to 96 for the season, which would be a colossal task. We're probably still in diagnostic mode the rest of the campaign, but if the Lightning can make this interesting down the stretch it only bodes well for the future. One pretty nice thing about tonight's game is it got the Lightning to dead even in goal differential this year. It'd be nice to be on the plus side at the end of the year, and that seems do-able.
Jake Dotchin had 2 hits in 16:56. I think you saw his minutes logically trimmed back against a quicker Eastern Conference team. Makes sense.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 penalty minutes and 2 hits in 5:50. Got 5 minutes worth for the price of 2 in that fight with Wideman. Wideman slashed Dumont's stick out of his hand and was promptly fed a sneaky upercut after the two dropped the gloves before Dumont ragdolled Wideman the rest of the bout. Pound for pound, Dumont showed me something there.
Adam Erne had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 13:33. He looks really comfortable at the NHL level already, and I hope he stays in Tampa Bay the rest of the way to see if he can keep developing and stick in Tampa Bay for good heading into next year. With Boyle gone, he brings an element of size and strength down low the team will need.
Crunch score a pair of goals in the final 1:11 to steal victory from the jaws of defeat.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 4 goals on 23 shots. Blew a Third Period lead giving up 2 goals. Got the goal support with 2 goals thereafter to get it back. Clean living.
11:05 RCH Austin (2), (Nelson, Kennedy)
19:11 SYR Peca (7), (Comrie, Taormina)(PP)
6:44 RCH Schneider (19), (O'Reilly, Fedun)(PP)
7:11 SYR Vermin (12), (Ward)
17:16 SYR Lynch (2), (Halmo, Vermin)
1:27 RCH Fasching (5), (Burgdoerfer, Grant)
12:49 RCH Fasching (6), (Mullen, Grant)
18:49 SYR Erne (14), (Peca, Comrie)(PP)
19:54 SYR Gourde (19), (Condra, Peca)
Adam Erne got the late equalizer on the power play. Since returning from injury he has a stylish 6 goals and 9 points in 7 games.
Syracuse is tied atop the North Division with Albany at 64 points with 2 games in hand on the Devils. Toronto lurks 2 points back with the Crunch holding a single game in hand on the Marlies.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Crunch avenge last night's embarrassment.
Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the victory.
5:33 SYR Thomas (2), (Vermin, Koekkoek)
8:51 SYR Erne (12), (Comrie, Taormina)(PP)
11:42 SYR Darcy (3), (Brodeur)
9:54 STJ Terry (19), (Friberg, Johnston)(PP)
0:54 SYR Erne (13), (Condra, Taormina)(PP)
5:27 STJ Hudon (18), (Terry, Johnston)(PP)
5:47 STJ Terry (20), (Scherbak, Redmond)(PP)
11:28 SYR Halmo (14), (Gourde, Vermin)
Adam Erne and Yanni Gourde were the game's second and third stars. In 5 games since returning from injury, Erne has 5 goals and 7 points. He's making a play to get another callup to Tampa Bay before the end of the year.
A wise old hockey man once told me how incredibly difficult it is to beat a team on back-to-back days if you humiliate them in the first game. Pride kicks in. That's about what happened today.
Syracuse moved 1 point back of Albany for the top spot in the North Division with 2 games in hand on the Devils.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Adam Erne looks like he hasn’t missed a beat.
The Syracuse Crunch forward missed a little more than a month with a lower body injury, but was able to return to the lineup last weekend. Erne recorded three points in a 5-2 win over Rochester Saturday, and added a goal in Sunday’s 3-2 victory in Utica.
Erne is focused on consistency as he pushes for a spot in the NHL.
“It’s just a matter of getting back in a game and getting used to the speed and whatnot,” Erne said of his return. “Luckily, it didn’t take too long. Now it’s just a matter of doing it night in and night out.”
Crunch finds the antidote to rid themselves of UTI.
Kristers Gudlevskis put on a show, turning aside 39 of 41 shots for the win, therby helping Syracuse overcome a 41-17 shot deficit.
6:54 SYR Erne (11), (Brodeur, Koekkoek)
5:52 SYR Gourde (18), (Conacher)(SH)
10:12 UTI Rendulic (5), (Kunyk, Grenier)(PP)
13:25 SYR Vermin (11), (Peca)
13:52 UTI Pedan (3), (Archibald)
Gudlevskis and Joel Vermin were the game's first and second stars.
Adam Erne now has goals in each of his two games since returning from injury. You can't help but wonder if his cup of coffee with the Lightning gave him an extra jolt of confidence that's showing up in his play. He's a first round caliber talent if he puts it all together.
Syracuse moves 1 point up on Albany for the top spot in the North Division with the win.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Erne's return spurs crushing Crunch win.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory.
2:28 SYR Gourde (17), (Taormina, Conacher)(PP)
3:34 SYR Darcy (2), (Letourneau-Leblond, Morin)
4:38 RCH Baptiste (19), (Schneider, Burgdoerfer)
3:43 SYR Erne (9), (Koekkoek, Gourde)
14:54 RCH Austin (1), (Schneider, O'Reilly)
4:09 SYR Conacher (10), (Peca, Erne)(PP)
19:36 SYR Erne (10), (Taormina)(PP)(EN)
Syracuse still sits 1 point back of Albany for tops in the North Division with 2 games in hand on the Devils.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Better effort. Crushing result.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)
For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.
Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.
Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.
Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.
The Lightning's season is circling the drain.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 44 shots for the loss. He was markedly better today than his past couple of starts, but unfortunately he didn't get much support in front of him as the Lightning got outpossessed and outplayed at the skater positions.
5:34 TB Kucherov (16), (Namestnikov, Nesterov)
1:11 PHI Konecny (6), (Voracek, MacDonald)
8:42 PHI Couturier (7), (Provorov, Voracek)
9:51 PHI Raffl (8), (Giroux, Schultz)
16:44 TB Killorn (13), (Nesterov, Drouin)
17:41 PHI Gudas (2), (Schenn)
The Lightning just got whipped today. They got outshot 44-26 and the score reflected it. They simply played a flat game, lost most every 50/50 puck, and their passing was awful in all three zones. There's no excuse for this team to play this flat, given that they should be fighting for the playoff lives at the moment. We're getting very near to a point of no return from which the Lightning simply won't have a realistic chance to get back into it in the standings. You'd think you'd see the urgency because of that. Nope. This team, after two and a half years of heavy lifting, just looks out of gas. There's consequences (big roster changes) that come with that if that happens to be the case.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:29. I thought he played a really nice game this afternoon.
Matthew Peca was -2 in 13:07. He made a pretty horrendous turnover to Voracek at the end of the First Period that Vasilevskiy bailed him out of. Beyond that, it was his second straight subpar outing. He's probably not much longer for the NHL on this callup stint if this keeps up.
Adam Erne had 3 shots and 3 hits in 8:36. He played another nice game today. He had some big hits, stole the puck to create a scoring chance for a teammate in the offensive zone on another play, and drew a penalty getting hooked on a breakaway on another play. He was one of the few Lightning players who looked like he had energy today.
Awful goaltending hands Lightning failure.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 18 shots for the loss. Three of those goals were of the awful variety, and the third goal, which came as the Lightning were mounting a push to try to knot the game at 2-2, was an absolute back breaker. Hockey is a frustrating, terrible sport when you're the victim of bad goaltending and your team has to work five times harder to get a goal, which is what happened tonight.
2:25 NSH Fisher (11), (Johansen, Ekholm)(PP)
3:56 NSH Forsberg (9), (Fiala, Johansen)
6:12 TB Johnson (12), (Hedman, Killorn)
13:21 NSH Sissons (3), (Fisher)
14:04 NSH Ellis (5), (Wilson, Arvidsson)
14:02 NSH Sissons (4), (Jarnkrok)(EN)
17:00 NSH Sissons (5), (Jarnkrok, Bitetto)
The Lightning actually had a decent night in terms of raw puck possession stats. It wasn't equaling a ton of scoring chances, but the game was not nearly the lopsided disaster the score indicates... except that the goaltending was terrible. That's been the biggest difference between this Lightning team and those of the recent past. Even when Bishop was healthy earlier this year the Lightning were not getting consistent goaltending. They have to hope and pray when he returns that he will re-find some of his Vezina candidate caliber form. Without it, they haven't got a prayer.
The Lightning failed to get 12 points for a second 10-game segment of the year, getting just 10 points in this one after managing just 7 points the previous segment. At the roughly midway point of the campaign, they're a full 6 points off comfortable playoff pace, meaning they'll have to play at least .675 hockey the rest of the way to get there safely. That's not impossible, but it's incredibly difficult and pretty much a fool's errand to try without good goaltending.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:29.
Matthew Peca was -2 with 2 hits in 11:17. He was also 56% on 9 draws. This was the first night of his NHL stint that he wasn't really a noticable positive in the lineup.
Adam Erne was -2 with 1 shot and 6 hits in 14:59. He continues to look the part and made a swooping power forward move off the right wing that was a bright spot in a fairly abysmal night.
Lightning crumble under Jets forecheck.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 33 shots for the loss. He made a lot of big saves on odd man rushes and breakaways, but at the end of the day his 4th goal allowed to Byfuglien, which was extremely soft, ended up being the critical margin (empty netter excluded) as soft goals often are.
7:25 WPF Scheifele (16), (Laine, Enstrom)(PP)
3:43 TB Peca (1), (Namestnikov, Killorn)
4:30 WPG Ehlers (11), (unassisted)(PS)
5:19 WPG Trouba (2), (Perrault, Wheeler)
14:44 WPG Byfuglien (5), (Morrissey, Wheeler)
3:26 TB Palat (7), (Johnson, Kucherov)
9:28 WPG Ehlers (12), (Laine, Trouba)
12:22 TB Kucherov (14), (Johnson, Hedman)(PP)
17:29 TB Kucherov (15), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
18:37 WPG Laine (20), (Scheifele, Ehlers)(EN)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's second star.
The Lightning were by far and away the better team in this game for the first 24 minutes of hockey before the bottom dropped out. The other 36 minutes were absolutely embarrassing as Winnipeg's forecheck ran roughshod over Tampa Bay and revealed a lot of coverage and puck moving mistakes. It's disappointing.
The Lightning now must defeat Nashville in the segment four finale to avoid digging their season playoff pace deficit of 4 points any deeper. This Winnipeg game was very winnable on paper and would've given the team a chance to trim their deficit. Now there's a very real possibility the hole will be even deeper at the season's midway point, and they have nobody to blame but themselves. I mean, I could complain about the dubious nature of the Ehlers penalty shot goal given it wasn't really a clear breakaway and more of a partial break, in my view, but I can't muster outrage against the refs considering the team allowed themselves to get run over the rest of the night.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 blocked shot in 13:57. His lack of development this season has been an unfortunate impediment for the team. They desperately could use a big, consistent, mobile puck mover. Koekkoek has all the athletic tools to be that, but it just hasn't settled down and come together for him yet.
Matthew Peca scored his first NHL goal and 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:33. He was also 50% on 10 draws. His goal showed off one of his strengths coming up from the NCAA out of Quinnipiac. He's very dangerous off the rush and his wrister coming in off the wing for the score was beautiful. I say it again: he's really helped replace a lot of what the team could have lost with the Point injury.
Adam Erne was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 12:03. He had a very impressive debut despite the inauspicious stat line. Clearly, you can see the athletic gifts he brings to the game. He's a very good skater for such a big game with a surprisingly strong, swooping stride, and he's a very good offensive player from the hashmarks down. He had a chance on a rebound he overskated and nearly set up Bournival for a goal on a nice move peeling out of the corner but was a little off on his pass. He's going to be an NHL'er. There's little doubt of that. You could see that in tonight's game. The question is whether he can put all of his gifts together consistently to becoming a scoring line contributor.