Sloppy. Exciting. Annoying. Fun.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He's lucky he got 7 goals of support, because he was bad again tonight. He had way too many problems following the puck and looked scrambley and positionally weak in his crease. He made it a lot harder on his team by allowing the soft goal to Johansen to start the Third Period and give Columbus life when they should have been DOA.
5:46 TB Brown (1), (Garrison, Sustr)
6:07 TB Paquette (3), (Drouin, Namestnikov)
12:31 TB Stralman (2), (Callahan, Stamkos)(PP)
14:41 TB Boyle (5), (Morrow, Brown)
4:11 CBJ Hartnell (4), (Wisniewski, Erixon)(PP)
5:38 TB Callahan (5), (Filppula, Gudas)
8:10 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Foligno, Johansen)(PP)
10:05 TB Johnson (3), (Kucherov, Drouin)(PP)
1:01 CBJ Johansen (6), (Gibbons, Wisniewski)
5:10 CBJ Foligno (7), (Wisniewski, Erixon)(PP)
19:09 TB Johnson (4), (Callahan)(EN)
The Lightning did what they needed to do coming out hard in the First Period to establish a comfortable lead against a team that is down and played a game last night. That 4 goal lead was crucial to establish given how poor the team's goaltending was tonight, which was perhaps accentuated by the team taking their foot off the gas at times with the big lead. It's a big 2 points to get as it gets them to 8 in this 10 game segment, leaving them needing just 4 points in the next 6 games to hit the segment target and a golden opportunity to rack up a bushel of insurance points. It's a good spot to be in with the sledding about to get harder starting tomorrow night with Detroit and then heading on to play teams like Chicago and San Jose.
Just a point of record keeping, though: Columbus showed a noted lack of class with Johansen slashing Tyler Johnson in the ribs on his EN goal and Hartnell sucker punching him after it. The sore losers got exactly what they deserved tonight, and the next time the Lightning play Columbus I wouldn't be opposed to adding some muscle for that game to make sure someone gets fitted for a (figurative) toe tag for what happened at the end of tonight's tilt. The Lightning have been very good at making their opponents pay what they owe over the last year or so in cases like this, and I hope they extract a heavy price from Hartnell and the Blue Jackets in the payback department, too (although that touchdown that got hung on them tonight probably stings plenty enough).
Scary thought for the rest of the NHL: the Lightning are on a 5 game winning streak and Steven Stamkos has sleepwalked through most of those 5 games and Hedman's been on the shelf. Ponder that.
Cedric Paquette had another goal and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:36. His goal came on a rebound where he showed some quick, sharp hands on a sift directly after a goal scored for, and he could've had 1-2 other goals including a nice play where he handled the puck well to work himself free for a backhand shot in the slot late in the Second Period. His skating is obviously not his strength, but he's got a very underrated set of mitts on him. Oh, and he was 63% on draws, too.
Jonathan Drouin had a pair of helpers and was +1 with 1 shot in 11:54. What's funny about Drouin is that he just quietly continues to rack up helpers and points. He's at 7 points in 9 games despite averaging just 14:22 of ice time a game. He's going to grow from here in ice time and points. Terrifying.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 11:42. His offensive zone "holding" call was fraudulent, as the refs were looking to let Columbus back into the game in the Second Period after the Lightning established their early 4 goal lead.
Dump Truck unstoppable versus the Flames.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. The Lightning were rather loose defensively in this game, so Bishop did some solid work.
9:55 TB Paquette (1), (Drouin)
15:22 CGY Hudler (4), (Brodie, Giordano)
1:01 TB Paquette (2), (Namestnikov, Garrison)
4:02 TB Boyle (4), (unassisted)(SH)
4:22 CGY Monahan (5), (Gaudreau, Giordano)(PP)
0:40 TB Johnson (2), (Kucherov, Palat)
17:50 TB Filppula (3), (unassisted)(EN)
On this homestand, you started to get the distinct impression the Lightning have gotten to a point that, with their skill and depth, they can toy with lower tier opponents like Calgary. It looked that way tonight, especially after the Flames got lost in the jet fumes when Tampa Bay just decided to pull away for good in the Third Period. With that said, after they play Columbus on Saturday, they've got a string of games starting Sunday against Detroit where I don't think the kind of defensive effort they've been putting out lately is going to cut it. So, I suspect Jon Cooper is hoping they get this all out of their system now because big boy hockey is about to start: Detroit, Chicago, and San Jose. That's why tonight's win and a good effort in Columbus are particularly valuable. The Lightning have already collected half the points they need to stay on schedule in this 10-game segment of the season with 7 games left in it. Needing to collect just 6 points in the next 7 games is a good spot to be in, and if they can cut that to 4 in 6 they'll be in prime position to bank some more insurance points even as the schedule gets tougher.
Paquette had his first 2 NHL goals and was +2 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 11:47. He was also 57% on draws. Two very Paquette-like goals: the first taking a defender on his back and driving out to the front of the next and the second potting a rebound in the high rent district. To recount the reason why I nicknamed him Dump Truck: Dump trucks aren't pretty. Dump trucks aren't fast. Dump trucks are strong and dump trucks do hard work. That's what Cedric Paquette does. Hard work.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 10:58. The guy continues to collect the odd point and he's nowhere near as effective as he's going to be once he settles in.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 assist and was +3 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:52. He was also 100% on 5 draws. He's really been the straw that stirs the drink on that line with Drouin and Paquette, and with his speed he's started to out-Stamkos Stamkos on that big sweepy wide rush around the net and out the other side while he works to setup his linemates. Honestly, I still believe the Filppula/Stamkos line needs to be disassembled sooner rather than later, and I'd really like to see what Namestnikov could do playing on a line with Stamkos.
Lightning outlast Caps in a track meet.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. You could make a very strong argument he was the difference tonight, slamming the door in the Third Period once the Lightning scored their 4th, and ultimately decisive, goal.
6:06 TB Callahan (4), (Boyle)
12:59 WSH Johansson (4), (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov)
2:11 WSH Fehr (1), (Chimera, Carlson)
9:29 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Johnson)
12:12 TB Kucherov (5), (Brewer, Johnson)
19:01 WSH Brouwer (3), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
2:27 TB Garrison (2), (Stamkos)
Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Bishop were the game's three stars. If you ask me what the biggest difference between Kucherov last year and Kucherov this year is, you might be surprised by my answer. I think where Nikita has excelled is at going to the high traffic areas where goals are created and money is made. Last year I think he was more of a perimeter/rush player, or waiting in the high slot as the third man high. He still does that sometimes, but you look at his goal and his assist tonight: tip deflection driving through the low slot and then a misdirection centering feed from behind the cage. He's going where the rent is expensive but the rewards can be lavish. That's the biggest difference between this year's Kucherov and last year's, in my opinion.
At the risk of jinxing it, I thought Mark Barberio had a very efficient game tonight filling in for the injured Andrej Sustr. They got a solid 17:30 out of Mark tonight, where they've gotten a Jello-like consistency of play from Sustr this season. With that in mind, I'd leave Barberio in a few more games.
That Stamkos line needs the Old Yeller treatment, Jon Cooper. Please. It's a mangey old dog with rabies right now. Do what you have to do and move on. Put one of the young kids (Drouin or Namestnikov) up with your superstar, because it's not sustainable in the long run for 91 to flounder like this at even strength.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 10:34 and also 50% on draws. He was also on the ice for the Fehr goal where Carle waved his bright rouge cape to the delight of the onlooking tourists... from Washington. I'd almost lean toward putting Namestnikov up with Stamkos before Drouin because of the explosive speed/pace he can provide.
Solid, if unspectacular effort gets the W.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the victory. It wasn't his best effort, but wasn't bad. Pretty much in line with the overall effort of the team tonight.
3:29 TB Namestnikov (3), (Stralman, Drouin)
12:43 PHI Simmonds (6), (Bellemare, Schenn)
19:14 TB Stamkos (7), (Garrison, Filppula)(PP)
5:30 TB Stamkos (8), (Filppula, Killorn)
6:38 PHI Voracek (3), (Manning, Giroux)
16:48 TB Garrison (1), (Stamkos, Filppula)(PP)
19:06 PHI Raffl (6), (Voracek, Giroux)
Kind of a strange game. You never got the feeling the Lightning were in danger of losing this contest tonight. They were clearly the more talented team on the ice, and the shot totals were pretty well slanted toward them up until the very tail end of the game when the Flyers went into desperation mode. Still, nothing the Lightning did tonight really made you ready to shoot fireworks off from about 10 minutes into the game on. They came out hard and looked sharp early, but once the Flyers got a greasy goal the game started to drone on a bit with the Flyers having plenty of possession but few shots or chances to show for it. Then the Flyers started taking penalties, and a number of Lightning skill players that looked lackluster at 5-on-5 did their thing on the PP and the rest his history. Elite teams win games like this, and it makes you excited to think they can sleepwalk through wins like this without Hedman and Callahan, but I'm not exactly ready to lead the parade over this victory either.
Andrej Sustr was injured early in the Third Period and we'll see what impact that has on the Lightning roster in the upcoming couple of games.
Cedric Paquette was +1 with 1 hit in 7:46. The Drouin/Paquette/Namestnikov line did not play much in this game, but they were effective when they did.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper with 4 shots and 1 hit in 9:58. His line combination with Namestnikov really works because Vladislav's speed seems to create time and space for Drouin to do his thing. With that said, given how poor Stamkos' line has looked at even strength, I feel like sooner or later Cooper needs to move Drouin or Namestnikov up to play with #91. It's got to happen.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot. He got his goal on a tip, but it was his speed that was causing the Flyers all kinds of problems, opening ice for his linemates and drawing penalties. I thought he was the straw that stirred the drink on that line tonight.
Kucherov line steals the show in homecoming game.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the victory. He just wallowed in the cool glorious waters of goal supportage all night long tonight.
7:46 TB Kucherov (2), (Gudas, Johnson)
12:18 TB Filppula (2), (Killorn, Stamkos)
3:20 TB Kucherov (3), (Johnson, Palat)
14:07 ARI Doan (1), (Stone, Vermette)
17:32 TB Boyle (2), (unassisted)
18:52 ARI Erat (3), (Hanzal, Gagner)
8:23 TB Kucherov (4), (Johnson, Brewer)
9:26 TB Boyle (3), (Brown, Stralman)
12:43 ARI Crombeen (1), (Vitale, Ekman-Larsson)
18:15 TB Carle (1), (Johnson, Sustr)(PP)
I've said it before, but that Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line has been a revelation. That line, I suspect, is your second line from now until the end of the season. The chemistry and speed of Johnson and Palat have unlocked the time and space necessary to let Kucherov apply his finishing skills, and those three are lethal together. Great game by Boyle and old man Morrow tonight, too, as well as Radko Gudas, who should've had a goal that was waved off on a way too quick whistle on a rebound chance Gudas snuck through Mike Smith's gaping five-hole.
As I recall, last season, the Coyotes really kicked the Lightning in the teeth in Arizona and their announcers and fans were far too giddy about the rude treatment the Lightning were given. I may be over-romanticizing this, but given the way the Lightning woodshedded Montreal earlier this season and the way Gudas decapitated Squirt Bottle Bandit Upshall, one might conclude this team is becoming very good at making others pay up on old debts. Very good. Intmidatingly good.
The victory gives the Lightning 13 points in the first 10 game segment of the season, clearing the 12 point minimum and giving them an insurance point to put in the bank. For those who didn't read Bolt Prospects last season, the 12/10 formula is pretty simple. 96 points should deliver you a playoff spot comfortably, based on past historical performance. Earning 12 points every 10 games will get you to 96 points with 2 games left to play around with. So, for every 10 game segment of the year, if your team can get at least 12 points, you're golden. The Lightning didn't get 12 points in every 10 game segment last season, but they accrued enough bonus points along the way that at no time last year did they fall behind schedule to get 96 points, eventually topping triple digits on their way to the playoffs. We're wheeling the formula out again this season because it's a fairly straightforward way of judging how the season is progressing. 12/10 is the magic ratio.
Now we ask the team to clean the slate and say, 12/10: do it again.
Cedric Paquette had his first NHL fight, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:53. A very Dump Truck-ulent stat line, to be sure.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 11:50. After his play in the previous game, he got busted down to the 4th line tonight, where he was invisible for 2 periods before coming alive with Namestnikov and Paquette in garbage time in the final frame. With Killorn coming back and looking decent in the First Period with Stamkos, it looked like it might be a longer term demotion for Drouin in the offing, but given how ineffective the Stamkos line was the final 40 minutes of the game I suspect Drouin will get a chance to get back up there sooner rather than later. As it was, I thought some of his Third Period work was quite entertaining.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 14:08. I thought he was really good tonight, showing great speed and getting in on some dangerous chances. He just happened to be the odd man out for a scoring line with everybody else clicking, and Arizona was only getting offense off faceoffs where Namesy was 0-for-3 tonight, so that may have factored in the decision, as well. Still, I liked what I saw and he should've had a helper on Gudas' disallowed goal.