Offense starting to come together.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the victory. That's three pretty quality starts in a row as Gudlevskis adjusts to being the clear-cut number one between the pipes in Syracuse again.
SYR Gourde, (17) (Corrente, Ashton), 13:03
SYR Marchessault, (13) (Namestnikov, Vermin), 1:42
ALB K. Zajac, (1) (Thompson, Burlon), 9:16 (PP)
SYR Namestnikov, (10) (Broll), 8:35
Syracuse had a couple of, frankly, horrible games as they tried to make the adjustment after adding Ashton to the lineup in lieu of losing Mike Blunden. They also had to deal with Marchessault being out of the lineup due to injury and a rash of callups, but you could see that game-by-game things were starting to come together. This was hardly an offensive explosion to get 3 goals, but now you're starting to see some lines gel and little-by-little the results are coming.
Syracuse will jump over Hershey onto 2nd in the Eastern Conference with tonight's result and they'll be 1-2 points behind Manchester for the top spot when the night concludes. So, the hiccup that the Crunch had hasn't compromised their standings position to any great degree. The Crunch are still in a great spot if they continue to build up as they have been doing in the last 2-3 games.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
We need to talk...
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 34 shots for the loss. He didn't stand on his head, and it would've taken one of those kind of nights for him to make good on the slop in front of him tonight.
1:50 STL Oshie (15), (Steen)
4:47 STL Jaskin (8), (Steen)(PP)
8:03 TB Johnson (20), (Kucherov, Stralman)(PP)
12:15 STL Steen (19), (Backes)
14:11 STL Backes (19), (Oshie, Pietrangelo)
15:23 STL Stastny (11), (Berglund, Cole)
17:28 TB Connolly (11), (Filppula)
6:31 TB Stamkos (29), (Killorn, Stralman)
18:55 STL Tarasenko (29), (unassisted)(EN)
Let's talk again about effort, because apparently it didn't sink in after the First Period of the Kings game. Let's talk about getting whipped 6-3 on the scoreboard and giving up 44 shots on goal in the game. Let's talk about a team, defensively, putting up about as much resistance as a straw house before the big bad wolf. What would the Lightning call that particular defensive system? The Pamplona Lock? The Turnstyle Trap? I'm not one of these guys who jumps up and down screaming that the defense needs to be a bunch of maulers and that the Lightning need 6 Scott Stevens' out their mashing the bones of their opponents into paste. But, my goodness, how about the defense TRYING win puck battles? How about forwards TRYING to pick up late men cutting into the circles and slot? The team looked allergic to competition tonight, with a complete reticence to even attempt to win 50/50 pucks. This wasn't about getting outmuscled. This was about not even being willing to make the attempt.
It's time for core players to be core players in Tampa Bay, and I'm looking at two guys right now. Steven Stamkos and Victor Hedman both wore some pretty big goat horns in this game, and I expect so much better from the two guys who should be the franchise cornerstones.
Stamkos made one of the more horrific turnovers you'll see trying to carry the puck through the high slot of his own zone with the game still very much in play with his team trailing just 2-1. The captain can't make that mistake. Can't do it. And, he can't compound the mistake by allowing himself the luxury of dragging his way through the rest of the period. The effort level was uneven, and when you wear the "C" and you're supposed to be arguably the best player in the league you can't do that. And, as much as I hate to say it, uneven effort's been a theme for Stamkos this season, which is why he hasn't even been the most valuable forward in the Lightning locker room, let alone the best player in the NHL. It's time for Steven Stamkos to play like the player he is. Stow the excuses about the broken leg. If he wants to give in to excuses or drag around feeling sorry for himself or playing tentative, hand in the "C". He's better than what he's showing, and I think he misses Marty St. Louis pushing him, quite frankly. Time to be more of a self-starter and time to be the player the team can follow through the gates of hell.
Equally uneven has been the play of Victor Hedman. The other day I thought he did an amazing job setting the tone against the Ducks by setting up the opening goal. Those types of offensive efforts have been sporadic at best, though, and Hedman's play in his own end have steadily been sliding into dumpster fire territory. Tonight he played like a 6'6" marshmellow. There's no way to put lipstick on it, and the bummy effort he made on Tarasenko's EN goal was absolutely embarrassing. That's just a complete lack of pride, right there. Can't have it. You've got so many young defensemen on this team: Sustr, Barberio, Nesterov, Witkowski. I expect Andrej Sustr to struggle and have moments where he's playing tentative or lacking confidence. You accept that with a guy who has played just under 100 games. Victor Hedman's sitting on 370 games and is probably the best player, athletically, on the Tampa Bay Lightning. There's no excuse. Time to be more of a self-starter and time to be the player this defensive corps can follow through the gates of hell.
Both these guys have it in them, but they've had the luxury to this point of not having to be the alpha dogs because of the depth of talent the Lightning have on the roster. And, yes, I get that Steven Stamkos is sitting on 29 goals and both these guys have good numbers. Great. That doesn't equal championships, though. For the Lightning to reach their full potential and hang banners, they're going to have to push themselves and their teammates to do more and to apply the same level of effort every minute of every practice and every game. The standards for these two guys have to be higher. They're two of the three cornerstones along with Bishop. Efforts like tonight aren't going to cut it down the stretch of the regular season and into the playoffs. The apprenticeship time is over. Time to pay the cost and play like a boss.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 18:38. The coaching staff fed him some more ice time, and he showed himself to be responsible and willing to engage physically. God bless him for it, too. Someone on the defensive corps had to.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 hit in 9:51. He got called up to replace the injured Paquette and promptly got nicked up in the First Period and was ultimately a non-factor in the game.
Crunch rebound quickly to crush Sound Tigers.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the victory. One silver lining of the spanking the Crunch took against the Senators was that Gudlevskis got some quality PT in garbage time, and he carried that momentum over to tonight.
SYR Mormina, (2) (Marchessault, Angelidis), 8:47 (PP)
SYR Koekkoek, (3) (Marchessault), 8:58
SYR Blunden, (11) (Blujus), 5:29
BRI Courtnall, (3) (Langkow, Pelech), 12:25
SYR Richard, (6) (Blujus, Blunden), 15:56
SYR Namestnikov, (8) , 17:24 (SH)
SYR Angelidis, (13) (Blunden, Marchessault), 6:56
BRI Persson, (5) (Stretch, Lashoff), 14:41 (PP)
The other silver lining of the debacle against Bingo is the Crunch had time to collect themselves and get some continuity going with the skeleton lineup in the final 40 minutes of the game, and that also carried over into tonight's game.
Ex-Lightning 7th rounder Justin Courtnall had a goal against the organization that drafted him. Wow, that was a name from the past I wasn't sure I'd ever hear again.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Lightning put to bed an annoying stat.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. He made the big saves when necessary to give the team a chance to execute the comeback.
13:52 EDM Pouliot (9), (Nugent-Hopkins)(SH)
7:10 TB Stamkos (26), (Carle, Garrison)
19:02 EDM Pouliot (10), (Hall, Nugent-Hopkins)(PP)
1:33 TB Palat (10), (Kucherov, Johnson)
11:59 TB Palat (11), (Johnson, Nesterov)
The Lightning were flat as a pancake the first 40 minutes of play, but recovered in the final frame in time to win their first game this season after trailing at the Second Intermission. That's a stat I've been tired of seeing all year, and I'm happy to see it given a dirt nap courtesy of the victory tonight.
Through 46 games the Lightning have 60 points, meaning they're at the minimum number of points you want to be on pace for the playoffs with 4 more games in this segment to play with. So, again, how many insurance points will they back out of a possible 8 in those 4 games coming up?
Cedric Paquette had 2 shots and 3 hits in 17:12. That's a rookie who plays like a man, and as active as he's been the past couple of weeks, I keep expecting him to start popping in a goal here or there soon. He's due.
Nikita Nesterov had a helper and was +1 with 2 hits in 15:49. He's assertive offensively and even when he makes mistakes defensively, he seems able to make hustle plays to mitigate the damage. He's quickly running Barberio out of the organization, in my opinion, because he looks like he might be the better long term bet of two very similar players, stylistically.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 11:10. That wasn't his most artful performance in terms of defensive plays and decision-making with the puck, in my opinion.
So ends Evgeny Nabokov's NHL career?
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 13 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 12 shots the rest of the way. The fact Cooper didn't put Nabokov back in for the Third Period seems a bit telling, like perhaps this is the end of the road. Nabokov appeared to earn the start after playing reasonably well in his last outing, but he once again proved the Lightning just can't rely on him for even a mediocre start in back-to-back situations. Were it me, I'd highly consider calling up Kristers Gudlevskis to assume day-to-day practice duties as a waiver-exempt placeholder and then swap him with Andrei Vasilevskiy for planned starts, such as in upcoming back-to-backs. It could be a sad ending for Nabokov, who is probably one of the 4 or 5 best Russian goaltenders ever. The bottom dropped out quickly for him, though, a la Dwayne Roloson several years back.
6:12 PHI VandeVelde (3), (Schenn, Giroux)
10:26 TB Stamkos (23), (Johnson, Stralman)(PP)
16:15 PHI Umberger (7), (Read, Coburn)
1:45 PHI Voracek (17), (Streit, Giroux)(PP)
2:36 PHI Bellemare (4), (VandeVelde, Del Zotto)
7:02 PHI Streit (5), (Schenn, Simmonds)(PP)
8:37 PHI Schenn (10), (Streit, Voracek)(PP)
15:01 PHI Raffl (11), (Laughton, Simmonds)
15:23 TB Boyle (8), (Paquette, Stralman)
1:20 TB Callahan (13), (Drouin, Filppula)(PP)
Adding injury to insult, Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson left the game with lower body injuries, the former of which meant that Brian Boyle ended up having to take shifts on defense. Johnson's injury, which looked like a potential twisted knee, is particularly troubling. So, in addition to whatever happens (if anything) with the goaltending situation, you could see Vladislav Namestnikov called up to fill for Johnson and on defense, I'll guess Luke Witkowski would get the call and the coaching staff might try to slide one of their lefties playing the right side over to the left side.
This was a case where the Lightning got caught peeking ahead to Boston, didn't come out with their best effort, saw some soft goaltending, and allowed it to snowball out of control. Now they'll go into a place they seemingly never win with a depleted lineup after Bishop had to nearly play 2 periods of hockey in the back-to-back situation. So, a minor lapse of mental focus may snowball beyond a single hockey game, which is a lesson Cooper should stress to his team.
Cedric Paquette had a helper with 2 shots, 4 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 17:32, as he got to fill some of Johnson's minutes. He was also 40% on draws. To his credit, he was still throwing checks and playing hard in garbage time on the Third Period, which isn't unexpected given his well-respected effort level.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 with 1 hit in 15:56. Zero shot attempts. None. The kid sneezes out assists, which is amazing for a guy who rarely even attempts to shoot the puck, and tells you how big a point producer he could be if he actually did.