Didn't see much want-to in the team tonight.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 23 shots for the loss. It's not a good stat line, but it doesn't reveal how many point blank opportunities Ben turned away just to keep the Lightning in striking distance in this game. He deserved better than what he got from the team in front of him tonight.
1:21 TB Boyle (1), (Morrow, Garrison)
4:36 EDM Schultz (1), (Yakupov, Hall)
14:57 EDM Hall (4), (unassisted)(PS)
13:55 TB Connolly (2), (Johnson)
16:35 EDM Nugent-Hopkins (1), (Eberle)
Brett Connolly was the game's third star. He had a Third Period tying goal and a goal waved off on a dubious crease violation call in the First Period. He took his usual lazy minor penalty early in the game, and once he got it out of the way got stronger as the game went on. He's still not where I'd want him to be, but that was a better effort tonight, to be sure.
I wish I could say the same for the rest of the Lightning. That was bad. Passionless. Flavorless. Antiseptic. Bad. They looked like they were going through the motions, and only getting 24 shots on goal against that team and that goaltender is a bad joke. It's like the Lightning were content just to amble their way through the game and have it not be a track meet rather than trying to impose some will and some tempo on the Oilers. That's a bad look, compounded further by Ryan Callahan leaving the game with an injury in the Second Period, right before you head to Calgary at elevation. People will make an excuse for the loss based on the waved off goal in the First Period. Let me answer that in a word: bollocks. They didn't deserve anything but a loss tonight. You'd have a hard time winning anything other than a dog show with effort like that.
Jonathan Drouin was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:10 in his first NHL game. His line doesn't reflect how crafty he looked as a playmaker. He needs to get a regular set of linemates and a regular shift on the PP, and the points will almost certainly follow.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and 1 hit and was 50% on draws in 11:33. He took an unlucky high sticking call in the Third Period and also was stoned by Scrivens on a big chance all alone in the slot earlier in the period. Wish he could've done more with that one.
Sloppy, but effective.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 32 shots for the victory. Ultimately, I thought he was the big differences in the game, as Vancouver got a rather pedestrian effort from Lack at the other end.
0:53 TB Stamkos (4), (Palat)
7:15 VAN Higgins (1), (Bonino, Edler)
8:26 TB Stamkos (5), (Callahan, Palat)
2:42 VAN Edler (1), (D. Sedin, Bieksa)(PP)
16:48 TB Callahan (3), (Stamkos, Garrison)(PP)
6:04 TB Killorn (2), (Johnson, Stralman)
On the surface, a 4-2 win in Vancouver looks sweet as sugar, but anyone who watched the game or looks deeper in the stats can see the Lightning's play was closer to another word that starts with the letter "s". They got away with playing pond hockey in the First Period and spending most of the Second Period in the box because they've got an elite goaltender (thank goodness). Out of necessity, with Hedman out with an upper body injury and only 5 defensemen, I thought they settled into a more efficient game in the Third Period, but fatigue and Vancouver's urgency tilted the ice in the Canucks' favor where, again, Bishop had to be on his game. That effort tonight might get you points in places like Calgary and Edmonton later in this trip, but if they put that on the ice against a team like Minnesota, they're going to get blown out.
With Hedman's injury, with the big Swede out for at least the rest of this trip, it's my sincere hope that A.) Radko Gudas gets back in the lineup quickly, and B.) Cooper starts to dress 7 D playing both Gudas and Barberio to thin out the ice time, and C.) If he does so, Connolly gets out of the lineup. I've watched Cooper bench an AHL MVP, Cory Conacher, for taking too many minor penalties and hurting his team. I've watched him bench Alex Killorn, one of his best rookies, for the same thing. Connolly is becoming maddening in that respect, and it's because he's got a bad habit of not moving his feet. He's a half step out of the play too often and that means he's reaching. And, when you're reaching, you're taking penalties. The offensive zone penalty he took tonight in the Third Period took a Lightning team that was playing fairly under control with a lead and scrambled them for the rest of the final frame. Unacceptable. When Jonathan Drouin comes back from Syracuse, I know whose spot in the lineup he needs to take, and it's not old man Brendan Morrow's. Morrow had 5 hits tonight, including 1 that saved a goal, and drew a penalty. Given the choice between getting that 10 minutes from Morrow or the 10 minutes the Lightning got from Connolly, sign me up for Team Brendan. Seriously, that's what Connolly puts out in front of the home province? That?
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and was 60% on draws in 8:30. In a tight game against a team that has a fair number of talented veterans, Coach Cooper seemed to be hiding his kid line a bit. Can't say I blame him entirely.
Lightning run into a bad mix of fatigue and the Devils' style of play.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the loss in his Lightning debut. I have no complaints. He gave his team an opportunity to win.
7:38 NJ Zajac (1), (Greene, Cammalleri)
8:59 TB Killorn (1), (Johnson, Stralman)
11:19 NJ Cammalleri (4), (Elias, Havlat)(PP)
Nabokov was the game's second star.
It was a tough spot. 4th game in 6 nights. Back end of the back-to-back. The Devils a grinding team with the refs letting them play. And, then you fall behind to them. It's a really tough spot to find yourself in, and the Lightning did well to tie the game in the Third Period, which is typically impossible against New Jersey. But, in the end, they got the greasy goal they needed to snap the tie and win the contest. Valiant effort, and I suspect the outcome would've been more favorable if the Lightning had been able to maintain their First Period pace and intensity.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 40% on draws in 10:35. Namesy and Kucherov set up some nice opportunities, but the Devils did a good job keeping them out of the high traffic areas for second opportunities, which allowed Schneider to do what he needed to do to get NJ the victory.
Revenge is a dish best served cold...
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 17 shots for the victory. He made the 1-2 key stops he needed to make, and let the team in front of him do the rest. Efficient performance.
5:24 TB Hedman (3), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)
9:51 TB Stamkos (1), (Callahan, Hedman)(PP)
12:16 MTL Gallagher (1), (Tinordi, Weaver)
13:15 TB Stamkos (2), (Hedman)
18:14 TB Stamkos (3), (Hedman, Filppula)(PP)
6:26 TB Callahan (2), (Carle)
6:43 TB Palat (1), (Boyle, Stralman)
16:55 TB Namestnikov (1), (Kucherov)
Why was I so tough on the Lightning after they sleepwalked through more than half of the Ottawa game. Because, this. This is what they're capable of. You had two of the best in the game, Stamkos and Hedman, take over a game, Bishop making critical saves at key junctures, and the overall speed and skill of the Lightning simply running Montreal out of the building. They have the ability to do that to dominate just about everyone in the Eastern Conference if they focus the way they did tonight.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a night of firsts with 1 goal and 1 assist for a +1 rating in 9:30. He also had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot and he was 33% on draws.
Not good enough.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 26 shots before surrendering scores to 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session to take the shootout loss. The Lightning should have no complaints about their goaltending tonight, though.
15:42 TB Hedman (2), (Stamkos, Filppula)(PP)
7:34 OTT Karlsson (1), (Chiasson, Ryan)
9:10 OTT Stone (1), (Turris)
12:34 TB Connolly (1), (Boyle)
OTT- Turris, Zibanejad
Ben Bishop was the second star.
You could try to spin this game as a positive. The Lightning outshot Ottawa 40-34. They absolutely ran circles around them possession-wise, at times, especially in the Second Period. You could chalk this up as a defeat due to Robin Lehner having a great night.
And, that'd all be bull. The fact is, that effort tonight was not good enough, particularly from the Lightning's defense. And, it's not because Ottawa was the better team athletically. They're not. They have some players, particularly Karlsson, who put pressure on you, but the really annoying thing about this game was the number of mistakes made by the Lightning's blueliners when there was little or no pressure on them at all. The consistency of the breakout passing tonight was horrible. Passes off target. Hope passes up the boards to empty points. Bad. And, then you mix in some really bad turnovers at the point in the Ottawa zone to boot, which is just feeding into the strengths of Ottawa. Again, bad. That's self inflicted wounds and if it weren't for the fact that A.) They've got a world class netminder in Bishop, and B.) Ottawa frankly let them off the hook by not doing much with a lot of really amazing chances that they were given, they could've lost this game in regulation by a fairly wide margin.
None of that excuses the defensive zone coverage of the forwards, either, by the way. Allowing Stone to gash right down the heart of the slot uncovered like he was taking a Sunday stroll is inexcusable, and you had your team captain, Steven Stamkos, and Mr. Intangibles, Ryan Callahan (who, leadership-wise, I've been told is a cross between George Washington, Braveheart, and MLK Jr.) who were the bystanders on that play just watching it happen. C'mon. Man up.
The stakes have been raised, boys and girls. The prize this team got for a very convincing 2013-2014 campaign where they left the ice knowing that they have arguably the best goal scorer in the league (Stamkos), a legit Norris candidate (Hedman), and a legit Vezina candidate (Bishop), is the very real expectation that this team should be chasing a Stanley Cup on an annual basis for at least the next half decade. The General Manager of this team spent a lot of time and effort shoring up its deficiencies on the blueline and in terms of veteran leadership and all the pieces are pretty much in place for this club to be elite. So, there are no excuses for the slop we saw tonight. None at all.
Monday, Montreal is coming to town. Anybody care to wager a certain Quebecois wunderkind might be making his NHL debut in that game? Can't wait to see that, and a team that should be very motivated to put their best foot forward unlike what we saw tonight.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 and 67% on draws in 12:02 of ice time. His line had positive moments, but a man can't feed his family on potential. At some point, the Wizards of Ov line needs to yield some scoresheet production.