Palat, Ondrej

NHL Game Night: 10-26-13 Sabres at Lightning

Lightning end the home stand with another two points the hard way.

BUF-2
TB-3

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory.

First Period
12:48 TB Johnson (3), (Filppula, Carle)(PP)

Second Period
12:58 BUF Flynn (2), (McCormick, Leino)

Third Period
12:46 BUF Vanek (4), (Foligno, Girgensons)
14:09 TB St Louis (6), (Stamkos, Gudas)
15:55 TB Palat (3), (Johnson)

Ondrej Palat and Martin St. Louis were the game's first and second stars.

I Tweeted (I have one of those now) Friday night that beating teams like Chicago is nice, but it doesn't do you any good if you drop points to teams like Buffalo and Florida. The Lightning responded really well in terms of effort tonight, but ran into a quality, experienced, franchise goaltender in Ryan Miller, who made them work hard for their win. The First Period was a clinic, and most of the Third Period was, as well, but Miller had the forcefield up and denied numerous quality chances by the Lightning. The Sabres capitalized by taking advantage of some sloppiness by the Lightning in the Second Period and an ill-advised Radko Gudas forecheck in the Third Period coupled with a sleepy Stamkos backcheck to build a 2-1 lead late in the Third Period.

What you had to like is that Gudas and Stamkos made great plays to atone for their mistake, setting up St. Louis for the tying goal. And, then, Jon Cooper decides, "What the hey?" He puts Palat/Johnson/Panik back together and they reply by getting the winning goal.

14 points in the first 10 game segment of the season is 2 more than what I thought they needed to set pace. It's wonderful. It should prove to them, athletically, they're capable of competing at this level. But, being athletically good enough doesn't get you to the playoffs. To get to the playoffs, you've got to consistently master the grind of the season and churn out those points. You got the minimum 12 you needed in the first segment? Awesome. Now you've got to do it seven more times to get to the tournament. And, that challenge starts immediately in South Florida tomorrow.

Gudas had a helper, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:11. Minutes were down a bit with the Lightning rotating 7 defenders.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:03. In the offensive third he looked dangerous. In the defensive third he looked... also dangerous (in a bad way). I saw improvement tonight and I'd be less scared to put him out the next game than I was after the Boston opener. He can be a useful player for the Lightning if he can just develop into an average player in the defensive zone. He showed the offensive instincts tonight.

Tyler Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist, 3 shots, 1 hit, and was 55% on draws in 21:09. I think that stat line and that ice time figure pretty much sums it up.

Alex Killorn played 17:33. I'm a little worried, given the nature of his game, that he's not getting shots although he's working very hard on the forecheck.

Palat had the game winning goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 15:25. He's magical with the puck. He's responsible without the puck. He's the straw that stirs the drink on whatever line he plays. You wonder if Cooper will start to creep his minutes up now that Palat seems to have his legs underneath him in the NHL.

Richard Panik had 4 shots and 1 hit in 13:39. He's become the man on PP2 in front of the net and showed good hands deflecting pucks all night. You get the sense his breakthrough could come at any time. I say, why not tomorrow?

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-24-13 Blackhawks at Lightning

Some things you just have to see to believe.

CHI-5
TB-6

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 43 shots for the victory. He played about as good a game as you can play allowing 5 goals. He made several key saves at key points throughout the game to allow the Lightning to stay in the contest and eventually take the 2 points.

First Period
6:28 TB Carle (1), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
1:24 TB Thompson (1), (Crombeen, A. Sustr)(SH)
9:00 CHI Bickell (3), (Kruger, B. Seabrook)
10:36 CHI Hossa (4) , (Sharp, Toews)
17:21 TB Stamkos (6), (Hedman)
18:53 CHI Kane (5), (unassisted)

Third Period
1:33 CHI Shaw (1), (Kane, D. Keith)(PP)
11:03 TB Hedman (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)
17:31 TB Stamkos (7), (Filppula)(PP)
18:11 CHI Toews (4), (unassisted)

Overtime
1:16 TB St Louis (5), (Stamkos, R. Gudas)

Martin St. Louis and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. Victor Hedman was robbed, I tell you.

You can't buy experience more valuable than what the Lightning got themselves tonight as a young club trying to overcome tilted ice against a very good, very polished Chicago team. The first half of the game I thought they played to the blueprint of what they needed to do almost perfectly. They were limiting odd man rushes to practically nil, getting good goaltending, and they were opportunistic as heck when their chances came. I mean, you have no complaints about scoring when 2/3 of the Bluetooth Line decides to cash in a fairly pretty shorthanded goal.

And then the first wave of adversity came. A bounce went against them on the Bickell goal, Hossa makes a nice tip-in goal, and then Gudas gets himself thrown in the box immediately after. At that point the wheels very easily could have come off, but Bishop made a couple of key saves (without a stick, as I recall) to settle his team down. Then Stamkos makes a tremendous individual play to blow down the ice and rip a laser beam past Khabi to regain the lead. Happy days are here again! Nope. Kane takes the third pair to school and the teams go into the intermission tied 3-3.

Chicago comes out and almost immediately retakes the lead and with a young team you can't help but think there's no way they can scrape themselves off the mat a second time, now trailing for the first time in the game. They did. Bishop again made a couple of quality saves to keep the Lightning alive and then Hedman jumps into the play and makes a really patient goal slipping the puck 5-hole to tie it up and then Stamkos buries another laser off the faceoff on a power play late in the Third Period. We win, right?

Not yet, because then we got into the theater of the absurd. Matt Carle flings a hard pass down the middle of the ice back into the D zone to Gudas which riccochets off Gudas past Bishop and into the net to tie the game. I don't think anybody within a 1,000 mile radius of the Forum expected that to happen, and at that point you expect the team has to come unraveled. Given how poorly the team responded the previous two waves of adversity, needing Bishop to really bail them out, getting a point out of the game was in serious doubt. But, you know, the Johnson and Palat line showed the maturity of grizzled vets the next shift out and settled it down. 1 point secured, we head to OT.

And, in OT, after some harrowing early moments, Gudas takes off those goat horns and helps the Lightning get some good possession going and next thing you know Marty St. Louis is putting the dagger in Chicago's heart. Wow. 3 waves of adversity, and they overcame each of them to get the 2 points.

Key takeaways:
1. Ben Bishop did what #1 goaltenders do. He kept his team in it and gave them a chance. Just keep your young team within 1 goal, and with some of the weapons they have, particularly Stamkos, they have a puncher's chance.
2. After floundering to handle adversity the first 2 times, the kids figured it out the 3rd time. Palat and Johnson diffused an atom bomb at the end of the Third Period and then Gudas, after getting caught in some unfortunateness twice over the course of the night, is a prominent part of the winning goal.
3. This is the really big one: when the chips were really down in the Third Period, the young bluechippers really stepped it up. Stamkos and Hedman were bad against Boston. Stamkos not as much as Hedman, but he wasn't the factor you needed him to be to lead his team against a better club. Stamkos made a great individual goal to get it to 3-2 and a PP goal to get it to 5-4 at separate points in this game. Hedman, my gosh, he went from -5 and his worst game of the season against Boston to looking like a Norris Trophy candidate at times against Chicago. Assertive. Strong. Leading his team from the backline. If Bishop, Stamkos, and Hedman all hit their stride together this season, this team's going places faster than anyone's original timetable.

My goal for the first 10 game segment of the season was 12 points. 9 games in they're already there. That's an advantageous spot going against Buffalo in the homestand finale with the chance to get 2 insurance points to close out the segment heading into the next 10. Looking at the schedule of the first 10 game segment, they should feel pretty good about what they accomplished, especially when you consider they left at least a point on the ice against Pittsburgh.

Radko Gudas had a helper and was -1 with a bad minor penalty, 3 shots, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 19:16. The penalty he took right after Chicago tied the game at 2 was really cringe-worthy, but he got it back on the final sequence of the game. He atoned.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:59. He was also 59% on draws. He blew an open net in the Third Period that would have tied the game at 4-4 just before Victor Hedman went into beast mode. That was a little cringe-worthy. But, the work he helped do to settle things down shortly after the own goal tied it at 5-5 more than made up for it. Like Bishops big saves, that shift was a game-saver.

Alex Killorn was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:40. Cooper shuffled the lines a bit to put Killorn with Stamkos at one point and Malone down with Filppula. I must say, I preferred it.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 15:35. He damned near created 2 goals on his own with his puckhandling ability and was smooth and poised in all three zones as usual. It's getting a bit like it was when he was in the AHL now, where you feel good anytime he has the puck because good things are probably about to happen.

Andrej Sustr had a helper, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 14:41. He was on the ice for that undressing by Patrick Kane, but with that said, he was pretty good tonight. Good breakout passes and assertive in the offensive third. I'll take that performance most nights from Sustr.

Richard Panik had a helper and was -2 with 1 hit in 15:48. I thought he was more assertive and more active tonight, helping to screen Khabi on the opening goal by Carle. It's coming along. I wish the stat line was a little more reflective of it. I keep hoping Panik can get that first goal and breakthrough, because it feels like it's coming along and it could be floodgates once he gets it.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 1 hit in 3:46. You feel for Nacho being the 1/3 of Bluetooth Line that didn't get a point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-19-13 Bruins at Lightning

Lightning crap the bed.

BOS-5
TB-0

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 17 shots for the loss before being lifted for Anders Lindback, who allowed 1 on 5 shots the rest of the way. It wasn't the goaltending tonight.

First Period
1:32 BOS Krejci (1), (Lucic, Iginla)

Second Period
4:37 BOS McQuaid (1), (unassisted)
14:52 BOS Bergeron (2), (Smith, Eriksson)
15:47 BOS Kelly (3), (Marchand, Soderberg)

Third Period
0:34 BOS S. Thornton (1), (Paille)

Shots were 23-22, so it's not as if Boston made the Lightning look like a Junior A team. My suspicion is that a lot of the mistakes made tonight are correctible, and Jon Cooper will get a lot of practice time this coming week to drill those lessons into his club. -5 for Victor Hedman and -3 for his pairing partner Sami Salo says a lot.

Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 20:06. So much is made about how tough Jarome Iginla is. Gudas more than held his own fighting Iginla tonight. I think he re-upped his badass certification with how he handled himself in that scrap.

Tyler Johnson was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 19:17. He was also 36% on draws. He made some plays tonight, but unfortunately found himself working at times with the 4th line wingers, who you might classify as "Bluetooth", because Crombeen in particular is hands-free.

Alex Killorn had 1 shot and 4 hits in 15:04. He was ineffective.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:19. His ice time is creeping up because he deserves it. He's looking for confident handling the puck and that's the difference, to me, between Palat being a 3rd liner that you can spot on a scoring line, and Palat being a 4th line player. He looked very smooth with the puck tonight, to go along with good defensive play without it.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 17:15. He was a silver lining tonight after looking awkward, at times, against Minnesota. He was poised and really passed the puck well.

Richard Panik was -1 with 3 shots in 14:01. I'm very frustrated with Panik because he's close to making some impact plays, but he always seems to have a hole in his stick, overskate the play, etc etc. At a certain point potential is irrelevant if you don't apply it to make plays.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 9:00. I don't know whether Boston was simply unwilling to oblige him, but down by 4 or 5 goals I would have expected the team's enforcer to do something. With Thompson and Gudas getting jumped, you wonder why Labrie didn't force a Bruin or two to dance to send a message.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-17-13 Wild at Lightning

5-2-0. Nice. Daddy likes.

MIN-1
TB-2

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 26 shots for the victory. Another near shutout for the University of Maine product. He's been damned good, and that instills a lot of confidence in the team in front of him.

First Period
14:02 TB Johnson (2), (Filppula, Panik)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
11:05 MIN Koivu (1), (Niederreiter, Suter)
14:56 TB Stamkos (5), (Carle, Gudas)
19:42 TB Salo (1), (unassisted)

Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars.

Solid, solid performance against a very good defensive team. The Lightning really played a smart game, in many cases well beyond their years. To be at 5-2-0 at this point is outstanding. I have 12 points as the target for the first 10 game set of the season. Sitting at 10 points right now, the Lightning have 3 games to try to put at least another couple of points up to make the first 1/8th of the season a verifiable success. It's an outstanding spot to be in, although two challenges lie ahead with Boston and Chicago on their way. Bear in mind, though, if the Lightning get into January in contention for a playoff spot, they're going to be in great shape. Cooper's teams have a penchant for playing well in the second half of the year when it's winning time.

Radko Gudas had a helper, 3 hits, and 6 blocked shots in 16:30. I'm surprised his minutes total was that low, because he looked like he was everywhere tonight, including throwing a massive hip check that drew a retaliation penalty from Minny.

Tyler Johnson had 1 goal, 3 shots, and was 69% on draws in 17:34. It was his best all around game in a Lightning uniform thus far, including some excellent defensive work in the neutral zone.

Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 1 hit in 14:08. He made a great one-on-one play to beat a defender wide to set up one near goal and set up Stamkos on a 2-on-0 that nearly resulted in another goal.

Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:06. It was also Palat's finest game in a Lightning uniform thus far. Defensively, he was strong as always, but we saw Palat also at his best in the other two zones, as well. On the forecheck, he sat on the puck well late in the game protecting the lead, and I finally saw one of the aspects of Palat's game that I like the most, which is puck savvy in the neutral zone to carry it out of danger and into the offensive zone. The more he does that, a la Filppula, the more he's a keeper.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 14:11. I thought this was one of Andrej's rougher nights. He was a little Bambi-legged in the First Period and had a couple of giveaways in the D zone. It was an uncharacteristically green performance from the talented rookie.

Richard Panik had an assist and 2 shots in 13:27. He had his moments on the forecheck and the chances are still coming for him. Sooner or later he will pot one and the floodgates will open.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-15-13 Kings at Lightning

Lightning learn from their mistakes, pummel the Kings.

LA-1
TB-5

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 31 shots for the victory. Kind of sad he didn't get the shutout, but then again, that Kings goal that got waved off absolutely shouldn't have been. Another solid game by Bishop overall. When he's playing well, he's incredibly hard to beat down low. Block the long shots, challenge the stuff in tight and let Bishop work his angles and his mechanics. It's a Brodeur-esque recipe for success with Bishop.

First Period
0:19 TB Malone (1), (Salo, St Louis)
12:44 TB Purcell (4), (Palat, Carle)

Second Period
16:22 TB St Louis (3), (Stamkos, Sustr)

Third Period
10:27 LA Voynov (1), (Frattin, Stoll)
12:40 TB St Louis (4), (Malone, Stamkos)
18:39 TB Palat (2), (Purcell, Johnson)

Martin St. Louis, Victor Hedman, and Bishop were the game's three stars.

You hold your breath and wonder how a young team will respond when they have a disappointing loss like the Lightning did to the Pens. Credit to the coaching staff and the leaders in the locker room for having the team ready to roll tonight. That's the kind of response you like to see, and it portends good things. 3 games into the home stand, the Lightning are 2-1-0 and now have 8 points overall for the season with 4 games left to go before they seal the opening 10 games of the season and move back out onto the road. I had about 12 points being the target for what they needed out of the first 10 game segment of the season, so another big win Thursday against Minnesota would put them in great shape to meet or exceed that goal. Now you just need the team to feel confident but not get too high after stomping a pretty good team. Understand, that Wild game is potentially a very, very big game. Win that and you're playing with house money when you're playing against the likes of Boston and Chicago. Lose it, and you're a little bit behind schedule (it would've really been nice to get points out of the Pittsburgh game).

Radko Gudas had 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 6 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 20:18.

Tyler Johnson had a helper and was +2 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:07. He was also 64% on draws.

Alex Killorn had 6 shots and 1 hit in 14:28. He absolutely undressed one of the game's best in Drew Doughty off the rush for a near goal.

Ondrej Palat had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:17. That's a man who maximized his minutes. He made the quick play to head man Purcell on Purcell's great one on one goal and was the man on the spot getting a choice chance that he buried off a flubbed Kings clear.

Andrej Sustr got his first NHL point, a helper, and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 16:37. That's where I'd like to see his ice time settle down: 14-18 minutes. Somewhere in there.

Richard Panik had 1 shot and 3 hits in 12:49. He had a goal, were it not for Killorn laying across the goal line to keep the puck out. You feel for Richard on that one. You really do.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie was -1 with 1 hit in 9:56. I counted at least 3 decent scoring chances for Nacho, but his 4th line got caught on the ice too long on LA's only goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-12-13 Penguins at Lightning

Disappointing, as the Lightning leave at least 1 point on the ice against a quality opponent.

PIT-5
TB-4

Anders Lindback allowed 5 goals on 26 shots for the loss. Maybe there were no softies tonight, but the same critique of Lindback applies. Playing a team as good as Pittsburgh, you need your goaltender to be more than, "not the reason you lost." He needs to make key saves at key times and be "one of the reasons you won."

First Period
13:25 TB Filppula (4), (Killorn, Panik)

Second Period
2:14 PIT Crosby (3), (Jokinen, Kunitz)(PP)
5:11 TB Stamkos (4), (St Louis, Hedman)
7:01 PIT Orpik (1), (Dupuis, Kunitz)
15:42 TB Purcell (3), (Salo, St Louis)(PP)

Third Period
0:25 PIT Crosby (4), (Scuderi, Niskanen)
10:26 PIT Crosby (5), (Jokinen, Malkin)(PP)
16:58 TB Killorn (2), (Panik, Johnson)(PP)
19:41 PIT Niskanen (1), (Malkin, Crosby)(PP)

What a horrific ending to a night that showed so much promise. The Lightning, on balance, played really well for 40 minutes in this game. The team really looked like they were skating well, playing crisp hockey, and looked like they could compete with an elite team like Pittsburgh. And then they came out flat as a pancake in the Third Period. The did manage to fight back to get a late goal to potentially salvage a point, but squandered that with a bad late penalty. It's a tough result for a young team like this to take after doing a lot of good things in this game.

Radko Gudas was -2 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 24:13. I think the minutes he received was more reflective of his play than the minus rating he ended up with.

Tyler Johnson had a helper, 2 shots, 1 hit, and he was 44% on draws in 14:04.

Alex Killorn had 1 goal and 1 assist, 4 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 blocked shot in 21:17. Arguably, he was the Lightning's best player tonight.

Ondrej Palat had 3 hits in 11:52.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:19 as the Lightning coaching staff were careful to protect their rookie d-man from the likes of Crosby and Malkin. He played well in the minutes he had, but there was no reason to throw Andrej to the wolves.

Richard Panik had 2 assists, but was also -1 with 2 really bad penalty minutes to go along with 2 hits in 20:46. He's such a frustrating mixed bag. There were some ridiculous neutral zone turnovers, and then he turns around and makes a great hustle play to make up for it. He makes a great pass on the power play to Killorn to make a game tying goal and then takes a lazy, selfish tripping call that allows Pittsburgh to take the win. I'm absolutely torn with Panik, and I suspect the coaching staff is, too. He gets 20+ minutes of ice time and gets to play on the second line and on the PP because he has a wide-ranging skill set that allows him to affect the outcome of a game in numerous ways. Unfortunately, as we saw tonight, his game hasn't ripened yet and some of the ways he can affect a game aren't necessarily positive.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 hits in 4:05. This was probably the least effective game of the year for the 4th line.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-10-13 Panthers at Lightning

Lightning squash Panthers for 2 key points.

FLA-2
TB-7

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the victory. Light work, to be sure, but his stop on an early First Period breakaway was one of those key saves you need in a game. He kept momentum off Florida's bench and helped pave the way for the soul-crushing humiliation yet to come.

First Period
8:13 TB St Louis (2), (Stamkos, Purcell)
13:54 TB Stamkos (1), (St Louis, Hedman)(SH)

Second Period
0:59 FLA Boyes (2, (Campbell, Fleischmann)(PP)
11:39 TB Stamkos (2), (Carle, Malone)
15:51 TB Palat (1), (Killorn, Bishop)

Third Period
3:48 FLA Huberdeau (1), (Gomez, Versteeg)
6:38 TB Filppula (2), (Carle, Killorn)(PP)
9:14 TB Filppula (3), (Purcell, Salo)
12:25 TB Stamkos (3), (Salo, Purcell)

Steven Stamkos, Valtteri Filppula, and Martin St. Louis were the game's three stars. This was a bigger 2 points than you might think. There's another murderer's row of games coming up over the next 5 games including the last three Stanley Cup champions with LA, Chicago, and Boston in the mix. The Lightning had to have 2 points tonight, and they crushed a chemistry-less Florida team exactly like they needed to.

Radko Gudas was +2 with 1 shot, 8 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:43. With the Lightning holding such a big lead, Gudas was playing with house money in the physical game.

Tyler Johnson had 2 shots, 2 hits, and was 63% on draws in 13:59. He looked good on the new line with Purcell and Palat and nearly had a couple of goals. World class speed was on display.

Alex Killorn had 2 assists and was +1 with 2 shots in 17:26. He looked good on the new line combo with Panik and Filppula, facilitating by being the digger who was hard in on the forecheck and also showing some deft passing touch. He could've had even more helpers tonight.

Ondrej Palat had a goal and was +1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in just 10:06. Had a few goal mouth thrills to go with his first tally of the season.

Andrej Sustr was +1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 16:03. Quiet, efficient game in a nice little comfort zone of minutes. I'll take more like those, please, as he continues to settle into the league.

Richard Panik was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 hits in 17:10. Looked good on the forecheck, particularly early. Could've been a little better on Florida's second goal. Overall, it was an improvement. I'd like to see more giddy up in his first step. He looks a little sluggish to me.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 4 penalty minutes,3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:45. Another solid day at the office for the 4th line.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-8-13 Lightning at Sabres

Lightning win their first mini-segment of the season.

TB-3
BUF-2 (OT)

Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the victory.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
11:09 BUF Hodgson (1), (Vanek, McBain)(PP)
13:35 TB Johnson (1), (Hedman, Palat)
18:34 BUF McBain (1), (Hodgson, Vanek)(PP)

Third Period
5:43 TB Purcell (2), (Malone, St Louis)(PP)

Overtime
1:50 TB Killorn (1), (Brewer, Filppula)

Alex Killorn was the game's second star. Kudos to Buffalo's media for the homer choice to take 2 star selections in a losing cause. Kudos also to NBC Sports Network scrunch-faced-creep Keith Jones for calling the Lightning a "weak sister" team after the game. Keep sleeping on the Lightning while they gain experience and settle in. It's all good.

Buffalo's not good, so the Lightning needed to get the 2 points and needed to look pretty good doing it. And, for the most part, I thought they did. They outshot Buffalo 34-23 and had the lion's share of the scoring chances. The defense was more loosey goosey than in the first two games, and I'm sure Cooper will remind his young team not to play down to his competition by letting off their defensive system. Still, 2-1-0 to complete this murderous opening road trip is really good, and now they get 7 straight at home for their second mini-segment of the season. It's not an easy slate of opponents, overall, but if they come out of that over .500 then they'll stay in the hunt. My theory, for this season, is if the Lightning are in the hunt in early January they're going to be dangerous. Cooper will have everyone fully programmed and ready to rock by that point, and they'll be a threat. Getting through the first half of the season alive with such an inexperienced team is the trick. 3 games in, so far so good. Ben Bishop looking solid helps that out a lot. A LOT.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 9 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:35. His ice time went up with Sustr getting a night off, and I thought his game was his worst of the first 3 of the season. I like that he stuck up for Filppula in the First Period, but I thought he got a little lost at time in his d-zone and got de-jocked for a scoring chance at one point. He'll have games like this while he figures out how to be an NHLer.

Tyler Johnson had a goal and was +1 with 4 shots and 62% on draws in 14:29. In case you didn't believe Bolt Prospects when we said he had an NHL laser shot, please gander at the tape from his goal tonight. Zap.

Killorn had the winner and was +1 with 4 shots in 18:14. The line shuffling and lesser opponent allowed Alex to possess the puck more than in the first 2 games, and he paid the price to win it in overtime. Took a hit to get it in the zone and then showed ridiculous patience to switch to his backhand on the eventual finish. I think there might be some Chris Drury in Killorn. He scores big goals.

Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +1 with 4 shots and 3 hits in 14:08. That's the most comfortable Palat's looked so far this year. It helps when you're playing a bunch of the same guys to played against in Norfolk and Syracuse on the Sabres roster.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 8:53. Labrie and the 4th line were again, period-to-period, the most consistent Lightning line. You can count on Labrie, Thompson, and Crombeen, despite their athletic shortcomings, to generate forecheck and put some pressure on the opposing defense. When your 4th line can accomplish that for you, it's such a huge asset for a team because you don't have to lean on the other lines as much on nights they don't have it as much. Evidently Buffalo was chirping at Labrie all night about his skating or whatever. Hate to tell Buffalo, but Labrie's line was playing in their end all night long. So if Labrie sucks and his skating sucks, guess how much you clowns in Buffalo must stink if Nacho and his crew keep pinning you down in your end? Success is the best revenge.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-5-13 Lightning at Blackhawks

Positive results are huge for a young team.

TB-3
CHI-2 (SO)

Ben Bishop was tremendous, stopping 37 of 39 shots before blanking 3 of 3 shooters (and what shooters they are when you play Chicago) in the shootout for the win. There's your number one goaltender, folks.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
0:59 CHI Kane (2), (Bickell, Hjalmarsson)
9:14 CHI Saad (2), (Leddy, Crawford)(PP)

Third Period
10:08 TB St Louis (1), (Stamkos, Carle)
11:51 TB Purcell (1), (St Louis, Stamkos)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Filppula
CHI- NONE

Martin St. Louis and Ben Bishop were the game's first and third stars. Bishop would've been my first, second, and third stars of the game. Recall what I wrote after the Boston game: you need your goaltender to be a reason you steal games against superior opponents on the road in a spot like this. That's what Bishop did tonight. He was strong, poised, and confident, giving the Lightning time and the opportunity to come back and get the 2 points.

It took 5 periods of hockey, but the Lightning offense finally started to play with some energy in the Third Period. You could see it incrementally coming over the course of those 5 periods, but I think now in Buffalo in the next game out you'll see the early season fog is over. It may have been a product of guys thinking a bit and being tentative because they're settling into Cooper's defensive system, but I think the confidence they'll get from knocking off the Stanley Cup champs will go a long way to getting it going from here on out. You cannot overestimate the value of tonight's win. Looking at the schedule, I felt if the Lightning could steal 2 points out of Boston or Chicago, it'd be a huge bit of positive reinforcement of their work in camp, and there it is.

Much will be said about Chicago outshooting Tampa Bay 39-16 and out-chancing the Lightning by about a 3-1 margin, but I encourage you to compare how the Lightning did defensively with the tape of how Washington looked against the Blackhawks in their opener. Like in Boston, there was way more structure and poise defensively, and if they can get more offensive puck possession from here on out they'll be in excellent shape. Take that goofy bounce off the glass away, and the Lightning would've held Chicago to 1 goal tonight. Yeah, Bishop had to play really well to make that happen, but still. That's not too shabby for a team that has stunk to high heavens defensively the past 2 seasons.

Kudos and cookies tonight for Matt Carle and the 4th line, by the way. Carle was +1 in 24:38 tonight with a helper and was just as solid as you could want as a veteran d-man. And, for much of the night, the 4th line with Labrie, Crombeen, and Thompson was about the only line Tampa Bay had that was getting any forecheck. Thompson and Crombeen were also damned good on the PK, as well.

Radko Gudas was +1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 22:45. He was a little tighter defensively than in the Boston game and continues to improve.

Tyler Johnson was 70% on draws in 15:03. The kid line was a little better than in Boston. They're still settling in, but they got more noticeable as a group in the Third Period. They need to be a little more poised when they try to pass the puck around, but they're getting there.

Alex Killorn was -1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 shots in 17:22. I'm not sure he's a great fit for a line with Filppula and Purcell, because they're not exactly north-south guys and they don't share the puck easily. But, even with that impediment, Killorn was about the only guy getting pucks to the net through the first couple of periods.

Ondrej Palat had 1 blocked shot in 12:49. In the defensive third, he's been in good position and competent. From the Third Period in Boston through tonight, though, he's been too skittish in the other two zones. He needs to relax, because the past 4+ periods of hockey have been some of his worst with the puck that I've seen in the last 1-1/2 periods.

Andrej Sustr had 1 shot in 18:38. I'm happy to see him under 20 minutes with Salo back, and I'm enthralled to see him pass a pretty significant test by playing that many minutes against quality like Chicago can bring onto the ice.

Richard Panik played 10:53. Ho hum, right? Not exactly. He had a couple of key backchecks and actually created some chances that unfortunately got defused by blocked shots, but I thought he was significantly better than he was in Boston tonight.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 8 big hits in 8:46. You would have thought his skating would have been a bigger liability against Chicago than it was against Boston, but it wasn't. He and Thompson were the straws that stirred the drink on that 4th line.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 10-3-13 Lightning at Bruins

Mixed bag in the opener.

TB-1
BOS-3

Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the loss after earning the surprise start from Jon Cooper. Um, yeah, about that... when coach gives you a surprise nod, reward him. It's not that Lindback was overtly terrible and certainly you can't get too upset when the team in front of you gives up penalty shots. But, Lindback didn't step up and make the key saves you need in a tough game on the road, and his rebound control wasn't there tonight. In retrospect, you kind of wish Bishop was in there.

First Period
11:39 BOS Kelly (1), (unassisted)(SH)(PS)

Second Period
10:32 TB Filppula (1), (Brewer, Killorn)
19:00 BOS Lucic (1), (Krejci)

Third Period
04:02 BOS Bergeron (1), (unassisted)(SH)

It's never fun to open up a season with a loss, and I think this was a frustrating game overall. There were good signs and there were bad signs, and I think as long as the team builds up from this they're probably going to be ok. The good news is that, up until late in the Third Period when they came a little unglued, they had way more structure and poise defensively than at just about any point over the past 2 years. That put them in a position to steal points in a really bad road draw in a place the Lightning never win despite getting ordinary goaltending, losing a top pair defenseman to injury before the game (Salo), and throwing a whole lot of young players out against a veteran Boston club. Shorthanded breakdowns should be correctable, and this would have been a 1-1 tie without them if you look at silver linings. Holding Boston to 25 shots in their barn is a huge improvement and they kept scoring chances down pretty well, too.

The bad sign was that the Lightning's first line did next to nothing tonight. Only a couple of sporadic scoring chances and nothing sustained, and the golden 2-on-1 that Stamkos and St. Louis had and flubbed in the Second Period turned out, in retrospect, to be a turning point of the game. Point blank, they've got to be better. The second line isn't going to be as good this season no matter how many zeros are on Filppula's paycheck. Stamkos and St. Louis have to create scoring chances consistently and bring the bacon home. Have to. And, in general, there were only a couple of players on the Lightning I can say honestly played up to their full potential: Sustr and Labrie. That's about it. Everyone else can play a little better than they did tonight, which is a negative but also should tell them that there's considerable room to grow and get better, too.

This opening road trip is awful for the Lightning. The schedule makers could not have drawn up a worse script for the team. So, I wasn't expecting miracles right out of the gate. The key thing is to improve game to game, steal some wins here and there to get the positive reinforcement, and hang in there until December-January when I expect everything will really start to click.

Radko Gudas was -1 with 7 penalty minutes and 5 hits in 17:27. He got himself caught in no-man's land a couple of times coverage-wise in the Third Period, but the ill-advised pinches weren't there tonight like they were last season and the physical game you love was. So, modest improvement, but needs to be better still.

Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 16:26. The young man was a skating dumpster fire in the first half of the game. Made a terrible play that led to the shorthanded penalty shot and got absolutely undressed on a play where a quick referees whistle saved a goal that probably would've counted otherwise. The second half of the game he was less noticeable, which was an improvement, but when you make me long for Keith Aulie, we have problems.

Tyler Johnson was -2 with 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, and he was 61% on draws in 15:46. His line had small spurts throughout the game, but not the sustained level of play experienced in the preseason. I think they need to simplify and play more north-south next time out. Less curly-ques, please.

Alex Killorn had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 15:10. He can play a lot better. His line needs to earn puck possession more so he can have the chance to play his north-south game. He just didn't have the puck very much.

Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:11. I thought he played his usual poised game until the Third Period when I saw him throw a puck away rather than calmly carry it to open ice, which is so unlike Palat it's jaw-dropping.

Andrej Sustr was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 20:03. I thought he played above his experience level. There were moments he was a little deer-legged skating-wise and got himself caught out of position, but he filled in well with Salo out. No way in hell do I want him playing 20 minutes a night at his age, and he's very likely to get hurt and worn out with a steady diet of that right now. But, for just tonight, fairly impressive outing.

Richard Panik was -2 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 15:10. Of all the kids, other than maybe Barberio, I found his night the most disappointing. He botched the play that led to the second shorthanded goal against and, in general, he just seemed a step slow to the puck, soft when he got there, and that contributed to zero shots and no real scoring chances. Brother, if you want to be in the AHL real quick, keep that up. Brett Connolly is a phone call away.

Pierre-Cedric Labrie had 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 8:36. I thought he played his role fairly well tonight. He fought when he needed to and created a couple of chances with his size around the opposing net. He still can't skate a lick, so he's a defensive liability if he gets caught out on the ice so Cooper needs to be very conscious about that. But, in general, I thought he played his role and to his potential tonight, which is more than I can say for most of the team.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

Syndicate content