Caps power play takes Tampa Bay to school.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 4 goals on 37 shots for the loss. I thought he showed a little rust early in the First Period but shook it off quickly and nearly got the Lightning to the Second Intermission with a chance to steal points.
7:09 WSH Ovechkin (12), (Chimera, Kuznetsov)(PP)
18:03 WSH Chimera (6), (Kuznetsov, Niskanen)(PP)
19:18 WSH Johansson (4), (Carlson, Schmidt)
5:16 WSH Oshie (6), (Backstrom, Carlson)(PP)
10:49 TB Boyle (5), (Callahan, Brown)
12:45 TB Hedman (2), (Namestnikov)
Tonight's game should be an object lesson on what an unstoppable weapon a potent power play can be. The Lightning actually weren't that bad at even strength in this game, but Washington completely outclassed the Lightning with the man advantage, creating 4-5 minute surges every time they got a power play, and goals, that tilted the game in their favor. Were I the coaching staff, I don't know that I'd show the team the tape of this game, but I'd set aside a good half a day to dissect the Caps power play and use it to fix the Lightning's.
Unlike the Lightning, who channel everything through Steven Stamkos in a way that often seems forced and telegraphed, the Caps create multiple pressure points away from Ovechkin's spot in the left wing circle that force PK's to lose their shape and lose Ovechkin, allowing him to drift to open ice for goal scoring chances. The Caps can do this because they have a lot of other high quality forwards (which the Lightning can match, both in terms of playmakers and trigger men) and quality power play point men (which is a personnel shortfall because the Lightning's only real scoring threat on D, Hedman, is only really good on the rush and isn't nearly as potent on the PP). The Lightning should at least start trying to work 2 and 3 man games from the right wing circle down with some of the skilled puckhandlers they have like Kucherov, Drouin, Namestnikov, and Palat, sprinkled in with shooters like Johnson. I think the Lightning have tried to do that, at times, but the difference is they don't ever threaten to actually score from those positions, and end up artificially forcing passes through the seam to Stamkos, which doesn't put Steven in a good position to score. The Lightning have to train the guys on the strong side of the ice to be more assertive and look for their own opportunities to score, allowing Stamkos the ability to drift to open ice and for passing lanes to develop more organically. Having a legit power play trigger man or two to add another set of pressure points would be ideal, but right now the Lightning don't have those guys and they need to continue to develop them or find them elsewhere. Put it another way: until the other 4 guys on the Lightning PP can threaten the other team's PK, they've got no reason not to completely overload on defending Stamkos.
Further complicating issues was the mysterious injury of Tyler Johnson, who skated one shift and was done. A Caps player jumped on Johnson's back/neck in the neutral zone early in the shift before Johnson eventually nearly scored off the rush near the end of that shift. He looked fine, but I wonder if the pop to his neck re-aggravated whatever happened when Johnson got elbowed in the head by Bolland against the Panthers. Either way, to lose one of your top two centers a whopping 2 minutes into the game was a heck of a blow to the Lightning, and contributed greatly to what ultimately occurred.
Jonathan Marchessault had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:58. He got a lot of garbage time ice time to go along with some good shifts early in the game, and I think he continues to build a case to stay with the team.
Joel Vermin was +1 with 2 hits in 9:46. His forechecking popped loose the puck that became Hedman's goal. He's not as far along as Marchessault, but he's done nothing to this point to invalidate himself as an NHL prospect.
Lightning getting right.
Ben Bishop stopped all 30 shots he faced tonight for the issuance of some U of Maine Justice and the shutout win. He didn't have to be as brilliant tonight, and he got help from his lucky horseshoe a couple of times, but he deserved it. After getting the short end of the stick on goal support so very often this season, he deserved to get the clean sheet in this one.
5:57 TB Kucherov (6), (Sustr, Vermin)
12:35 TB Stamkos (10), (Callahan, Killorn)
13:49 TB Stamkos (11), (Kucherov, Namestnikov)(PP)
5:29 TB Boyle (4), (Brown)
10:01 TB Marchessault (1), (Kucherov, Stamkos)(PP)
Styles make the fight, in boxing parlance, and Anaheim's style is very difficult for the Lightning to match up against. They're a big, fast, bludgeoning north-south team that really puts a ton of pressure on the Lightning's defense and smaller forwards. So, the Lightning don't get to comfortably play the possession style they're used to and have to play more of a counterattacking style against a team like this, which they did to a tee tonight. Anaheim swarmed the Lightning in waves the first 30 minutes of the game, but the Lightning were disciplined positionally and with their backcheck pressure and they ultimately got their goals on counters and the power play and blew this one wide open to make it a laugher. Anaheim played a ton of games in the past week, so by the time the Third Period came they were too out of gas to mount much resistance. Kudos to the Lightning for understanding the strategic situation and playing hard and sharp within its constraints.
Jonathan Marchessault had a power play goal, 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 4 hits in 11:40. Impressive game by him against a very big Anaheim team that was targeting him a bit. What impressed me the most about his goal is he actually drew the penalty it came on by frustrating a very good skating defenseman in Cam Fowler with his speed and tenacity.
Joel Vermin had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 1 hit in 12:22. Hustles and plays fairly smart positional hockey. His work on Kucherov's goal to start the Lightning snowball headed downhill toward success was critical.
Luke Witkowski had 4 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 8:17. Had a wild night that included trying to fight half the Anaheim Ducks on the ice after one faceoff and a critical misplay of a bouncing puck that led to a 2-on-1 where Getzlaf struck the iron. He's surviving, somehow, but you can't make mistakes like that too often before you eventually get fitted for the goat horns.
The turning point of the season?
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 21 shots for the win. He was sparkling. Sharp as a razor, including stopping a penalty shot by Kreider. He really did well to correct the 5-hole issues he had against Pirri in the last game in denying Kreider tonight.
14:47 TB Killorn (3), (Filppula)
13:43 NYR Moore (2), (unassisted)
18:55 TB Filppula (2), (Brown)(SH)
Bishop and Valtteri Filppula were the game's first and second stars.
The Lightning have been getting better in terms of their effort and energy level in recent games, but they've been getting zero payoff to this point with the ultimate indignity coming on the late goal in their 1-0 loss at Florida in the last game out. That futility coupled with the sudden rash of injuries that left 5 forwards out with injury for tonight's game and the fact the Rangers were going for their 10th consecutive win provided the recipe for a potential blood bath. And then something happened...
Tonight the Lightning played their most honest game of the season. Not their flashiest. Not their best. Their most honest. They hustled to loose pucks. They threw their bodies in front of shots. They took hits to make plays. The Rangers worked really hard, and this is no slight on New York's effort level. But, for maybe the first time this season, the Lightning simply wanted the 2 points more tonight by a clear and decisive margin. The old adage is that the harder you work the luckier you get, and that rang true tonight. Killorn's game opening goal was a heinous softie by Lundqvist and that ended up being the margin of victory. And, with under 2 minutes to go, with the Rangers in a position to potentially rob the Lightning of their payoff once again on a late PP, they got the vital turnover they needed for J.T. Brown to get free for a beautiful 2-on-1 setup to Filppula for the game winning goal. I thought the team was close to turning the corner 3 games ago in the OT home loss to the Panthers, where they played a chippy emotional game and just couldn't get the payoff at the finish line. Tonight they played an emotional game against one of last year's playoff foes and they got the payoff. The schedule is brutal coming up, but maybe this is the rocket fuel the team needed to start to get back on track. Sometimes when in a deep slump, it's not about tactics or any one lineup tweak. It's simply about playing with more emotion and energy and outworking your opponents.
Kudos to the callups from Syracuse to contributing to the night's victory. Honestly, maybe it was a blessing in disguise to have the Crunch's forwards up. People who haven't seen Syracuse the last couple of years might be surprised to know the speed/skill level in the Lightning's AHL pipeline isn't what it was in the Norfolk and early Syracuse days. They play a much different style in Syracuse right now than they do in Tampa Bay, and their offense comes from working hard and manufacturing goals the honest way. If some of that rubs off from the callups onto the Lightning's veterans up top, all the better. And if the Lightning's early season goal scoring troubles forces them to play a more responsible defensive style the rest of the year, which has always been a tough thing for Cooper to preach to such an offensively gifted group, maybe this tough going in the early season has been a blessing in disguise too. We'll see as the next few games unfold.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 2 penalty minutes (for an undeserved diving call on a guy who weighs 5 pounds soaking wet), 3 shots, and 3 hits. These past couple of games have really been his best in a Lightning uniform so far. He needs to find the finish, though.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 1 hit in 10:14 in his NHL debut. He looked good. He has NHL skating ability and he was assertive and hustled well. Like Marchessault, he's slightly built, so the real challenge is fighting his way through the backwash in close quarters.
Luke Witkowski had 1 hit in 7:15. The man took some hellacious bumps and found himself in some defensive jams, but he hustled his way out of the holes he found himself in.
Gudlevskis stands on his head.
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed just 1 goal on 48 shots for the victory. That's darned near shades of the Lightning's affiliation with Springfield territory, when guys like Boutin were having to fend off 50-some shots a game. He gets back on track and one ups Wilcox who has had a couple of good starts in a row and now we have two goaltenders cooking in the AHL in a way that the Lightning haven't seen since the heady days of Tokarski and Janus. This is good.
SYR Vermin, (3) (Nesterov, Mormina), 10:45
UTI Zalewski, (3) (Pedan, Fedun), 12:23
SYR Peca, (4) (Vermin, DeAngelo), 1:01 (PP)
Syracuse punctuated their victory tonight with a feverish 5-on-3 PK toward the end of the Third Period to seal the win.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Extra hockey fun in Syracuse.
Adam Wilcox allowed 3 goals on 36 shots for the OT victory. Not surprisingly, Zettler rode the hot hand from last weekend. It's up to Gudlevskis to take the lead dog's job back.
BNG Hobbs, (1) (Robinson, Fraser), 3:13
SYR Peca, (3) (Witkowski, Vermin), 10:31
BNG Lindberg, (3) (Dzingel, Kostka), 19:01
BNG Robinson, (1) (Claesson), 15:19 (SH)
SYR Vermin, (2) (DeAngelo, Wilcox), 2:13 (PP)
SYR McGinn, (1) (Peca, Vermin), 12:16 (PP)
SYR Tambellini, (4) (Gourde, Witkowski), 3:30
My running theory for this season for the Crunch is that their ceiling ultimately depends on Matthew Peca's development. The Crunch need his speed and creativity to give them some offensive punch off the rush and on counters to augment the more meat and potatoes approach they showed to manufacturing goals most of last season. So, anytime Peca gets a multi point game, that's a good sign.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Joel Vermin has continued to evolve as a player.
In his second full season in North America, the Syracuse Crunch forward is finding a way to harness his speed and skill, as well as making a habit of going to the hard areas of the ice. The 23-year-old has registered one goal and three assists in the first eight games with Syracuse this season, and is steadily improving many facets of his game.
“I feel really comfortable, I feel really good on the ice,” Vermin said. “I think I’ve made a big step forward from last year. I hope it keeps going like that.”
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the victory.
SYR DeAngelo, (2) (Angelidis, Ikonen), 6:56 GIF
SYR Taormina, (1) (Marchessault, Tambellini), 15:31 GIF
Box score from TheAHL.com.
All is right with the world...
Ben Bishop stopped all 18 shots he faced for the win before giving way to Kristers Gudlevskis, who allowed 1 goal on 18 shots the rest of the way. My going theory on the backup job the first two months of the regular season is this: the Lightning would be perfectly comfortable signing Ray Emery, but they'd really prefer to give Gudlevskis the gig. A solid performance like that is very helpful to Gudlevskis' cause.
12:29 TB Kucherov (1), (Peca, Namestnikov)
1:45 TB Condra (1), (Boyle, Erne)
10:59 TB Peca (1), (Callahan, Namestnikov)
12:26 TB Kucherov (2), (Drouin, Stamkos)
9:05 FLA Trocheck (1), (Pirri, Jokinen)(PP)
The Lightning may only be 1-1-1 through 3 games of the preseason, but I think the organization has to be pretty elated with everything so far, on balance. Emery and Gudlevskis have both played pretty well in their half game auditions and Wilcox showed potential. The younger guys you would hope will step up in Tampa Bay this coming season (Drouin, Namestnikov, Brown, etc.) have all played pretty well. Condra's seemingly fitting in seamlessly in that lower line equation. Key performers who will be counted on to step up for Syracuse this year like Peca are playing well and the wave of young defensemen who will probably start making their way to Tampa the second half of the year like Koekkoek, DeAngelo, Blujus, and Dotchin have all been pretty solid. Other than Sustr's performance in the second preseason game, I'd say the Lightning have checked off a lot on their to-do list thus far.
Mike Angelidis had 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot and was 40% on 10 draws in 11:46.
Anthony DeAngelo had 2 penalty minutes in 18:26.
Slater Koekkoek was +3 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 18:21. He'll be in Tampa Bay by the playoff stretch of the season at the latest, in my opinion.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 13:48.
Jake Dotchin was +3 with 2 shots in 18:46.
Peca had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +2 in 14:09. He also had 3 shots and was perfect on the 2 draws he took. It's an interesting question we've had among the Bolt Prospects staff when it comes to Peca: just how good will he be? I think our minimum expectation, based on his body of work at Quinnipiac, is that he'll be an AHL star (call it the Cory Conacher level), but will he go beyond it to become a smallish NHL star (the Tyler Johnson level)? Only time will tell, but he's had a strong start to this season, which is great to see.
Yanni Gourde had 1 hit in 11:43.
Adam Erne had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 13:25.
Nikita Nesterov was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, and 3 hits in 19:41. Team high in shots. Wish I could inject that gene in one or two other Lightning players every season.
Strong 55 minutes of hockey marred by late game collapse.
Ray Emery stopped all 10 shots he faced before giving way to Adam Wilcox midway through regulation. Wilcox played well for 25 minutes before eventually allowing 3 goals for the OT loss. He stopped 14 of 17 overall on the night. Emery's performance lays down a strong initial claim to the role of Bishop's backup heading into the regular season with Vasilevskiy shelved the first couple of months of the campaign.
2:58 TB Condra (1), (Angelidis, DeAngelo)
1:01 TB Drouin (1), (Killorn, Hedman)
15:18 NSH Bass (1), (Bourque, Jones)
17:28 NSH Arvidsson (1), (Fiala)
3:50 NSH Ekholm (1), (Forsberg, Ellis)(PP)
Brayden Point was the game's second star.
Unfortunately, the last 9 minutes or so of hockey kind of overshadowed 55 minutes of hockey where the Lightning accomplished most of what they set out to do tonight. They got good performances from the backup goaltenders. They got Drouin on track early in preseason. They got some good performances from the young players, especially the young defensemen. I think the staff will be happy with the night, on balance, but you want to finish it off and get the result, of course.
Anthony DeAngelo had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 21:03. They let their young thoroughbreds out for a good long run tonight.
Mike Angelidis had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit and 3 blocked shots in 11:37. He was also 67% on draws. Productive in his ice time, but that IT was limited because the Lightning know what they have there and the role he's going to be put into. Not a lot of mystery with Angelidis.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 hit and 5 blocked shots in 18:17.
Point was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 16:03. He was also a very nice 71% on draws. The guy has just gotten universal praise by everyone who has seen him in the last half a year or so.
Joel Vermin had 1 blocked shot in 13:55.
Henri Ikonen had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:35.
Mitchell Stephens was -1 with 2 shots and 2 hits in 14:11. It says a lot that they gave him a touch more IT than some of the more established prospects who were in Syracuse last season. They obviously have high hopes for Stephens.
Dylan Blujus had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 19:30. Also hit a crossbar. Nice, well-rounded stat line. Good to see, with a nice chunk of minutes.
Adam Erne was -1 with 3 shots and 2 hits in 14:40. Activity is good. Syracuse fans should be excited to get DeAngelo and Erne into the program this season.
Peaking at the right time?
Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 3 goals on 41 shots for the victory. Bridgeport made a big push in the Third Period, outshooting Syracuse 19-7 and getting a couple of goals, but Gudlevskis was ultimately able to get Syracuse over the finish line to secure the win.
SYR Angelidis, (19) (Ashton, Gourde), 2:41 (PP)
BRI Quine, (19) (Mayfield, Pelech), 15:36
SYR Martindale, (12) (Kunyk, Marchessault), 3:06
SYR Dotchin, (6) (Mormina, Marchessault), 14:31 (PP)
BRI Jeffrey, (22) (Ness), 5:21
SYR Vermin, (10) (Courtnall, Angelidis), 9:48
BRI McMillan, (3) (Sundstrom, Vaughan), 17:26
The game got a little nasty in the Second Period, with matching ejections that led to Carter Ashton's early departure from the game for being involved in a secondary altercation.
Note that none of the Crunch's recent ATO signees, including highly touted Brayden Point, made their debuts tonight. More additions could be on the way with goaltender Adam Wilcox and Minnesota already knocked out of the NCAA Tournament tonight and Matthew Peca's Quinnipiac Bobcats down 3-0 early in the Second Period at the time of this posting. Both highly touted prospects could possibly make an immediate contribution at the AHL level.
Syracuse leapfrogs over Hershey into the second seed with the win. They're 4 points behind Manchester for the top spot in the conference (and the league) with the Monarchs holding a game in hand. The Crunch have 10 games left in the regular season, which is a nice time to go on a tear like the current, ongoing 4 game winning streak.
Box score from TheAHL.com.