NHL Game Night: 11-27-13 Flyers at Lightning
Vinny's return drowned out by the Hedmania.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the victory. He had the shutout working until just under 3 minutes left in the game when he was hung out to dry for two quick ones. It would've been nice for the team to stay focused and get that shutout for Anders, who has been playing better of late. He had a solid, workmanlike performance tonight, including stopping Wayne Simmonds on a penalty shot (on a terrible call on what should've been treated as an excellent play by Victor Hedman).
9:15 TB Hedman (5), (Thompson, Johnson)
12:16 TB Palat (4), (Hedman, Sustr)(SH)
5:00 TBL Hedman (6), (Purcell, Filppula)(PP)
18:07 PHI Lecavalier (9), (Schenn, Streit)(PP)
18:47 PHI Mark Streit (1), (Giroux)
19:26 TB Johnson (6), (unassisted)(EN)
Victor Hedman and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and third stars. Palat was robbed.
Obviously there was a very strange dynamic at play with Vincent Lecavaier's first game back in Tampa since leaving the organization. That probably contributed to a strange First Period where neither team played terribly good hockey. The Lightning had more possession, partly because of some awful turnovers by Philly, but the Lightning also got away with some mistakes that could've gotten a lot worse for them had Philly been on. Coming out of the First Intermission, though, the Lightning took the game by the throat and dominated for the next 37 minutes of the game before some late stumbles that made the game more interesting than it should have been. I have no doubt that Jon Cooper will be pleased with the 35-21 shot advantage in the contest, and I also have no doubt he'll enjoy using those last 2 Flyers goals in garbage time as a teaching tool for his young team about making sure they finish off games. Actually, the more I think about it, Jon Cooper is probably pinching himself his team only gave up 21 shots and precious few scoring chances with Radko Gudas still out of the lineup.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Victor Hedman basically took over the middle part of this game. On both sides of the puck he was everywhere. Defense. Offense. He was the best player on the ice. I'll remind everyone that in the year he was drafted, some scouting services like Red Line Report went so far as to say Hedman was a prospect with potential that exceeded even that of Steven Stamkos from the draft class previous. It takes longer for defensemen to adjust to the NHL than it does for forwards because the position demands more maturity and a more cerebral approach than playing forward. If Hedman's starting to lift up to the lofty potential that scouts saw in him when he was drafted, watch out. If he becomes a true, dominant #1 NHL defenseman it can completely alter the landscape of the team's future for the better.
With back-to-back wins over the Rangers and Flyers coming off Bishop stealing a point in Anaheim, the Lightning checks into the 5th game of this 3rd 10 game segment of the season with 5 points, 7 shy of the 12 you want, at a minimum, in every segment. They're still a little off pace, but it's a strong recovery from the disastrous trip to the West Coast. Pittsburgh on Friday is a tall order, but if they can get a point or two out of that game, you have to like how they've kept their wits about them after their first real adversity of the campaign.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 1 shot in 14:28. I'll give Barberio credit. Yes, he made 3-4 mistakes in his own zone, but he seems to be getting away with them, and we all know he's pretty darn good in the other two zones.
Johnson had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +3 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:28. He was also 57% on draws. His speed created the capping empty net goal in the game, and his kid line continues to consistently be a bright spot for the team regardless of how the rest of the club is performing.
Alex Killorn had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and was 40% on draws in 17:09. Quit taking minor penalties. Bloody hell, you're a Harvard graduate. You're allegedly smarter than this.
Ondrej Palat had a shorthanded goal and was +2 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 16:12. My man deserved a star tonight. His work to hustle the Flyers under extra attacker duress created the pass/bobble that led to Johnson's empty net goal. That one of those hidden assists you don't find on the scoresheet, but it'll be there when the coach's evaluate this game.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:08. He was absolutely robbed blind on a bid in the First Period by Ray Emery. He was less of a factor after that.
Nikita Kucherov had 6 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 15:56. Yes, he got the goal in his first game, but that was just a decent game for Kucherov overall. Tonight, he was a whole other step above that even if he didn't get the result on the scoresheet. He had 5 scoring chances by himself, should've had a 6th on a breakaway where I think his eyes got a little big and he bobbled away the puck, and he set up 1-2 more scoring chances for linemates like Purcell passing the puck, too. I'm not sure I've ever seen a prospect come up and be this quick/decisive with the puck, offensively. He gets the puck and it's either immediately gone via a pass or gone full steam on a hard shot on net. Earlier in his career there might've been the critique that he overhandled the puck, which is a typical Russian stereotype, but I haven't detected that at all in this callup. Additionally, he seems very motivated to stay in the NHL and he's backchecking like a mad man. That last part has to make the Lightning organization the most excited of all. They've really gotten Nikita to buy into playing on the other side of the puck to win back possession and help keep it out of the back of his own 4x6, and that's how a good player becomes a championship caliber player. If he keeps playing like he did tonight, I don't see how he could, in all good conscience, be sent back down to the AHL. That's how good he was tonight.
Andrej Sustr had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:01. I loves me some Andrej Sustr. I have to think he's one of the bigger reasons for how well the Lightning performed defensively tonight, absorbing some of Gudas' share of the ice time and looking incredibly poised doing it. The Flyers are a team that likes to run at people and that can rattle young players. There was no shrinking violet under pressure by Sustr tonight, though. He moved the puck smartly regardless of whether he was going to take a bump or not. Very mature.
Richard Panik was +1 with 1 hit in 14:02. Honestly, I thought he was a bit of a passenger tonight on the line with Palat and Johnson. You'd like to see him catch up to Palat and Johnson's level of play and start contributing, because if he does that line will go from good to great in a hurry.