NHL Game Night 12/4: Bruins at Lightning
I know about six veterans players on this team who skated with their heads up their butts in this game.
Mike Smith allowed 2 goals on 25 shots in the loss.
01:21 TB St. Louis (6), (Lecavalier, Malone)
12:21 Kessel (14), (Savard, Lucic)
08:17 BOS Krejci (8), (Wheeler)(SH)
19:59 BOS Kessel (15), (Savard, Hunwick)(EN)
It is an indictment of the veterans on this club that in the third period of a tight game the one glowing shift of any line was by Smolenak/Szczechura/Downie. I'm seeing veterans have mental lapses that you would expect come from the rookies, and I'm seeing millionaires consistently lose races to loose pucks that these rookies who are making near league minimum are legging out. It's a lack of focus. It's a lack of attention to detail. It's mental and physical laziness, and it's unacceptable.
Rick Tocchet, do you want to send a message to your team about accountability? I know you played with Mark Recchi, and I imagine you're buddies. Heck, you're probably one of the guys who talked him into coming to Tampa. I know this isn't easy, and that's the reason you have to do it: Recchi's got to sit. He's absolutely, positively got to sit. It's not just the one mistake shorthanded but it's a string of about three or four weak plays in the neutral zone or just inside the opposing blueline that would get any one of the kids you have up from the AHL right now a plane ticket straight back to Norfolk. It's a leadership moment. Pull the trigger. Recchi's got to sit. You want to be an NHL coach? He's got to be in the pressbox for the next game.
All that unpleasantness aside, we can turn to the quality play of four out of five of the prospects the Lightning had in this game, headlined by young Steve Downie who might've had his best game in a Lightning jersey. He set up Smolenak for a partial breakaway in the second period and then was returned the favor in the third by Smaby in a rush where he ended up toppling the goaltender over. More than that, here is a young player who understands that you have to hustle to loose pucks on the forecheck (novel concept, I know). And you know, for a smallish guy, he's surprisingly strong on the puck. He definitely played above his weightclass tonight along the wall.
Radek Smolenak hit a crossbar in the first period and got a partial breakaway in the second period where he didn't quite have the speed to pull away and get a shot off. On the crossbar shot, Smolenak once again showed he has a wicked quick release and an NHL caliber shot. He can snap it off, no doubt. On the breakway, you saw that he is a quarter step slow and he does need to still work on his skating.
Paul Szczechura, at the very least, bailed Mike Smith out in the third period on a puckhandling gaffe that would've been in the back of the net were it not by a timely backcheck from the young center. He continues to play very smart positionally and make the correct, simple play. It's a shame some of the vets on this team are too busy counting their money to follow suit.
Finally, Matt Smaby, who was called up yesterday, recovered from a slow tentative first period to really make an impact in the second period. When he finally stopped tip toeing around and started mixing it up physically, the big defenseman started to get into the speed and flow of the game and his decision making starter to catch up with the NHL pace. He didn't see a whole lot of ice time in a tight third period, due in part to an unforced error on a bad decision with the puck in his own end that prolonged Boston's zone time on a shift early in the frame. But, I don't think he looked out of his depth at all, and I think he gave Tocchet something he's looking for: a defenseman who will lay the wood to oncoming forwards.
Steve Downie had 3 shots and 2 hits in 11:34.
Matt Smaby had 5 hits and 2 blocked shots in 11:33.
Paul Szczechura had 3 shots, 1 blocked shot, and was 40% on draws in 11:45.
Radek Smolenak had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:01.
Steven Stamkos was -1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:17. He was also 17% on draws. I thought he took a step backward tonight. I'd like to see an energy guy like Downie get some more shifts with him, because that seemed to trigger some things in the Flyers game.