Lightning's season dies in the desert.
8:05 ARI Reider (9), (Vrbata, Ekman-Larsson)
10:19 ARI Vrbata (11), (Hanzal, Reider)
18:39 TB Paquette (4), (Dumont, Bournival)
14:56 ARI Stone (1), (Hanzal, Vrbata)(PP)
18:25 ARI Fischer (1), (McGinn, Burmistrov)
19:44 ARI Hanzal (10), (Vrbata, Reider)
9:45 TB Namestnikov (6), (Filppula, Palat)
14:18 TB Palat (10), (Johnson, Nesterov)(PP)
Tampa Bay outshot Arizona by a very significant 48-23 margin, but that only underlines what a mess the team's goaltending has been this season. Bishop allowed two of the softest goals you'll see in your life in the First Period to put his team down 2-0, and lookee there, the team lost the game 5-3. Soft goals, as they often are, turn out to be the margin of error. Unfortunately, the Lightning have had a soft goal or questionable goaltending gaffe in each game of the current road trip, which is horribly demoralizing to a team. When you have to work twice as hard as the other team for a goal because your goaltending is faulty, it robs your team of its spirit. It really does.
The calculus now is pretty much impossible to overcome, to the extent that I'm ready to write the team's eulogy. They'd have to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to get back on playoff pace, and that seems impossible given all the challenges the team is facing. The goaltending has been disappointing all season long. The center play has been steadily devolving since Steven Stamkos and subsequently Brayden Point got injured earlier in the season. Key forwards like "The Triplets" have suddenly gone missing on the scoresheet over the past several weeks. And, the defense continues to struggle to compensate for the team's inability to consistently play its possession style game and against the counters they routinely face when that style goes off the rails.
The Lightning have an excellent core of their hockey team, in general, and a rebuild is certainly not warranted. But, a serious in-season evaluation and a retooling is definitely in order. Bottom line, this team probably has one goaltending move, two or three moves on the blueline, and three or four moves at forward to make. Not big moves, in all cases, but necessary moves. If done shrewdly, and if the Lightning can get a little more luck with injuries in 2018-2019, there's little to suggest this year won't just be a little bump in the road and not a sinkhole.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06.
Jake Dotchin was -1 with 4 hits in 11:47 in his NHL debut.
Gabriel Dumont had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:53. He was also 71% on 7 draws. His game tonight was the continuation of a fantastic road trip by the line of Paquette/Dumont/Bournival, which along with the play of Jonathan Drouin has been the real bright spot of going out west.