Drouinsanity returns to the Lightning and helps secure home ice for the first round.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 22 shots for the victory. I reiterate one of the biggest virtues of Bishop since he's joined the Lightning: he typically does not have two clunkers in a row.
5:45 TB Condra(6), (Sustr, Boyle)
7:16 NJ Kalinin(7), (Moore, Gionta)
14:45 TB Paquette(6), (Filppula, Carle)
3:50 TB Drouin(3), (Namestnikov)
9:26 NJ Kalinin(8), (Farnham)
19:13 TB Filppula(8), (Kucherov, Carle)(EN)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's second star.
For a Lightning team that hasn't had a ton to feel good about lately, tonight was a bit of psychological salve for their wounds. For the second time in the past few weeks, the Lightning played the style of game they need to in order to be successful without Stralman and Stamkos and secured a win against a hard working, fairly well structured opponent. In doing so, they got some positive results from players who have had a tough time of it all season who they now need to step up if they're going to weather their early opponents in the postseason. There's no doubt Erik Condra's playing some of his best hockey of the season lately after having gone missing for some 3/4 of the campaign. Cedric Paquette finally got back in the goal column for the first time in a blue moon, which is also a hopeful sign. It's hard to believe Paquette has sagged to just 6 goals after how well he played in the postseason last year including actually outplaying Jonathan Toews head to head in the early games of the Stanley Cup Final. And then there's 2/3 of the Dead Money Trio: Matt Carle and Valtteri Filppula. Is Matt Carle still a turnstile with eyeballs at times? Yes. Does Matt Carle still do some gobsmacking idiotic things when he has the puck at times? Yes. Has he improved somewhat, though, to help fill minutes in the absence of Stralman and Hedman? Absolutely. No denying it. And then there's Valtteri Filppula, who might be the single biggest source of my personal frustration this season. He actually provided a multi-point night tonight and I would've lost a bet if anyone had asked me to go in on whether he'd have another goal by the end of the regular season. Are 8 goals sufficient for a centerman at his salary price point? You all know the answer to that. But, a good postseason performance has a way of glossing over a disappointing regular season.
And then there's Jonathan Drouin. I feel really happy for both the Lightning organization and Drouin in how things have unfolded since Drouin decided to report back to Syracuse. The Lightning got to enforce organizational discipline and got Drouin the instructional coaching and conditioning he needed. And, Drouin capitalized when the opportunity to get back into the NHL finally came, which again proves what upside he has as a player. So, at this hour, both sides have to feel like they "won" something in a scenario where neither can have felt all that great about everything that's happened. Where it goes from here? That's another matter. Short term, Drouin's walking into a situation that seems tailor made for him to step up and prove he's a budding superstar. But, being asked to fill Steven Stamkos' shoes is a double edged sword that is, frankly, an unreasonable expectation for Drouin to have to live up to. Reason needs to prevail here in the expectation game. Drouin's not going to score the GWG every night and he's not going to instantly fill the shoes of one of the 10-20 best scorers in the game overnight. Fans, the organization, and the Drouin camp alike need to have reasonable targets for his performance, such as ensuring that scoring chances he helps create outpace those he surrenders (he won't be perfect defensively, some mistakes will happen) at a reasonable ratio, and that he's chipping in every 2-3 games. If he can do that, all sides involved should be happy with that, and it should open the door to any number of scenarios that include everything from Drouin's trade request being honored for a solid return or Drouin returning to Tampa Bay as a valued member of the organization (Vincent Lecavalier ultimately learned to live with and respect John Tortorella, so all things are possible with patience and if people act like adults). Anything more will be gravy.
The win clinches the #2 position in the Atlantic Division and home ice in the first round, while the Lightning also leapt over that 96 point target line for the season just 1 game behind schedule. That means they'll draw Detroit or Boston in the first round. Detroit would be more ideal, in my opinion, and they'd be the opponent if the shooting began right now, but they got smoked head to head by Boston tonight heading into their regular season finale against the Rangers whereas Boston draws a seemingly less difficult challenge against the Senators. Both teams are knotted in points, but DET has the tiebreaker because of their ROW advantage of 1 whole game. It's that tight.
Matt Taormina had 2 blocked shots in 17:01. It's a nice little late season reward for Taormina to get to suit up against his old organization and get a W against them.