Witkowski, Luke

NHL Game Night: 12-8-16 Canucks at Lightning

Shaky Lightning crumble under adversity.

VAN-5
TB-1

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before being lifted for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 10 shots the rest of the way. Bishop had shown signs of returning to his Vezina candidate form last week, but tonight was a tragic disaster. He was nowhere near square to the puck on Vancouver's first goal and he scored an own goal pushing a puck he was attempting to cover into his own net on a shot off the end boards on Vancouver's second tally. Bishop, in previous years, has been rock solid in First Periods and generally reliable when it comes to making timely saves. Not at all the case this year. Nope. And, this team is simply too fragile to be getting poor goaltending right now.

First Period
3:50 VAN Skille (1), (Gudbranson)
9:03 VAN Gudbranson (1), (unassisted)

Second Period
6:01 VAN Megna (2), (Biega, Tryamkin)
11:46 TB Drouin (4), (Filppula, Witkowski)
19:59 VAN Megna (3), (Sedin, Granlund)

Third Period
13:58 VAN Skille (2), (Gaunce)

After a seemingly marathon stretch where the Lightning barely had more than a day off in between games the weary Lightning finally had 3 days off before this one against a Vancouver team that was not exactly feasting in the standings. The team came out the first handful of shifts in the game and were dominant and looked absolutely the better team, until Jack Skille got matched up 1-on-1 on Nikita Kucherov backing up for a pinching defenseman. Skille turns the corner with a power move and beats Bishop, who was not square to the puck on the shot, and the Lightning momentum was cooked. The ball of yarn starts to unravel. Minutes later Bishop pushes an innocuous shot off the end boards into his own cage to put the Lightning down 2-0, and here we go again. The Lightning are a difficult muddle of self-inflicted mistakes and awful bounces right now, wrapped in a flimsy tattered sheath of inconsistent goaltending. I wanted to say the Lightning had lost their process in this game once adversity hit, but that's not entirely the case. They had 41 shots on goal and outchanced Vancouver. But the mental mistakes that creeped in with turnovers around the opposing blueline and in the neutral zone leading to odd man rushes and the piss poor coverage by backchecking players against the rush revealed that the Lightning have not fully returned to the structure that helped make them an elite club over the last 2+ seasons. The kill shot in this game, which was an awful turnover in the neutral zone to allow a 2-on-1 goal with less than 2 seconds left in the Second Period to put the game out of reach, was the postcard example of a lot of what's wrong outside of the Lightning crease these days.

Where do we go from here? The Lightning will be in a hole at the end of this 10 game segment, when it comes to playoff pacing. Even if they win out over the last 2 games, they'll be at least 2 points in the hole, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions are coming to town. I don't relish seeing what the results of this measuring stick game will be, quite frankly. What needs to change? A goaltender needs to start making some timely saves and help this team find its backbone and its confidence and hope that helps the team play better structure in its own end and manage the puck better coming out of their own end.

Brayden Point was +1 with 5 shots in 15:32. Instincts are good. Skill level is good. Shot isn't NHL caliber yet. His release is plenty quick, but he doesn't have the steam to score on NHL goaltenders consistently. Give him a summer or two to work on it and he'll start putting away 20-30 a season easy, I think.

Luke Witkowski had a helper and 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:45. Congratulations to Witkowski on earning his first NHL point.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:49.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 12-4-16 Lightning at Hurricanes

Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.

TB-0
CAR-1

Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)

Bishop was the game's third star.

The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.

Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.

Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.

Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.

Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-3-16 Capitals at Lightning

Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.

WSH-1
TB-2 (SO)

Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)

Third Period
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
WSH- Kuznetsov
TB- Point, Boyle

Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.

There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.

Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.

Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.

Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-29-16 Lightning at Blue Jackets

The desperate search for rock bottom continues.

TB-1
CBJ-5

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.

First Period
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)

Second Period
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)

Third Period
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)

You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.

What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.

I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.

Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.

Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.

Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-25-16 Blue Jackets at Lightning

Thanksgiving hangover dooms Lightning.

CBJ-5
TB-3

Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. You couldn't fault him on the first four goals, but the lack of concentration on Columbus' Third Period insurance marker was... troubling.

First Period
3:46 CBJ Wennberg (4), (Saad, Johnson)
8:35 CBJ Foligno (8), (Atkinson, Werenski)

Second Period
8:33 TB Kucherov (11), (Johnson, Palat)
9:02 CBJ Anderson (6), (Hartnell)
18:28 TB Garrison (1), (Filppula, Witkowski)

Third Period
3:37 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)
4:34 CBJ Saad (5), (Wennberg)
11:13 CBJ Atkinson (8), (unassisted)(SH)

Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.

As was the case in Syracuse's game, a Lightning Thanksgiving hangover at home was predictable, but nonetheless unacceptable. Columbus flat out dominated a flat Lightning team in the First Period to stake a 2-0 lead, and with a crossbar and post thrown in, it could've been 4-0. The Lightning showed resiliency to battle back the rest of the game, but their defensemen as a group played the dumbest game they've probably played in years. Some of the turnovers and weak plays along the wall they made were just unbelievable for a group with the experience and pedigree of these players. Ultimately, a soft play in the corner by Garrison led to Saad's eventual game winner and an unbelievable turnover by Hedman on the PP led to Atkinson's insurance goal. Tack that on to about a half dozen idiotic mistakes by Nikita Nesterov and other turnovers by Coburn and Sustr that could've led to goals against versus a more skilled team, and you have a classic example of why I wouldn't be a good coach. Because, simply put, I'd be in jail right now for strangling the whole bloody lot of them. Idiotic. Dumb. Moronish. Brain dead. Imbecilic. Pathetic.

Get well soon, Anton Stralman, because I can't take another night of THAT.

Brayden Point was -1 in 12:42.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with his first NHL assist and 2 penalty minutes in 8:26.

Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:31. He and Witkowski might've been the only Lightning d-men tonight who didn't make a completely boneheaded mistake at some point.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 11-23-16 Flyers at Lightning

Lightning eventually lap overmatched Flyers.

PHI-2
TB-4

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. Both the goals he allowed were subpar short side goals and the first one, in particular, was an inexcusable softie. But, he ultimately staunched the bleeding at that second goal and made a spate of timely stops as the night rolled on to eventually give the team the chance to pull out the win.

First Period
19:57 TB Hedman (4), (Palat, Point)(PP)

Second Period
6:06 PHI Weise (2), (VandeVelde, Provorov)
19:05 PHI Provorov (1), (Read, Streit)

Third Period
13:28 TB Killorn (8), (Koekkoek, Namestnikov)
13:40 TB Callahan (2), (Point, Johnson)
18:45 TB Kucherov (10), (Filppula, Palat)

Ryan Callahan and Alex Killorn were the game's first and second stars.

Really, this was a three act play with the common thread running throughout all of it that the Lightning just have an overall higher talent level than Philly that eventually broke through. The Lightning absolutely dominated the First Period despite a lack of crispness in their passing and handling of the puck. The Flyers looked really loose in the neutral zone and were allowing Tampa Bay a lot of speed and odd man rushes, and it seemed a matter of time before Tampa Bay would start running up the score. Philly allowed a late power play goal in the frame to fall behind 1-0 and really should've counted themselves lucky, because Mason had more than one fortunate save/bounce over the course of the evening. The Lightning got a little too fat/happy with themselves in the Second Period and let off the gas a little which allowed the Flyers to run up a large shot advantage in the middle frame although very few really scoring chances came with those shots. But, the Lightning eventually conceded the lead on the softie off the rush allowed to Weise and later Kucherov losing his man off a faceoff loss late in the period on Provorov's goal. The Third Period then became a reprise of the First Period, with the exception that the Lightning started to bear down and focus on their finishing. Three quick goals later Philly was doubled up and dispirited and Mason's luck had fully run out. It really was a matter of time. The Flyers were a hot mess defensively in the neutral zone all night long, and between that and a lot of turnovers under forechecking duress by their defense, a melt down looked inevitable. That's just a bad hockey team, defensively.

Brayden Point had 2 helpers, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 13:35. Made a really good look to Callahan on the goal on a quick change turnover to give the Lightning the eventual game winner.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:36. Played a rough and tumble game. He took some big hits and he handed out some big hits.

Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +2 with 1 hit in 7:32. Took a big pop in the First Period that may have contributed to his diminished ice time. Eventually, though, his jumping into the rush was a key part of Killorn's equalizing goal.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Day: 11-19-16 Lightning at Flyers

There will be kittens on Graduation Day.

TB-3
PHI-0

Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots he faced for the shutout in a commanding performance that allowed the Lightning to overcome a 32-18 shot deficit. Vasilevskiy's win was his 41st NHL decision, officially graduating him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. And, given how well he's played over the past couple of games, we can't help but feel like Andrei's doing a lot to validate our graduation methodology at the moment. He's clearly all grown up now.

First Period
14:25 TB Johnson (6), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)

Second Period
7:40 TB Palat (3), (Namestnikov)

Third Period
4:26 TB Drouin (3), (Palat)

Vasilevskiy, Ondrej Palat, and Victor Hedman were the game's three stars.

It's very heartening to see the Lightning make such a seamless readjustment to their game in light of the injuries to Stralman and Stamkos. They needed to adopt a more low-scoring game that relies in part on goaltending and attention to defensive detail. This road trip has seen a return to a lot of the basics that have made the Lightning successful over the past three years, along with some slump-busting by the likes of Tyler Johnson and Palat and the return of Jonathan Drouin from injury. In other words, a lot of the pieces that would have been prerequisites I would have named off for weathering the storm and being met.

Today's victory clinches a successful second 10-game segment of the season, and the Lightning have already secured 1 insurance point with 1 more game left in the segment. This is good. Without Stamkos, the Lightning likely won't be as consistent in the goal scoring department. So, having insurance points socked away will be important for when the team hits speed bumps along the way to March/April.

Brayden Point had 1 hit in 4:16. The low ice time came from a very nasty cut he took on his lip that required a significant amount of stitches. If women do indeed dig scars, Brayden Point is about to become a stinking matinee idol.

Luke Witkowski had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:06.

Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 hits in 10:45.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 10-1-16 Lightning at Predators

Fourth game in five nights for the barnstorming Lightning.

TB-3
NSH-4

Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 26 shots for the loss.

First Period
5:54 TB Nesterov (1), (Filppula, Drouin)
19:25 NSH Fisher (1), (Neal, Subban)

Second Period
5:56 NSH Subban (1), (Ribeiro)(PP)
12:37 NSH Ribeiro (1), (Forsberg)(PP)
15:18 TB Filppula (1), (Bishop, Wisniewski)

Third Period
3:07 TB Conacher (1), (unassisted)
15:37 NSH Bass (1), (Neal)

I'm having flashbacks of when Koules and Barrie owned the team and they signed up for a zillion preseason games every year to try to make a little extra scratch because they were so strapped. That's not the case with Vinik, but this is just a lot of games and a lot of travel in the span of less than a week.

Centers
Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 14:20. He was also 46% on 13 draws.

Mitchell Stephens had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:07. He was also 38% on 8 draws. Kind of interesting to see him play center rather than wing, which may be the better fit for him as a pro.

Wingers
Yanni Gourde had 1 hit in 12:16.

Jeremy Morin had 1 shot in 9:10.

Defensement
Slater Koekkoek had 1 hit and 2 blocked shots in 20:13. I need to go back and add up all his ice time this week, but suffice it to say he might deserve some sort of iron man trophy. Tonight the Lightning decided to give him a full load after easing him in with the mid teens of minutes earlier in the week. 3 games in 5 nights is still a lot of work.

Luke Witkowski was +1 with 11 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 14:12. Witkowski also deserves an iron man trophy of his own.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-30-16

Lightning miss a second straight preseason shutout by an eyelash.

TB-2
CAR-1 (OT)

Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed just 1 goal on 28 shots for the OT win. The lone blemish was a goal surrendered in a 6-on-4 situation with 1:05 left in regulation. If the performances of the past two nights by Gudlevskis and Vasilevskiy are any indication, Yzerman might have the flexibility he needs if he does choose to move Ben Bishop for cap reasons.

First Period
5:21 TB Johnson (1), (Palat, Nesterov)[/b]

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
18:55 CAR Skinner (2), (DiGiuseppe, Rask)

Overtime
1:38 TB Palat (1), (unassisted)

Ondrej Palat and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars, as the usual suspects start to calibrate their game for the regular season.

Very interesting lineup tonight from the Lightning and a pleasantly surprising performance. Tonight's group mixed in more NHL forwards, at least on the wings, but they pretty much went with Syracuse's defensive corps plus Nikita Nesterov, who may be a bubble player in this camp. It helps when you have Vasilevskiy behind you, but to almost get a shutout with that group is not too shabby.

Centers
Tanner Richard had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 17:35. He was also 33% on 12 draws. Please, Jeff Halpern, teach these kids to win faceoffs.

Brayden Point had 4 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 16:09. He was also 33% on 9 draws. Sorry, son, you don't get to score a goal every game.

Cam Darcy had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 11:31 and was 30% on 10 draws. PLEASE, Jeff Halpern, teach these kids to win faceoffs.

Wingers
Joel Vermin had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:44.

Gabriel Dumont had 1 shot, 4 hits, and 4 blocked shots in 14:02. For a guy who didn't score, his stat line still looks quite active, I have to say.

Henri Ikonen had 1 blocked shot in 14:15. The window is closing on the young Finn.

Brian Hart had 4 hits in 10:14. He then hit someone with an aluminum chair and put them in the Sharpshooter.

Defensemen
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 4 hits and 2 blocked shots in 21:10. He's not giving any quarter in camp to anybody.

Dominik Masin had 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 2 hits in 19:55.

Matt Taormina had 1 shot in 19:46.

Dylan Blujus had 3 blocked shots in 19:29.

Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots in 19:10.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Preseason Game Night: 9-27-16 Hurricanes at Lightning

Valiant Third Period comeback bid by Junior Lightning gives hope for the future.

CAR-3
TB-2

Kristers Gudlevskis allowed 2 goals on 23 shots before giving way to Adam Wilcox, who allowed 1 goal on 15 shots for ye old backdoor loss. It was a respectable outing for both netminders who get additional time thanks to the World Cup of Hockey.

First Period
19:07 CAR Br. Sutter (1), (Foegele)

Second Period
10:26 CAR Wallmark (1), (Kuokkanen)
11:28 CAR Skinner (1), (Stempniak, Pesce)

Third Period
11:28 TB Point (1), (Johnson, Hajek)
18:41 TB Imama (1), (Vermin, Cerelli)

Brayden Point was the game's third star.

This is going to be a strange camp/preseason because of it being chopped up by the WCOH. The silver lining is some extra time for potential future contributors like Point, who didn't embarrass themselves tonight. Among those prospects, the ice time was as follows, revealing more who the organization wanted to take a long early look at for the future than who they trust and are thinking about from an NHL roster standpoint for this season...

Centers

Brett Howden was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 17:50. He was also 44% on 9 draws.

Point had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:38. He was also 57% on 7 draws.

Anthony Cirelli had a helper and 1 shot in 15:36. He was also 39% on 18 draws.

Wingers
Joel Vermin had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 15:19.

Mathieu Joseph had 1 shot and 1 hit in 15:04.

Dennis Yan had 2 penalty minutes in 12:40.

Boko Imama had 1 goal, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 10:28. He also killed 0 Hurricanes with his fists... this time.

Defensemen
Libor Hajek had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in a hefty 20:45.

Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 18:59.

Matthew Spencer was -1 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 18:51.

Slater Koekkoek had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 16:23.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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