Szczechura, Paul

NHL Game Night 12/27: Panthers at Lightning

The Lightning are finally starting to establish an identity in the post-Tortorella era.

FLA-4
TB-6

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 29 shots in the win.

First Period
07:06 TB Stamkos (4), (Smaby, Jokinen)
14:03 TB Artyukhin (3), (Recchi, Jokinen)(PP)

Second Period
03:09 FLA Booth (13), (unassisted)
04:52 TB Lecavalier (13), (St. Louis, Malone)
16:27 FLA Horton (7), (Stillman, Weiss)(PP)
16:53 FLA Booth (14), (Frolik, McCabe)(PP)
19:54 TB Lecavalier (14), (St. Louis, Malone)

Third Period
04:42 TB Malone (8), (St. Louis, Ranger)
07:46 TB St. Louis (13), (Lecavalier, Malone)
13:57 FLA Weiss (6), (Booth)

I haven't seen a Lightning team play this physical is about 12.5 years. You can see, it's starting to sink in and become the new identity of this team. Rick Tocchet has found a real nice energy line with Artyukhin, Szczechura, and Pettinger, and he's got some other bangers like Hall and it's starting to get contagious. I noticed Andrej Meszaros and Mark Recchi starting to take the body more recently and tonight, my goodness, Vaclav Prospal was in seek and destroy mode on a couple of plays. When you start getting a finesse playmaker like Prospal to lower the boom, you've got something cooking.

The other side of the equation, as I said last night, is that the first line has to get cooking, and they did tonight. The Lightning are getting secondary contributions, but they're meaningless unless Lecavalier and St. Louis can manufacture a couple of goals themselves between them on a nightly basis. Lecavalier's goal late in the second period settling down his tee shot off a Marty St. Louis rebound was a big, big goal; maybe the biggest of the year thus far.

The Lightning are now 6 games under .500 and I think they now need to go into the same mode Norfolk is in: try to get this thing back to .500 over the next month or so and then go from there.

Matt Smaby had 1 assist, 2 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 12:57 tonight. He made some mistakes, but they were mistakes of aggression, which I think the coaching staff is more able to live with than passive mistakes.

Paul Szczechura had 4 shots, 1 hit, and was 50% on draws in 10:08.

Steven Stamkos had 1 goal, and was +1 with 3 shots, 1 hit, and he was 60% on draws. He might've stolen Smaby's first NHL goal from him on the tap in (Smaby got his first NHL point on the resulting assist). As with Smaby, Stamkos isn't playing perfect, but he's at least playing aggressive. Controlled aggression: that's what this team's motto needs to be.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 12/26: Lightning at Panthers

Florida's luck finally ran out in the shootout.

TB-4
FLA-3 (SO)

Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 28 shots before stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session for the shootout win.

First Period
11:24 TB Eminger (2), (Ranger)
18:28 FLA Ballard (4), (Boynton, Dvorak)

Second Period
16:53 TB Recchi (8), (Eminger, Pettinger)
18:27 TB Artyukhin (2), (Malone, Eminger)

Third Period
13:37 FLA Stillman (8), (Bouwmeester, Ballard)(PP)
19:46 FLA McCabe (6), (Weiss, Stillman)

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
TB- Hall, Jokinen, Malone
FLA- Stillman, Horton

Interesting message sent by Tocchet to Lecavalier and St. Louis by going with shooters like Hall and Artyukhin in the shootout session. Considering the Lightning have won the past two games on the road without any meaningful contributions offensively from the top line, one could interpret this as a wake-up call. If Lecavalier and Marty ever do get it cooking along with the secondary scoring the team has, they could reel off a winning streak here. Taking both ends of a home-and-home away from that vile cesspool of a franchise down in South Florida by winning tomorrow night at home would be an outstanding morale booster for the team and the fanbase alike.

Paul Szczechura was +1 with 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 14:30. He got a fair amount of ice time but wasn't terribly noticable.

Steven Stamkos was +1 with 5 shots and 3 hits in 13:17. He was really flying tonight, and he had a point blank chance in the third period that could've been the dagger in Florida's heart. He's still struggling anywhere below the circles because of his lack of strength, but his jump was good tonight and he seemed more aggressive. If they can get that effort from Stamkos every night for the next little while, they'll take it, I'm sure.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 12/23: Lightning at Penguins

Best performance of the year by the Lightning.

TB-2
PIT-0

Mike Smith stopped 15 of 15 shots faced for the big shutout win. He was on tonight. No rebounds.

First Period
NO SCORING

Second Period
05:15 TB Pettinger (2), (Szczechura, Recchi)

Third Period
11:14 TB Szczechura (2), (Jokinen, Recchi)(PP)

Paul Szczechura, Matt Pettinger, and Mark Recchi were your three stars, and let me tell you, Szczechura played an awesome game at both ends of the ice. #38 seems to live in the opposing team's passing lanes, and when the Lightning went into the trap in the third period he drove the Pens crazy by picking off pass after pass. He set up the first goal. He scored the insurance goal. And he was all up in the Pens business to protect what he helped build. Great game by Szczechura. He's a revelation. Quite possibly the smartest prospect in Lightning history.

Szczechura had 1 goal and 1 assist and was +1 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and he was 29% on draws in 13:28. He tortured Pittsburgh in those 13:28.

Steven Stamkos was a non-factor in 7:47 of ice time.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 12/20: Lightning at Thrashers

Man, it's humbling to lose to a terrible team like the Thrashers.

TB-3
ATL-4

Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss.

First Period
00:18 ATL Kozlov (15), (unassisted)
03:54 TB St. Louis (11), (Malone, Recchi)(PP)
08:15 TB Hall (3), (Jokinen, Craig)
15:13 ATL Perrin (3), (Valabik, Williams)
18:23 ATLP White (10), (Little, Kovalchuk)(PP)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
04:06 ATL Crabb (2), (Boulton, Slater)
17:28 TB St. Louis (12), (Lecavalier, Stamkos)(PP)

This was the first game where Szczechura was kind of a non-factor. He had a real opportunity to send Ryan Craig in on a breakaway when a Thrashers defenseman overplayed him on a 2-on-1. Other than that? Very little.

Paul Szczechura had 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:54.

Steven Stamkos had an assist and 1 hit and was 67% on draws in 13:22.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night 12/18: Avalanche at Lightning

Tomorrow's headline tonight: Lightning Hosed by Idiot Referees.

COL-2
TB-1 (SO)

Mike Smith stopped 32 of 33 shots and 2 of 2 shooters in the shootout session, only to have the referee make a bogus call to award the Avs a shootout goal they didn't deserve to saddle him with the shootout loss.

First Period
03:46 COL Stastny (9), (Smyth, Hejduk)

Second Period
07:35 TB Halpern (1), (Malik, Meszaros)

Third Period
NO SCORING

Overtime
NO SCORING

Shootout
COL- The Referees
TB- NONE

Mike Smith made an absolutely amazing athletic play after missing on the poke check and then going Gumby to his blocker on Milan Hedjuk's shootout bid, and dropped his stick in the process. Now, that is the kind of athletic play the NHL wants to see from its netminders in the shootout after a great goaltender duel all game long between Smith and Raycroft. And then these referees decide that they're going to award Hedjuk a goal based on Smith "throwing his stick?" It's a joke. I thought Rick Tocchet was going to beat the ref to death. He should've. Of all the ways I've seen to lose a game, that's a new one. It surpasses the baloney Chara eye-level bat-in against Boston a couple of years back. It's the new gold standard for poor officiating costing the Lightning a game.

Oh, and Jussi Jokinen is useless. Please, for the love of all that's holy, let the fat trimming include #36.

Paul Szczechura was +1 in 13:12 with 2 shots and 2 hits. And he was dynamite as usual.

Steven Stamkos had 1 shot, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot, and was 33% on draws in 9:15, and he had one terrible shift in the third period with two turnovers and never saw the ice again in the game.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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