The Lightning are finally starting to establish an identity in the post-Tortorella era.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 29 shots in the win.
07:06 TB Stamkos (4), (Smaby, Jokinen)
14:03 TB Artyukhin (3), (Recchi, Jokinen)(PP)
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)
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.
Florida's luck finally ran out in the shootout.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 28 shots before stopping 2 of 4 shooters in the penalty shot session for the shootout win.
11:24 TB Eminger (2), (Ranger)
18:28 FLA Ballard (4), (Boynton, Dvorak)
16:53 TB Recchi (8), (Eminger, Pettinger)
18:27 TB Artyukhin (2), (Malone, Eminger)
13:37 FLA Stillman (8), (Bouwmeester, Ballard)(PP)
19:46 FLA McCabe (6), (Weiss, Stillman)
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.
Best performance of the year by the Lightning.
Mike Smith stopped 15 of 15 shots faced for the big shutout win. He was on tonight. No rebounds.
05:15 TB Pettinger (2), (Szczechura, Recchi)
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.
Man, it's humbling to lose to a terrible team like the Thrashers.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss.
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)
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.
Tomorrow's headline tonight: Lightning Hosed by Idiot Referees.
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.
03:46 COL Stastny (9), (Smyth, Hejduk)
07:35 TB Halpern (1), (Malik, Meszaros)
COL- The Referees
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.
There's not a worse team in the NHL on the forecheck than the Tampa Bay Lightning.
Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 32 shots and still had to eat the loss.
05:04 OTT Picard (3), (Bell, Zubov)(PP)
19:15 OTT Alfredsson (8), (Kuba, Fisher)(EN)
Jussi Jokinen hasn't won a battle along the wall in a month.
Zenon Konopka had 1 hit and a real nice fight with Chris Neil in 3:22.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and he was 27% on draws. And, again, he was awesome. Good positionally. Great in terms of his effort and battle level. Szczechura is the exact same size as Jokinen and smaller than 75% of the forwards on this team and yet, consistently, he's been better along the wall and braver in the high traffic areas than most every other player on the Lightning team since his recall. That's high praise for Szczechura, and a condemnation of the rest of the Lightning team.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 3 hits in 11:43. Tocchet has been, rightfully, ramping down Stamkos' ice time. His decision making was better in this game, but he's still tip toeing around too much.
Those Quebecois boys sure do enjoy that home cooking.
Olaf Kolzig allowed just 1 goal on 32 shots for the win.
05:34 MTL Brisebois (2), (Kovalev, Markov)(PP)
10:49 TB St. Louis (9), (Recchi, Lecavalier)
12:03 TB Lecavalier (12), (Meszaros, Krajicek)
08:31 TB St. Louis (10), (Krajicek)(SH)
Is it fixed? Not really. The Lightning were outshot 32-22 on the night. But, at least the streak is over, and it's nice to be a winner for a change.
Steve Downie had 1 shot in 7:21.
Zenon Konopka had a fight and 2 hits in 5:16.
Paul Szczechura had 2 penalty minutes, 1 hit, 1 blocked shot, and was 38% on draws in 13:39.
Radek Smolenak had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:57.
If you keep losing games where you seem to constantly be close on the scoreboard, but your play is nowhere near to par, is that not the definition of purgatory?
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 36 shots in the loss.
10:21 TB St. Louis (8), (Stamkos)
16:18 TB Recchi (7), (Ranger, Szczechura)
19:22 BUF Stafford (5), (Spacek, Pominville)(PP)
11:52 BUF Vanek (21), (Kotalik)
19:45 BUF Vanek (22), (Roy, Pominville)(PP)
19:47 BUF Pominville, (Hecht)(SH)(EN)
I almost wish this team would get blown out 8-1 one of these nights so that the handful of players who still don't understand the urgency will finally stop fooling themselves. Yes, the Lightning are losing a lot of close games, but they're running around constantly. They're losing the large majority of battles. They're not making the little plays necessary to get pucks in deep or get pucks out of their end. It's bad. It's a personnel issue, because this team has, quite probably, the softest and dumbest d-corps in the entire NHL, and it's an effort issue. At this point, other than Mike Smith, I don't have a lot of affection for any of these players, sans the handful of recent recalls. They may be close on the scoreboard, but they're nowhere near close on the ice right now.
This is disgusting to watch, and I wonder, at what point does pride kick in for this ownership? At what point do you take your cowboy hats off and say, "Maybe we don't know everything?" And I'm not talking about the whole Barry Melrose baloney. Barry Melrose is a disgruntled ex-employee with a platform in Bristol, Connecticut to spew venom and a pack of co-workers who live by a high school code to defend the people in their cool kid clique. Bully to them. The fact is that after 13 years away from the game Barry Melrose couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack.
But, you know, that doesn't excuse the fact that this ownership, full of hubris and vanity, strode into town and decided to destroy half the foundation of a fairly talented franchise by dealing off Brad Richards and Dan Boyle, and decided that they, with exactly zero experience, were perfectly qualified to make those kinds of decisions (and, ignored the counsel of people with Stanley Cup rings on their fingers in the process, no less). Those are the kind of decisions that can set a franchise back 3-4-5 years easily. They were the ones that chose to spend their money on players who were either past their prime or didn't have a track record rather than keep the ones they had that actually did. And they, it shouldn't be overlooked, were the ones who picked the guy who after 13 years couldn't coach his way out of a wet paper sack, to begin with. And, that's just a small sampling of what bothers me about what has happened in Tampa Bay over the last 365 days.
So it's not just players who need to get kicked in the butts. It's time for everyone, starting at the top, to stop fooling themselves. The whole organization needs to stop fooling itself and start being honest about what is going on right now before it can ever hope to get where everyone wants it to go.
Steve Downie had 1 shot and 1 hit in 6:41.
Paul Szczechura had an assist and was +1 in 16:26. He was also 29% on draws.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots and 1 hit in 8:24 including a breakaway chance. He beat Ryan Miller on the deke but hopefully learned a valuable lesson about goaltenders at this level. You've got to get the puck up off the ice to finish in this league. These guys have the athleticism to get across and cover along the ice, even when they're down and out and beaten. He's close though, and you get the feeling once he gets the first goal, a couple more might follow.
Steven Stamkos had an assist and was -1 in 18:15 tonight with 3 shots and 1 hit. He was also 75% on draws. And he stunk tonight. He was rancid. And Barry Melrose is wrong, he's not too weak to play at this level. But, he makes weak plays because he doesn't make that extra effort. He doesn't take that extra half step. He doesn't put that extra little bit of muster on his clears or on his passes. And he has lapses in discipline with the puck. The extra effort that I know he's fully capable of isn't there, and he needs someone to very politely tell him to stop fooling himself, too. There's absolutely no reason with his talent that he couldn't have almost twice the production he has now. Part of that is mismanagement from the coaching staff, but part of that in a player who isn't competing with everything he's got to offer. And, just because some of the veterans do it doesn't make it acceptable.
Goodnight and good luck.
The Tampa Bay Lightning have announced the assignment of veteran center Chris Gratton to Norfolk of the AHL. Gratton cleared waivers today after being put on the wire to make roster room to allow the Lightning to retain recent callups like Paul Szczechura and Radek Smolenak and to make room for veteran center Jeff Halpern, who is set to return from IR soon.
In addition, the Lightning have assigned goaltending prospect Riku Helenius to Mississippi of the ECHL. Helenius was recalled to Norfolk after the Augusta Lynx ECHL franchise folded earlier this month. Mississippi was the Lightning's ECHL affliate last season. There is no word as yet if additional players will be headed to Biloxi as well.
Norfolk's press release on Helenius' reassignment after the jump:
You can't show up halfway through the game after spotting a three goal lead and expect to beat a goaltender like Tim Thomas.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 23 shots in the loss.
06:44 BOS Lucic (7), (Wideman, Kessel)(PP)
09:29 BOS Kessel (17), (unassisted)
10:46 BOS Ryder (7), (Hnidy, Hunwick)
13:06 TB Hall (2), (Artyukhin, Ranger)
18:43 BOS Chara (5), (Krejci, Wideman)(PP)
09:27 TB St. Louis (8), (Lecavalier, Ranger)
19:42 TB Szczechura (1), (Malik, Meszaros)
19:50 BOS Axelsson (1), (Bergeron)(EN)
I give a lot of credit to Mr. Szczechura, who was excellent in this game. He seems to be improving with every little bit of NHL game experience and all the young players really seem to be bringing a lot of passion and intensity to the table. They're the lone bright spot right now in what appears to be quickly developing into a lost season, although I am hesitant to declare it as such before Jeff Halpern returns to the lineup.
I'd also be remiss if I didn't point out the excellent play of Adam Hall. Extra effort is something Hall showed tonight, and extra effort is probably the only way for these Lightning players to dig themselves out of hockey hell.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 7:37.
Paul Szczechura scored his first NHL goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 hit in 13:34. He was also 22% on draws in the game. And if you ask me, a game like that has to make management consider keeping him up for a lot longer.
Radek Smolenak had 3 shots on goal in 7:10, and has to get kudos for the way he's taking the puck to the goalmouth. He's not playing a fancy game, although he's got some skill to do so. He's playing a simple, dirty, honest game down in the high traffic areas around the net. The really encouraging thing is that he's getting shots on goal, and he's got a good shot, so the points should come if the coaching staff gets a little more comfortable with Radek and starts cranking up his ice time.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:27 and was 17% on draws. I wish he hustled as much as Szczechura does. Not that his effort level is terrible, but that extra little ompf is probably what Stammer needs to get going.