Momentum is wearing a Lightning hat right now.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 34 shots for the victory.
04:45 TB Eminger (4), (Halpern)(PP)
05:19 TB Downie (2), (Murphy, Pettinger)
00:19 BUF Roy (17), (Pominville, Lydman)
01:23 TB Krajicek (1), (Meszaros, Prospal)
04:04 BUF Kotalik (10), (Rivet, Gaustad)(PP)
13:52 TB Halpern (3), (Recchi, Wishart)
16:55 BUF Roy (18), (Vanek, Pominville)(PP)
19:54 TBL Murphy (1), (Recchi)(PP)
All of a sudden, the Lightning have a power play thanks to Eminger, Recchi, and the newcomer Murphy really playing well from the point in the past couple of games. Here's the thing about Murphy: if you can keep him healthy he's going to hit the scoresheet. I remember a few years ago following Erikki Rajamaki when he played for Murphy's team, Ilves, in the SM-liiga. Murphy used to show up all over the box score like a rash when he played in Finland. I don't think the Dan Boyle comparison is necessarily apt, but Brian Rafalski might not be far off. You have to keep him in one piece though.
The Lightning pull into the break at 5 games under .500 about 9 points out of a playoff spot (that lay down in the second period against the Panthers really stings right now). They have six days off for the break before Montreal rolls into town next Tuesday. Those are six days where you have to hope the team gets Paul Ranger back and back for good. If they do, they've got a real shot to get back to .500 in February, and then the decisions at the deadline become a little bit more interesting. Yes, guys like Roberts and Kolzig are probably still goners, but I could foresee a scenario where Mark Recchi is kept, a la what the team did with Dave Andreychuk at the end of the 2001-2002 season. One thing I know for certain: the Lightning are starting to evolve into the kind of team you don't want to see come into your town as a seven or eight seed in the first round of the playoffs.
Ty Wishart got his first NHL assist off a blocked shot he was mysteriously not given credit for and was +1 in 9:43. I suppose, technically, you get the block or the helper, not both. He plays such a laid back game. Some would call it calm. Others might call it borderline comatose. He was solid tonight, though.
Steve Downie had 1 goal, 1 shot, and 3 hits and was +1 in 9:25. We're seeing the future of the Tampa Bay Lightning right now with Downie becoming a fixture on a line with Stamkos. Given the massive drop off in terms of quality of blueliners in the draft crop after Hedman, I have a suspicion the Lightning may be looking for a centerman to put between those two when the June draft comes around. The team might be playing its way out of position to grab the guy I think would really fit in with what Tocchet is doing, Brayden Schenn. If the Lightning pass Toronto in the standings, which feels like a likelihood, it might be tough for the Leafs to pass up little brother.
David Koci had 6 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 4:32. This was the first game where I really thought he was borderline stupid discipline-wise.
Total team effort.
Mike Smith allowed 2 goals on 25 shots for the win.
01:33 TB Lecavalier (20), (St. Louis)(SH)
01:53 DAL Richards (12), (Parrish, Robidas)(PP)
04:19 DAL Eriksson (22), (Modano, Richards)
11:46 TB Stamkos (6), (Downie, Jokinen)
14:54 TB Lecavalier (21), (Murphy, Recchi)(PP)
19:11 TB Prospal (11), (St. Louis, Lecavalier)
For Vincent Lecavalier, that's now 9 straight seasons of 20 or more goals. Len Barrie, Oren Koules, Brian Lawton; come closer to the monitor. If you trade #4, Lightning Nation burns the Forum down. Capice?!
Steve Downie had 1 assist, 2 penalty minutes, and was +1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 8:19. Slick, slick play on the Stamkos goal. Might a Stamkos/Schenn/Downie line be a future staple in Tampa Bay?
David Koci was +1 with 1 hit in 4:33.
Kevin Quick was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 9:50.
It was an organization-wide choke fest tonight.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 21 shots in the loss.
04:37 TB Lecavalier (19), (Smaby, Prospal)
13:36 TB Prospal (10), (St. Louis, Lecavalier)(PP)
17:55 FLA Campbell (9), (Peltonen, Dvorak)
18:46 TB Malone (13), (St. Louis, Meszaros)
06:39 FLA Stillman (10), (Horton, Bouwmeester)(PP)
10:56 FLA Zednik (6), (Booth, Horton)
19:59 FLA Bouwmeester (10), (Stillman, Horton)(PP)
In the NHL, you can never take your foot off the gas and expect a team to lay down when you only have a two goal lead. Lukas Krajicek allowed himself to be outhustled by Nathan Horton to set up Florida's second goal and it was all downhill from there. By the time the Lightning got back to playing at full speed, Florida had gone into full blown trap mode. This is something they've done a couple of times before this season, and hopefully they'll finally get the message. No two goal lead is really safe.
Matt Smaby had 1 assist and 2 penalty minutes in 14:53.
David Koci was +1 in 4:08.
Kevin Quick was +1 with 3 shots in 17:52. He was also out on the ice when the Lightning pulled Smith at the end of the game. That speaks volumes about how the coaching staff feels about Quick.
Now, that said, I am really looking forward to the team getting Paul Ranger back in the lineup and healthy. Playing Lukas Krajicek and Steve Eminger 25+ minutes a night just isn't a sustainable way to win hockey games.
I may not have much faith in this club's ownership or the GM, but I believe in Rick Tocchet.
Mike Smith stopped 31 of 32 shots for the win. He never looked completely settled or comfortable tonight, but the team played great in front of him.
05:21 PHI Lupul (15), (Carter, Carle)(PP)
14:48 TB St. Louis (17), (Stamkos, Recchi)
15:13 TB Meszaros (2), (Malone, Recchi)(PP)
16:51 TB Craig (2), (Pettinger, Hall)
12:34 TB Lecavalier (18), (unassisted)(PS)
I said after the debacle in San Jose that the last 36 hours was going to be a real test of whether or not Rick Tocchet has gotten these guys to buy into what he's doing in Tampa Bay. It would've been easy for these guys to lay down against a physical Philadelphia team on a short turnaround after a West Coast swing. They're down in the standings and they just got embarassed. It would've been so simple for these guys just to not show up tonight.
Test passed. A+. I don't know if these guys can play much better than they did tonight. Philly had no answer. They outhustled and outmuscled a Flyers franchise that has lived playing that style for some 30+ years. I'll say it again: I don't trust this ownership. I blame Len Barrie for a lot of the garbage that's happened this season, and Oren Koules is the guy whose bright idea it was to bring in Barry Melrose. I don't have a lot of faith in Brian Lawton either, as I'm not sure his philosophy meshes perfectly with what Tocchet is doing and he clumsily unloaded an entire clip in his foot with the Lecavalier situation. But Rick Tocchet? Mike Sullivan? Wes Walz? Cap Raeder? I believe in what these coaches are doing. I hope the rest of the clowns in ownership and the front office shut their yaps and quit the power plays and the backroom politics and take a look at what is happening on the ice. Rick Tocchet and his staff are building something here. Give the man what he needs to finish the job, and then get the hell out of the way.
Steve Downie had 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in a pesty, pesky 11:22. I love players in the Darcy Tucker/Sheldon Keefe agitator mold like fat kids love chocolate cake, and I can't wait until Downie is a full time member of this team.
David Koci had 10 penalty minutes in 6:55.
Kevin Quick had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:07. Other than a pretty stinky early shift, he was good tonight in a game where, on paper, you'd expect him to struggle against a big, physical opponent. He's changing the pecking order in this organization with every shift.
The Lightning finally implode under the weight of injuries and youth.
Karri Ramo allowed 7 goals on 42 shots in the loss. He was mediocre on a night where the Lightning needed a lot better to stay competitive. His rebound control wasn't there all night, although a couple of the rebound goals San Jose got came off of initial shots that were tipped on the way in. Still, you saw the difference tonight between what Mike Smith has been doing all season in controlling rebounds and what Ramo couldn't do.
02:17 SJ Setoguchi (20), (Thornton, Murray)
14:19 SJ Thornton (10), (Marleau, Blake)(PP)
07:47 TB Stamkos (5), (Recchi, Artyukhin)
10:00 SJ Thornton (11), (Setoguchi, Marleau)
17:21 SJ Michalek (10), (Cheechoo, Vlasic)(PP)
19:56 SJ Clowe (18), (Pavelski, Michalek)(PP)
00:34 SJ Pavelski (12), (Michalek, Murray)
02:12 SJ Plihal (5), (Staubitz, Semenov)
This is a critical next 36 hours or so for the coaching staff. They can't allow the team to quit or pout based on what happened tonight. They went 2-2-0 on the west coast swing. Is that perfect? No. But, it's acceptable given the rash of injuries on defense and the fact they had to play two games with just 3 or 4 NHL caliber defensemen. The team showed briefly tonight that their system can work, even against a team as deep and as talented as San Jose, just like it worked against LA and Anaheim. This is where Tocchet's got to make sure the room stays fully invested in the foundation that's being laid.
David Koci was +1 with 12 penalty minutes and 5 hits in 9:08. He got some shifts on defense in the third period once things got out of hand. When you're down six goals, why the heck not?
Paul Szczechura left the game after 3:10 of ice time with an injury.
Kevin Quick was -1 with 1 shot in 15:40 in his NHL debut. He made an ill-advised pass that eventually led to San Jose's last goal. Other than that, he wasn't bad. He didn't look timid and he used his wheels to keep pucks moving and the play in front of him. I was struck by how much better he looked at this level than Mihalik or Wishart. It's just 1 game for Kevin, and it was just 1 game for Wishart, but I have to wonder if the pecking order in the organization may get a second look now.
Vladimir Mihalik was -2 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 4 blocked shots in 15:25. He really needs a brain transplant. With his size and athleticism, he could be a world beater if you could wire the six inches of gray matter between his ears properly.