The Lightning shouldn't be down 3-0 before I unwrap my sub sandwich. Seriously.
Mike Smith allowed 5 goals on 35 shots. I'm going to make a bold prediction that he won't be one of the NHL's weekly three stars in back-to-back weeks.
BUF 0:23, Myers 4 (Connolly)
BUF 1:11, Hecht 9 (Rivet, Tallinder)
BUF 2:11, MacArthur 11 (Mair, Lydman)
TB 12:03, St. Louis 10 (Stamkos, Malone)
TB 13:25, Hedman 4 (unassisted)
BUF 1:19, Stafford 10 (Roy, Rivet)(PP)
TB 5:34, Lecavalier 10 (Downie, Lundin)
BUF 7:25, Pominville 11 (Lydman, Connolly)
I give the Lightning credit for not laying down after falling behind so much, so early. However, you've got to be more prepared to play a hockey game and you've got to protect the front of your net better.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 1 shot, 4 hits, and he was 78% on draws in 9:06. He picked off a Ryan Miller clear and almost assisted on Jones' first goal of the season. No dice, though. Still, it was a nice play. Tonight was Konopka's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from overage prospect status on Bolt Prospects. So, congratulations to Zenon Konopka on becoming an NHLer.
Paul Szczechura had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:43.
James Wright was scoreless in 9:31. Tonight was also Wright's 41st game of the season, which graduates him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. Congratulations to the pride of Saskatoon on becoming an NHLer.
Blair Jones had 4 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:53. That first goal of the season seems close.
Victor Hedman scored a highlight reel goal and was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 20:48. He made a bad little turnover close to his own blueline, used his speed and reach to recover and break up a pass, and then swooped from his zone into the Buffalo zone and sizzled a snap shot right past Miller to get the game to 3-2. It was an amazing individual effort, and 6'6" 230 lbs guys shouldn't be able to skate that well. That's the second or third time this season he's taken over a rush a la Dan Boyle and created a goal with his speed and skill. Hedman's next game will graduate him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects.
The Lightning start 2010 with a signature victory.
Mike Smith allowed just 1 goal on 26 shots for the win. He got the benefit of three posts and the goal he allowed was off a bad rebound, but who cares? Just win, baby.
TB 1:03, St. Louis 9 (Ohlund, Stamkos)
PIT 17:15, Guerin 13 (Staal, McKee)
TB 14:26, Konopka 2 (Downie, Stamkos)
TB 7:11, Downie 8 (Ohlund, Lecavalier)
So the Lightning reach the halfway point of the season at 16-15-10, 1 game over .500 with 42 points in the standings. They're now just a single point out of eighth in the East and they currently sit alone in 9th place pending the outcome of Atlanta's game against the Isles tonight.
Want to win a city over? Tomorrow is the Bucs last game of the season. The Rays don't start Spring Training up for a little while. The Lightning are about to have the stage to themselves and they went out and thumped the defending Stanley Cup champs in front of a crowd of 20,000+ in a very entertaining style of game. That's a signature victory and a good way to pull the partisans in for the second half. The Lightning will need the support, because they'll need to crank it up even more in the second half to make the postseason. I suspect it'll take 92-94 points to get in. Right now they're on a pace for 84. No rest for the wicked.
It's been like a breath of fresh air since Jones was recalled and Krajicek was sent down and the roster finally took, more or less, the shape I think most of us expected it to at the start of the season (sans, of course, Paul Ranger). Having the youthful physicality of guys like Jones and Matt Smaby (+1 with 3 hits tonight and didn't mind telling Ruslan Fedotenko what to do with himself at one point during the game) has started to give the Lightning the personalty it was lacking for the first third of the season. I'm fine with it being a young team and I'm fine with there being a few more mistakes, because I think having some more jam and some more hustle helps light a fire under the whole team. This is going to be an exciting second half to watch unfold. I don't think we're going to be talking about lottery position come March this year.
Zenon Konopka had a goal and 2 penalty minutes to go along with 2 shots, 1 hit, and a 57% faceoff percentage in 8:31. Game winning goal! Konopka will graduate from overage prospect status on Bolt Prospects in his next game. It's hard not to love the guy.
Paul Szczechura had 4 shots, 1 hit, 2 blocked shots, and he was 22% on draws. The turning point of the game, in my opinion, was a second period penalty kill where Szczechura's group was on for the full two minutes and Paul was forced to play without a stick. He showed incredible athleticism to stay in passsing and shooting lanes and he actually got his feet on a couple of Penguins attempts. I think you could see the Lightning's energy level go to 11 after they killed that penalty off, and Konopka scored the winner shortly thereafter.
James Wright was -1 in 6:13. He will graduate from prospect status here on Bolt Prospects in his next game.
Blair Jones had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:13. The goals are going to come. He could've had one in the third period on a rebound off a Szczechura slap shot, but Fleury was very quick to stop the bid. If he keeps getting 3-4 shots a game, though, they're going to start going in. He's got a very good shot. Ask the Admirals fans.
Victor Hedman was -1 with 1 hit in 22:37. Big Victor is 2 games away from graduation here on Bolt Prospects. In other words, expect the new Midterm Rankings soon.
Tough to lose a 2-1 game in OT.
Mike Smith allowed 2 goals on 35 shots for the overtime loss.
MTL 9:53, Gionta 9 (Markov, Gomez)
TB 3:52, Foster 6 (Hedman, St. Louis)
MTL 3:32, Plekanec 9 (Cammalleri)
The Lightning are now one game away from the midway point of the season and still sitting on a .500 record. The point tonight moves the team into a four way tie for 8th in the East with Philly, Atlanta, and the Rangers. That's the good news. The bad news is that the team's on an 82 point pace. That won't hold up if the goal is to make the playoffs. Last season it took 93 points to make the postseason in the East (91 in the West).
Zenon Konopka had 1 shot, 1 blocked shot, and was 89% on draws in 8:02.
Paul Szczechura had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:15.
James Wright was -1 with 1 hit in 8:01.
Blair Jones had 4 shots and 1 blocked shot in 15:48.
Victor Hedman had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots and 2 blocked shots in 22:27.
Back to .500 with the biggest win of the season.
Mike Smith allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the win.
TB 18:59, Tanguay 6 (Lecavalier, Foster)
TB 19:48, St. Louis 8 (Foster, Stamkos)(PP)
BOS 12:30, Sturm 12 (Savard, Chara)
We're two games away from the midway point of the season and the Lightning have squared up their record at .500, just a few points out of 8th in the playoff chase.
Zenon Konopka had 5 penalty minutes in 7:20. Konopka is 3 games away from graduation here on Bolt Prospects.
Paul Szczechura had 2 blocked shots and was 58% on draws in 14:07.
James Wright had 1 hit in 6:28. Wright is now 3 games away from graduation here on BP.
Blair Jones had 4 shots, 1 hit, and 3 blocked shots in 14:42. I loves me some Blair Jones.
Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 21:07. Hedman is now 4 games away from graduation here on BP.
Steve Downie doles out coal to the visiting team.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the win.
ATL 11:48, Antropov 10 (Kovalchuk, Afinogenov)
TB 13:34, Downie 7 (Lecavalier, Ohlund)
TB 4:44, Lundin 1 (Lecavalier)
ATL 16:54, Reasoner 3 (Hainsey, Bogosian)
TB 5:04, Tanguay 5 (Downie, Lecavalier)
TB 6:45, Malone 19 (St. Louis, Stamkos)
ATL 16:50, Kovalchuk 22 (Antropov, Bogosian)
The Lightning played a near flawless third holding the Thrashers to 0 shots for over 3/4 of the final frame before giving the obligatory cheap goal to Kovalchuk. Fortunately they'd already staked themselves to a two goal lead, thanks in part to the play of Steve Downie, who had 1 goal and 1 assist. Downie also made a key clear with a little under a minute left in regulation. He's starting to come on now, and if he keeps it up he could find himself with a nice little 40-50 point campaign at the end of the year. Future looks bright.
Speaking of which, Matt Smaby: 7 hits. He's not fancy. He's not pretty. He's a blunt instrument, like a hammer, and you need to have guys like that to be successful. I'll take one Matt Smaby over a dozen smallish figure skaters like Lukas Krajicek, because Smaby can change the tone of a game with the way he plays. For instance, he folded up Evander Kane's shoulder like an Oragami crane in the third simply by locking up Evander, leaning on him, and finishing his check with authority. It was not a flashy play. He didn't break the glass. But he knocked Kane out for a couple of shifts.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 blocked shots.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot, 1 blocked shot, and was 50% on draws in 16:04.
James Wright had 7 penalty minutes and 1 hit in 9:31. He actually picked a fight with 12 foot tall Boris Valabik. Brave? Certainly? Smart? Lets just say that, in my opinion, a guy like Little or Kane would've been more in his weight class. Thank goodness the linesmen stepped in fast.
Blair Jones was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 14:10. He had his stick in the passing lanes all night long and he was absolutely driving the Thrashers insane on the forecheck and on the penalty kill. He's a lot like Smaby. He's not pretty or flashy. In fact, he lost his balance and face planted himself into the boards at one point on the third, which was mildly amusing. He's a blunt instrument. But you need guys like that on your checking line. See: Dingman, Chris, circa 2003-2004. It's guys like Downie, Smaby, and Jones that really have me high on the future right now. Guys like Stamkos, for instance, are not playing as well as they can. Hedman's still acclimating to the NHL. So, it's not the big draft picks who are the show right now. It's Downie, and Smaby, and Jones, and I love it.
Victor Hedman was +1 with 2 penalty minutes and 3 blocked shots in 24:16. He also perfectly executed the sleeper hold on Bryan Little at one point in the game.
The final score wasn't indicative of how the Lightning played.
Mike Smith allowed 4 goals on 35 shots in the loss. I wasn't a big fan of the rebounds he was leaving in the first period, nor the Flyers' second goal which went through Smitty. He got stronger as the game went on, though. His stats look a lot worse than he played.
PHI 3:59, Betts 2 (Carcillo, Laperriere)
PHI 9:34, Richards 14 (Gagne, Pronger)(PP)
TB 5:58, Konopka 1 (Downie)
TB 12:02, Hedman 3 (Foster, St. Louis)
PHI 10:01, Betts 3 (Bartulis, Laperriere)
PHI 17:22, Richards 15 (Giroux, Bartulis)
PHI 19:26, Gagne 2 (Giroux, Richards)(EN)
The Lightning woke up after sleep walking through the first period and really, truly, started dominating the Flyers to get back to 2-2 after the second period. The problem is that in pressing for the go-ahead goal the Lightning got too loose in the neutral zone and started giving up odd man rushes. That eventually led to the go ahead goal at 3-2. They pressed for the equalizer and gave up a 2-on-1 and then it was 4-2. Philly tacked on an empty net goal and it was 5-2. What's the moral of the story? Attention to detail in terms of defense and smart decision making is always necessary, even when the ice starts to tilt in your favor and you're going in for the kill. It only takes one mistake to set off a chain reaction, and suddenly a game you could've won 4-2 turns into a 5-2 loss.
All that aside, I see hopeful signs for the future. You can see the potential some of these young guys have: Downie, Smaby, Szczechura, and Jones. If they keep working hard and the Lightning stick with them, they have a good chance to become really solid NHLers over the next couple of seasons. It's an exciting group to watch.
Steven Stamkos had 1 shot on goal, and 5 that missed the net. Keep shooting it brother. Vincent Lecavalier was shut out despite peppering the Flyers net with 7 shots. Keep shooting it. Martin St. Louis had 4 shots on goal and 2 that drew iron that didn't count. Keep shooting it. Alex Tanguay and Steve Downie each had a shot a piece and each passed up scoring chances. Start shooting it, knuckleheads. If I see one more 2-on-1 that turns into a 4-on-4 because those two decide to stop and circle back or telegraph a forced pass rather than at least force the goalie to make a save and open up the possibility to generate a rebound, I may have to break an expensive TV. Downie, in particular, has a really good shot. He just needs to use it more.
Zenon Konopka had a goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 2 shots, and 1 hit in 8:25. He was also 67% on draws. Question for the readers: is it just me or does the swelling on the bridge of Konopka's nose make it look like he's wearing a Breath Right?
Paul Szczechura was -2 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 14:18.
Blair Jones was -1 with 1 shot and 4 hits in 13:11. He's very rough around the edges, and doesn't always mind the details defensively, but he's been an absolute horse along the wall in the forecheck. If he keeps working hard and listens to a guy like Rick Tocchet, who knows a little something about being a power forward, he really has a shot to be a good player.
Victor Hedman had a goal on a blistering shot to the top shelf and was +1 with 3 shots and 3 blocked shots in 22:22. It was an uneven performance defensively for Hedman, but that goal is Echibit A for why Victor should shoot the puck more. He's got the second best shot of any d-man on the team behind Foster.
Light at the end of the tunnel?
Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals in 26 shots for the win.
STL 10:04, Winchester 1 (Backes, Kariya)(PP)
TB 10:37, St. Louis 7 (Tanguay, Lecavalier)
TB 0:36, Stamkos 19 (Foster, St. Louis)
TB 6:24, Foster 5 (Hedman, Malone)
STL 3:58, Oshie 7 (Kariya, Sydor)
TB 4:12, Halpern 6 (Lecavalier, Tanguay)
STL 9:03, Tkachuk 7 (Boyes, McDonald)(PP)
TB 11:15, Halpern 7 (Malone)
TB 19:02, Stamkos 20 (St. Louis)(EN)
I thought in the second period, in particular, the Lightning played with a determination and urgency that is very, very welcome to see. The team's puck movement was also particularly quick and crisp in that period. If they skate and pass the puck like that for 60 minutes a game here on out, they'll win a boat load of hockey games. In particular, Vincent Lecavalier was flying, and the team in general played with a chip on its shoulder. That's the kind of hockey I expected to see this season.
It's a week to Christmas and Steven Stamkos has 20 goals. He's 19 years old. He won't be 20 until February. Think about that.
Zenon Konopka was -1 in 6:45.
Paul Szczechura had 1 shot, 3 hits, and was 44% on draws in 13:48.
James Wright played 9:57.
Blair Jones was +1 with a fight, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:27. He struggled a bit in his own end of the rink, but if you watched that second period you saw why we've been saying all along he could flourish under Rick Tocchet. He obliterated David Backes on a clean neutral zone hit and, when challenged, answered the bell pretty well again Carlo Colaiacavo. More importantly, there were times he showed hustle and strength on the puck in the forecheck, too, and his big screen on Kurtis Foster's goal helped give the Lightning a key goal that really put St. Louis behind the eight-ball the rest of the way.
Victor Hedman had an assist and was +1 with 1 blocked shot in 24:17.
We're on the road to nowhere.
Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss.
DET 8:24, Miller 4 (Rafalski)
DET 6:48, Bertuzzi 9 (Holmstrom, Datsyuk)
DET 10:10, Eaves 4 (Lidstrom, Rafalski)
What I want for Christmas from the Lightning? Something to actually cheer for. It's been weeks since we've had that.
Zenon Konopka had a fight and was 63% on draws.
Paul Szczechura was -1 with 1 shot in 13:18.
James Wright was -1 in 7:25.
Blair Jones was -2 with 2 shots and 5 hits in 11:04.
An epic collapse.
NSH 6:53, Smithson 5 (Legwand, Ward)
TB 11:35, Stamkos 18 (Malone, Ohlund)
TB 16:30, Lecavalier 7 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)
NSH 1:12, Legwand 7 (Ward)
NSH 2:57, Jones 3 (Spaling, Weber)
NSH 12:22, Hornqvist 8 (Goc)
NSH 12:50, Dumont 6 (Hornqvist)
NSH 16:09, Hamhuis 3 (Suter, Goc)
TB 1:52, Foster 4 (Lecavalier, St. Louis)(PP)
TB 12:20, Lecavalier 8 (Meszaros)
NSH 13:47, Erat 11 (Sullivan, Arnott)
The offense finally wakes up and scores 4 goals and then the defense and goaltending collapse. People, it's bad.
Zenon Konopka was -1 with 1 hit and was 75% on draws in 12:33.
Paul Szczechura had 2 shots and 1 hit in 15:59.
James Wright was -3 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:25.
Blair Jones was also -3 with 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.
Victor Hedman was -2 with 2 penalty minutes and 1 blocked shot in 13:23.
I'm hard pressed to remember an offensive effort that pathetic.
Antero Niittymaki allowed 4 goals on 29 shots. The goal he allowed at the end of the second period was painfully soft and essentially ended the game. He also tried to allow another softie late in the third that he barely swept off the line. It was not a strong performance, although the Lightning weren't much of a threat to Chicago all game long, so it didn't really matter.
CHI 7:42, Kane 10 (Keith)
CHI 10:42, Eager 2 (Hossa, Sopel)
CHI 19:44, Hossa 4 (Sharp, Seabrook)
CHI 6:01, Toews 9 (Byfuglien, Seabrook)
18 shots on goal. How does an NHL team with this kind of offensive talent allow itself to be held to 18 shots on goal? Vincent Lecavalier (-3, 1 shot on goal) still is doing nothing on the forecheck around the opposition cage, which is where he showed he was an elite player. His failures are helping to drag down Martin St. Louis. Alex Tanguay has been lost all season. Steven Stamkos has forgotten about the necessity of shooting the puck (2 shots), and that's hurt Ryan Malone because he's the type of guy who hops on rebounds and excels in scrums around the cage.
The power play is a joke right now. They don't surround loose pucks and win one on one battles. They don't make smart, short passes to loosen up the opposing PK. They labor trying to free up Kurtis Foster for his shot and have forgotten they have lethal options like Vincent Lecavalier around the circles and Steven Stamkos around the circles and in the slot.
It's bad. This is a team that is fundamentally awful offensively right now. When Stephane Veilleux is the best player on the ice on a team with this roster, that also suggests a lack of effort, too.
Zenon Konopka had 5 penalty minutes, 2 hits, and was 33% on draws in 7:45.
Paul Szczechura had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 15:36.
James Wright was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 12:55.
Victor Hedman was -2 with 4 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 19:05. His poor decision on the Blackhawks second goal was terrible, and that was a very deflating goal for the Lightning. That's a mistake that cannot happen.