Konopka, Zenon

NHL Game Night: 12-23-09 Flyers at Lightning

The final score wasn't indicative of how the Lightning played.

PHI-5
TB-2

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.

First Period
PHI 3:59, Betts 2 (Carcillo, Laperriere)
PHI 9:34, Richards 14 (Gagne, Pronger)(PP)

Second Period
TB 5:58, Konopka 1 (Downie)
TB 12:02, Hedman 3 (Foster, St. Louis)

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-18-09 Lightning at Blues

Light at the end of the tunnel?

TB-6
STL-3

Antero Niittymaki allowed 3 goals in 26 shots for the win.

First Period
STL 10:04, Winchester 1 (Backes, Kariya)(PP)
TB 10:37, St. Louis 7 (Tanguay, Lecavalier)

Second Period
TB 0:36, Stamkos 19 (Foster, St. Louis)
TB 6:24, Foster 5 (Hedman, Malone)

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-17-09 Lightning at Red Wings

We're on the road to nowhere.

TB-0
DET-3

Mike Smith allowed 3 goals on 22 shots for the loss.

First Period
DET 8:24, Miller 4 (Rafalski)

Second Period
NO SCORING

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-15-09 Lightning at Predators

An epic collapse.

TB-4
NSH-7

Antero Niittymaki allowed 4 goals on 14 shots before giving way to Mike Smith who allowed 3 goals on 13 shots for the back door loss in relief.

First Period
NSH 6:53, Smithson 5 (Legwand, Ward)
TB 11:35, Stamkos 18 (Malone, Ohlund)
TB 16:30, Lecavalier 7 (Foster, St. Louis)(PP)

Second Period
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)

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

NHL Game Night: 12-13-09 Lightning at Blackhawks

I'm hard pressed to remember an offensive effort that pathetic.

TB-0
CHI-4

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.

First Period
CHI 7:42, Kane 10 (Keith)

Second Period
CHI 10:42, Eager 2 (Hossa, Sopel)
CHI 19:44, Hossa 4 (Sharp, Seabrook)

Third Period
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.

Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.

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