3-0-0 is a great start. However, I was not impressed with the team's play tonight.
Make no mistake about it, Johan Holmqvist stole the win tonight with a 30 saves on 31 shots effort that included multiple odd man rushes and breakaways. He got the win despite the Lightning being outshot 31-23 by an inferior opponent.
Tampa Bay lays an egg in what was supposed to be their tune up for the regular season.
Marc Denis allowed 4 goals on 14 shots for the loss before giving way to Johan Holmqvist who allowed 1 goal on 18 shots.
No matter how you slice this, tonight's result was disappointing considering this supposedly was the lineup John Tortorella wants in place on opening night. The poor result was further compounded by more injury issues as forward Nick Tarnasky had his nose broken in a fight and defenseman Paul Ranger left the game with a minor shoulder injury.
Right now the Lightning have nothing resembling continuity in their forward lines or their defensive pairings due to injuries resulting in precious few opportunities for units to work together at game speed to get their timing. As a consequence the Lightning were outshot 32-23 tonight and, frankly, there are no quick fixes. The Lightning will have to try to get healthy again and grind it out over the first few weeks of the season and try to keep their heads above water while the rust and the growing pains are shaken off.
The Lightning were fortunate to have dressed an extra defenseman tonight and Paul Ranger's minutes were partially absorbed by the three headed monster of Mike Lundin, Matt Smaby, and Doug Janik. Unfortunately, the three were a combined -5 in the game.
Lundin led the group in ice time with 20:27 but was -2 with no shots on goal and no hits for the contest. Smaby had the second most ice time at 14:36 and was -1 with 1 hit. Janik brought up the rear with 12:32 of ice time and a -2 rating. Both Smaby and Janik also took penalties for tripping and hooking, respectively.
According to Erik Erlendsson's blog the fourth line at today's practice included center Craig MacDonald while the third pairing at the practice featured defensemen Doug Janik and Mike Lundin. Given that Torts has been adament that his lineup Saturday night will be his opening night lineup barring injuries and that the team will only carry 20 players into the regular season this may be a tip off that veteran forwards Kyle Wanvig, Mathieu Darche, Bryce Lampman and prospect Matt Smaby will be the odd men out.
A 20-19 shot barn burner. Yes, that's sarcasm.
Johan Holmqvist stopped 18 of 20 in the loss.
First, Vincent Lecavalier left the game with an upper body injury and did not return. Cuts and third pairing defensive jobs and fourth liners aside, the obvious priority for the Lightning in this preseason is to make sure Lecavalier, Richards, St. Louis, and Boyle get out of it healthy. Hopefully the Lightning were just being extra cautious in shutting down #4 for the evening.
Martin St. Louis had the Lightning's goal shorthanded off assists from Lecavalier and Boyle.
Big winner of the night: Doug Janik. Of all the Lightning d-men battling for the last two defensive spots he got the most ice time at 16:24 with 2 shots and 3 blocked shots. He, Lecavalier, and St. Louis were also the only Lightning players to be plus players for the night.
Big loser: Dan Jancevski. 7 shifts. 5:20 of ice time. Looks from the outside like he might be the one shuffling off to Norfolk tonight and Bryce Lampman could possibly survive the first wave.
Matt Smaby got 12:54 of ice time and was even with a blocked shot and 2 penalty minutes.
With Lecavalier, Gratton, and Craig all nicked, Craig MacDonald looks like he might stick around a bit.
According to numerous published reports it appears the Lightning will be cutting 7 players from their roster after Saturday's preseason game against the Caps. Here's my initial thoughts on the seven who will go (subject to change based on performance in the Washington game, of course):