Tampa Bay Lightning
In the wake of the rash of injuries suffered in yesterday afternoon's game in Boston, the Tampa Bay Lightning have announced they recalled RW J.T. Brown and D Dmitry Korobov from Syracuse of the AHL. Brown and Korobov are two of the team's older, more tenured prospects in the system and both will look to get an opportunity to test their progress against NHL competition. Here's what to expect from each player:
Lightning fans should be a little familiar with J.T. Brown given he had a short 5-game stint with the Lightning in the 2011-2012 campaign after signing as a free agent out of the University of Minnesota-Duluth. Brown has exceptional speed, above average skill, and willingness to stick his nose in on the forecheck despite possessing a slightly built frame. He looked to have a spot in Tampa Bay heading into the 2012-2013 season before the lockout and injury problems took his career track on a detour. Playing in Syracuse, Brown has since adopted to more of a two-way role playing on a checking line with Mike Angelidis in last year's deep playoff run, and in a complimentary winger's role as his alter ego, "J.T. Brownov," playing alongside Vladislav Namestnikov and Nikita Kucherov on the Crunch's top line so far this year. His grit and heavy shot are assets on that line. Brown's selection may mean that Alex Killorn will slide over to center and also signals that Jon Cooper may choose a more defensive-minded, two-way approach to dealing with the team's post-Stamkos injury reality.
Dmitry Korobov (pictured) will be looking to get his first taste of NHL action after signing as a free agent in the summer of 2012. Prior to joining the Lightning organization, the Belarusian Korobov gained a significant amount of experience playing for Dinamo Minsk in Russia's KHL. Last year, Korobov played on the top-two pairings for Syracuse for much of the season, and with Syracuse's youth movement along the blueline he's taken on an even greater role this year with the Crunch. Standing at 6'3" 230 lbs, Korobov's most obvious assets are his size and strength. He does not shy away from the physical game and does enjoy pursuing the big hit. He also has underrated puck-moving skills as demonstrated by the 22 points he put up with Syracuse last year to go along with a very solid +20 rating. Like Radko Gudas, Korobov is a fan of the hip-check. Korobov's weaknesses are that his skating, while adequate, sometimes suffers from sloppy footwork in his stop-starts and pivots and like any young defenseman, his decision-making sometimes isn't 100% spot-on. With the Lightning's lack of depth at this particular position, and Mark Barberio and Keith Aulie already struggling to begin with, Korobov has a golden opportunity right now to move up the depth chart quickly and make his case to stay in the NHL.
Unfortunately, some real Stammergeddon in Boston.
Anders Lindback allowed 2 goals on 23 shots for the loss. He actually played quite well, which sadly will be overshadowed by everything else that happened today. With that said, though, goaltending just became that much more important for the Tampa Bay Lightning.
17:09 BOS Bergeron (6), (Eriksson, Krug)
17:29 BOS Paille (2), (Campbell, Bartkowski)
19:01 BOS Iginla (4), (Lucic, Krejci)(EN)
For those who missed it, Steven Stamkos ran into one of the goalposts behind Anders Lindback in the Second Period and broke his right tibia. He is out indefinitely and early scuttlebutt ranges from Stamkos being out until as early as February or as long as 9 months. In addition, Sami Salo and Keith Aulie also left the game with injuries. Shortly after Steven Stamkos was stretchered off the ice, Boston struck for 2 goals while the Lightning were still in a state of shock. Really, the game wasn't even secondary at that point, given everything that had transpired. It's a shame, because after a rough First Period the Lightning looked poised to possibly steal a point or two, but Boston remains a house of horrors for the club.
What happens next? How do you replace Steven Stamkos?
You don't. You don't replace one of the three best forwards in the league and the NHL's most consistent goal scorer. You can't. You invariably have to take an even more disciplined team approach to defense and you have to rely even more on your goaltending to try to help win games. Unfortunately, if Sami Salo is also down for any period of time, that's an even more difficult task to pull off.
How do you score enough goals to win?
There are four players, on the immediate roster, that will be counted on to step up. One, in particular, should be looked to the most. It's time for Teddy Purcell to become a star. Whether he moves to the top line or not, whether he stays at wing or moves to center, Teddy Purcell will be asked to become one of the offensive leaders of this team. Supporting his efforts, the Lightning need more goals from three youngsters who are capable of ~20 goals a piece, talent-wise: Richard Panik, Brett Connolly, and Tyler Johnson.
Who gets called up? How do lines shuffle?
There might be zero changes to the roster. There might be several. The Lightning have a high degree of flexibility, and also there are a lot of variables without knowing the degree to which Salo and Aulie are hurt. At forward, you could see the Lightning attempt to roll with what they have. Purcell and Alex Killorn have both played center in earlier lives and could conceivably slide back into that position. Expanded roles for Panik and Connolly could also be in the offing. If not, the two most obvious recalls would be Vladislav Namestnikov or Nikita Kucherov. Namestnikov, obviously, would be a 1-to-1 replacement at the center position. He's not a 1-to-1 replacement for Stamkos as a goal scorer though, as Namestnikov is more of a playmaker as a finisher. If a sniper is more desirable, Kucherov better fits the bill. Another, more improbable, option could be the emergency recall of Jonathan Drouin. Emergency recalls of junior players have been done in the past, such as when Calgary recalled Sven Baertschi a few seasons ago. The emergency recall rules are very narrowly defined in terms of when they can be used and very strict about when the recalled player must be returned to junior. An early read of the rules indicates it requires 2 players to already be up from the minors on emergency recall and that it requires the player to be returned to junior immediately once players get healthy again. With Pyatt already on IR, Stamkos about to go on IR, and Salo and/or Aulie possibly about to go on IR, there might be enough of a MASH unit developing to allow an emergency recall. However, the allowable duration of Drouin's recall would be questionable and the Lightning would also probably want to limit his emergency recall to under 9 games to avoid burning a year of his contract. So, recalling Drouin is probably a longshot at best, but in moments like this all options should be on the table.
On defense, with Matt Taormina currently injured, the outlook for recalls is bleak. The Lightning may well be stuck with increasing playing time for Andrej Sustr and/or Mark Barberio in the absence of any good alternatives. Were the injuries to be extreme enough, the Lightning could conceivably sign JP Cote to an NHL contract or consider cup-of-coffee auditions for the likes of Dmitry Korobov, but these scenarios seem less likely than the Lightning attempting to move forward with the defensemen they have.
How do the lines shake out? Again, there are a ton of options. My thought, upon further reflection, is Teddy Purcell almost has to go up to the top line to play with Martin St. Louis, whether that's with Filppula or Killorn at center or Purcell himself moving to center. From there, the second line almost has to become even more of a kid line, featuring Filppula, Johnson, or Killorn at center and likely featuring Connolly, Palat, or Panik on the wings. I don't foresee a return to the scoring line ranks of Ryan Malone, but we shall see.
Radko Gudas had 5 shots, 7 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 19:48.
Johnson had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 20:12.
Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 23:07.
Ondrej Palat had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 18:02.
Sustr had 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:43.
Panik was -1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 18:22.
In closing, in an attempt to cheer up our readers, I'll leave you with the tale of another injured center, who went on to found a hockey franchise in Florida, who was abducted from a hospital room in Boston. It's one of the funniest hockey stories ever told, and involves plot line elements like Bobby Orr, a broken hospital bed, and a block of smelly provolone cheese. It seemed oddly appropriate to be retold today. Enjoy, and get well soon, Steven Stamkos.
Definitive proof the Tampa Bay Lightning is for real.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. Bishop's biggest contribution tonight was heading up one of the greatest penalty killing sequences for the Lightning in recent memory where they killed, cumulatively, 7 minutes in penalties including nearly 40 seconds of 5-on-3 in the Second Period. The penalty killers were great in limiting the quality of chances allowed to Detroit, and Bishop made sure the 9 shots that got through were all denied.
3:51 DET Zetterberg (9), (unassisted)
10:11 TB Malone (2), (Carle, Thompson)
12:50 TB Stamkos (14), (Hedman)
15:48 DET Zetterberg (10), (DeKeyser)
3:51 TB Purcell (5), (Panik)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and third stars.
Winning on the road against a top divisional opponent was impressive enough. But, more than that, it should be noted how the Lightning won this game. They were clearly the better of the two teams tonight. It wasn't close. Shots were 34-27 Lightning and the chances were even more lopsided than that. Only Jimmy Howard kept this from being a 4-2 or 5-2 Lightning squash in regulation. They just looked, athletically, to be a cut above Detroit. Think about that! They were the faster team. They were the more skilled team. And, despite the heroics of Howard (who was outstanding), the Lightning eventually got the result. Kudos to motivational genius Jon Cooper for getting these young men to shake off that disgusting effort in the Edmonton game and get them ready to roll tonight in Detroit.
6 games into this second 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning already have 10 points. Remember, the key is to get at least 12 points out of each 10 game segment. The Lightning are 2 shy of that with 4 games left to play in the set.
Radko Gudas had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:44. It might be too early to declare him, unequivocally, a top-two pair NHL defenseman, but the evidence is strongly leaning that way. Tonight, I'd like to praise Radko's work on the second PP unit. He hasn't really had that role prominently represented in his experience portfolio in the past, but he looks pretty darn good in it. When you add that in along with everything else that he's accomplishing, it all adds up to a guy who is playing like a stud NHL blue liner.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 7:04. I would say Barberio "stunk" tonight, but I fear the attorneys for the word "stunk" would sue me for libel. Early in the game, he was his typical Barberio self getting pushed out of the way with minimal effort along the wall on a 1-on-1 puck battle that led to a long Wings foray in the offensive zone. Later, Barberio mishandled a d-to-d pass that nearly resulted in a Wings 2-on-1 were it not for a Herculean back check by Barberio's teammates. And, then, Barberio made one of the worst "pivots" (if you can call it that) you'll ever see, nailing the double lutz (and looking like a klutz) while Justin Abdelkader easily went straight past him and in on Bishop for a breakaway. Barberio leads a charmed life that none of those three mistakes led to goals, but I don't think I saw Mark on the ice after that. Dumpster fire. Much like the opener against Boston, Barberio was again a dumpster fire tonight. There's no way to sugar coat it.
Tyler Johnson had 4 shots and 2 blocked shots in 18:06 and was 40% on draws. He did EVERYTHING tonight you could want offensive EXCEPT bury a goal. He used his speed to generate a breakaway. He was a factor in odd man rushes. He picked off an errant Wings pass and generated another golden chance late in the Third Period. He looked dynamic offensively.
Alex Killorn had 3 shots and 1 hit in 17:49. This much I know about Alex Killorn: he never cheats you on effort on a forecheck, does he?
Ondrej Palat had 1 shot and 2 hits in 17:32. Though not to quite the same extent as Johnson, Palat also did darned near everything you would want him to do tonight EXCEPT bury that key goal. He had a great chance where he beat a Wings defender around the corner and muscled his way to the front of the cage only to be robbed by an amazing Howard save and he missed a one-timer chance late in the Third Period that was nearly the insurance goal the Lightning were looking for to seal the game in regulation.
Andrej Sustr had 2 penalty minutes (on a pretty bogus, ticky tack call), 1 shot, and 2 hits in 12:47. He, rightfully, sat a couple of games after getting a little too big for his britches offensively the last time he was in the lineup. Tonight, he was back to the quality he had been showing prior to that game. There's a clear, obvious difference in poise between Sustr and Barberio. Crystal clear.
Richard Panik had a helper (THE helper) and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 13:43. Tonight might've been his best game in a Lightning uniform. My biggest critique of Panik so far this season is that he's seemingly had a hole in his stick and hasn't been able to be as strong on the puck as I would expect Richard to be. He was extremely strong on the puck in the First Period tonight, didn't see much ice time in the Second Period because of all the penalties in that frame, started to come on with the rest of the kid line in the Third. And, then, he made it happen in Overtime. He swooped in on an unsuspecting Wings defender. Ripped the puck off his stick cleanly. Immediately wheeled the puck in front directly onto Teddy Purcell's tape. Game. Set. Match. Panik attack! I thought Panik played really well tonight. I thought Brett Connolly played pretty well, too, showing a lot of confidence and handles on a line with Filppula and Purcell during regulation. It's good problems to have that all the youngsters (sans Barberio) had good nights tonight.
Bishop is the truth.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 38 points for the win. He absolutely stole the game for the Lightning, stopping multiple breakaways and robbing Boyd Gordon going post to post to stop a 2-on-1 chance late in the Third Period. As lousy as I thought the Lightning were in front of him, Bishop was that much more excellent.
7:37 TB Stamkos (12), (unassisted)
10:11 EDM Fedun (2), (Eberle, Hemsky)
19:07 TB Stamkos (13), (unassisted)
18:33 TB Johnson (4), (Panik, Gudas)
10:22 EDM Hall (4), (Eberle)(PP)
Bishop and Steven Stamkos were the game's first and second stars. It's a short list of Lightning players you could say had a good game after those two.
Maybe it's a function of the long layoff, but I'm disappointed by the effort from the team tonight coming off their best all-around game of the season against St. Louis. I get that you're going to have clunkers over the course of the year and good teams find ways to win games like these. But, to go from their best game of the year to one of their worst shows a level of inconsistency that is very worrying. That's not a recipe for sustainable success, and you worry about a hangover from this game. When you make that many mistakes and exhibit that many bad habits and get away with them, without the negative consequences, they have a way of lingering for a game or two afterwards. It happened after the game in Sunrise and I worry about it happening here.
On the bright side, the Lightning check into the midpoint of this second 10-game segment of the season at 8 points. That's a good spot to be, 4 points back of the minimum 12 you want them to get out of every segment. So, 5 games to get at least 4 points is good position, but I'll tell you: they'd be hard pressed to win a dog show most nights playing as poorly as they did against the Oilers.
Radko Gudas had a helper and was +4 with 3 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 22:42 to go with 2 PIMs. That's a hefty stat line, no doubt about it.
Mark Barberio had 1 blocked shot in 15:33. Probably his second best game of the season. He was very active offensively in the first and had some nice breakout passes throughout the game. The flip side is that he still is terrifyingly soft along the wall in 1-on-1 battles.
Tyler Johnson had the GWG, 2 shots, 1 hit, and was 45% on draws in 17:43. He's on pace for about 22 goals now, which is pretty darned good. That said, I'd like to see him shoot more.
Alex Killorn was +2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:10. He hit the post trying to score on a gaping cage on a First Period PP.
Ondrej Palat had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 13:32. And, he had at least 2 really good defensive plays that I noted that cancelled out Edmonton scoring chances. He's on that short list of guys I'd say had a good game.
Richard Panik had a helper and was +1 with 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 14:43. Skill. He's got it. He had a very quiet night and then all of a sudden he breaks an Edmonton defender down scientifically 1-on-1 and dishes to TJ for the game winning goal. Was it a good game for Panik? Maybe not, but they don't win tonight without that single individual effort.
The Lightning are becoming more than the sum of their parts.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 30 shots in another masterful performance. He makes big saves when the team needs them, and he made sure he kept the Lightning tied long enough for them to take over the game in the Third Period.
7:50 STL Pietrangelo (4), (Backes, Steen)
10:44 TB Killorn (4), (unassisted)
1:43 TB Stamkos (11), (Killorn, Barberio)
03:45 STL Schwartz (3), (Shattenkirk, Berglund)
8:37 TB Connolly (1), (Gudas, Filppula)
16:01 TB Filppula (5), (Killorn, Brewer)
Alex Killorn and Bishop were the game's first and second stars.
What a fantastically entertaining game between two of the better teams, record-wise, in the NHL. More to the point, the Lightning went toe to toe with one of the best teams in the league in a real heavyweight match that was neck and neck through 40 minutes before absolutely pulling away in the Third Period. The Lightning probably were ahead 60/40 or 65/35 in scoring chances by night's end, and that's no small feat against a really great Blues team that has a fantastic record so far this year. In the Third Period, it really appeared that the Lightning's ability to skate and crisply pass the puck was starting to wear out St. Louis. They clutched. They grabbed. The Lightning finally got a PP out of it, and although Connolly's goal came just after the PP expired, it was a goal where the Lightning made the Blues pay for the infraction.
I've talked about looking at this year in 10 game segments, and the Lightning really would benefit in not looking at where they are in the standings and just focusing on these little seasons within the season. 4 games into segment #2 of the season, they're 3-1-0 with 6 points, which is halfway to the minimum 12 you want in each of these sets. It's a good spot to be in heading into Thursday night's matchup against a struggling Edmonton club.
Radko Gudas had an assist, 5 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 21:21. Nice, low, tip-able shot on the game winner. He made it easy for Connolly to get a stick on that one.
Mark Barberio had a helper, his first NHL point, and was +1 with 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 12:57. He also took an ill-advised tripping call after which it seemed like he got a lot less ice time. The same Barberio critiques apply. He looks great on O. He looks scary on D.
Tyler Johnson had 3 shots and 1 hit in 14:20 and was 43% on draws. He really seems to be settling into that third line utility role. If you need some offensive energy, he can do that. If you need a solid defensive shift, he can do that, too. Such a luxury for Cooper to have.
Killorn had 1 goal, 2 assists, and was +3 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:30. He could've easily had 2 goals as he posted an empty net attempt. For any of the remaining Ryan Malone dead-enders, it's over. He's your first line left winger. That line looks to have another gear or two with Killorn on it, and the puck handling and passing play he made to set up Filppula's insurance goal was the very definition of outstanding.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:48. You can more or less cut and paste my comments about Johnson here. The two players do seem to be joined at the hip.
Richard Panik had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:52. You'd almost like Panik to get as basic as getting pucks on net right now, and go up from there. He better be nervous Connolly had a goal and 3 shots in about the same ice time tonight. That's a mano a mano competition.