Tampa Bay Lightning
Defenseman Jean-Philippe Cote is finally making his return to the NHL after a seven year absence after signing a 2-year, 2-way contract with the Tampa Bay Lightning yesterday. Cote has been an integral part of the Lightning organization for its AHL squads the last three year, most recently with Syracuse.
In September, we called Cote an "elite player for the Lightning organization" for his mentoring roles with prospects, high character, and all-around likability.
Simply put, there are players with all the skill in the world that kids try to emulate, trying trick shots and near-patented moves. Cote's the type of person and player that a dad will take his son by the shoulders, turn him in Cote's direction, and say "be like him." Even if the kid never makes the NHL, he's a player and person his family can be proud of.
Take the money and RUN...
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 34 shots and stopped 2 of 3 in the penalty shot session for the shootout victory. He made a handful of critical saves to keep the Lightning in the same area code, which ultimately made tonight's thievery possible.
0:11 NYI Okposo (11), (Tavares, Nelson)(PP)
10:21 NYI Nielsen (11), (Grabner, Bailey)
17:07 TB Filppula (11), (unassisted)
19:56 TB Filppula (12), (Brown, St Louis)
TB- Filppula, Kucherov
Valterri Filppula was the game's first star.
So, yeah, that happened, and I can't stop laughing. The Lightning turned in one of their sloppiest efforts of the season and looked to be dead sunk with under 3 minutes to play down 2-0. They had been outworked half the game. They had been turning over pucks left and right. People were demanding I crucify people in the game write-up. Tar was being boiled and feathers were being plucked, bagged, and brought to the ready. Then Kyle Okposo, bless him, decided to hand a puck to Val Filppula in a prime scoring area to make the game 2-1 with under 3 minutes left, a ridiculous goalmouth scrum with the extra attacker led to the tying goal with under 4 seconds left, and Filppula and Kucherov finished off two nasty dekes in the shootout to steal the points. STEAL THE POINTS! I expected the Nassau County Sherrif's Department to show up at the Lightning bench after Bishop made the last save on Tavares to put the entire Lightning squad in irons and make the team do the collective perp walk all the way to the paddy wagon. Thievery. On nights like this, whoever on Long Island made that deal with the devil to get those 4 Cups has to be wondering was it really worth it to now have to watch an eternity of... this.
4 games into the 4th 10 game segment of the season, the Lightning somehow managed to get halfway to the minimum segment goal of 12 points. If they can pull out another win Thursday against Nashville, they'll be in really good position to meet (and probably exceed) their target for this stretch with Carolina and Florida coming up after that. Heck, after tonight, how can they lose? I'm still laughing at the result.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, 5 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:07. Uncredited was a point shot rom Gudas that deflected off the post in the First Period. His hip check on Kyle Okposo, run to the end board with John Tavares, and otherwise snarly game was a page straight out of Dale Carnegie's classic, "How to Win Friends and Influence People," or Radko's own soon-to-be-published masterwork (I know because I'm ghost writing it), "Radko Gudas' Big Book of Making Friends and Influencing People". With Hedman out, Gudas has been matching up against the opposition's best players, and he's been hitting them and harming them on a nightly basis. At this point, I wonder if they might be just as happy to see Hedman possibly coming back Thursday as we are, if only to get a reprieve from the Wrath of Radko (which, coincidentally, is the working title of the film adaptation of "Radko Gudas' Big Book of Making Friends and Influencing People", for which I'm also getting credit as an Executive Producer).
Mark Barberio had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 10:55. You know a guy has had a really good game (and I mean that with the most burning sarcasm possible) when people submit requests for me to light the guy on fire verbally... in the Second Period. He was a turnover machine tonight (he wasn't the only one), and he also got caught at least once on a play that led directly to Ben Bishop having to fend off a breakaway. It continues to puzzle me how Barberio's +/- isn't the exact opposite of what it currently is. Is it clean living? Is he secretly Irish? Who knows, but his d-play is almost as big an eyesore as that dump of an arena the Lightning had to play in tonight.
Tyler Johnson had 2 penalty minutes, 5 shots, 2 hits, and he was 44% on draws.
Alex Killorn had 2 shots and 1 hit in 19:12.
Ondrej Palat had 4 shots, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 21:32.
J.T. Brown had a helper and was +1 with 2 shots in 17:37. He got increased IT tonight and was in the middle of the glorious netmouth scrum that led to the tying goal. Points are starting to flow a little.
Matt Taormina was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 12:23. Taormina has one virtue (and only one) on defense: if you come down on him on the rush and try to make a move around him he will hit you and put you on your back (there's your carrot, get ready for the stick). Beyond that, he has next to no redeeming qualities that I can detect in his own third of the ice. He turns the puck over with the same magnanimous generosity as Barberio, which is why I'd expect to see him headed back to Syracuse if Hedman is healthy enough to go on Thursday against Nash-Vegas.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 19:32. His move in the shootout, eventually slipping the puck 5-hole on Nabokov, whether you call it a Datsyuk or a Forsberg... filthy. Nasty. Evil. Mean spirited. It's the kind of move that says to a goaltender, "You're bad. You should feel bad. You've been playing the goaltending position your entire life, and the best you could do was still look utterly weak and pathetic and now you're laying prostrate at my feet with the puck behind you and the red light on. And, partly because of that and partly because you look funny and your personality stinks, no one will ever love you." So. Not. Nice.
Andrej Sustr had 3 shots in 15:33. I tell you, if there's one guy who loves Barberio and Taormina, it has to be Sustr. He looks like Larry Robinson in his prime next to those two.
Richard Panik had 3 hits in 10:40. I long for the day he gets a batch of sticks from the manufacturers that doesn't have an awful first touch in every single blade.
We continue our Prospect of the Week award, an honor (virtually) given to one Tampa Bay Lightning prospect for their recent contributions on and off the ice.
The Prospect of the Week for December 9-15, 2013 is … Tyler Johnson, C, Tampa Bay Lightning (NHL – USA).
There comes a point in every NHLer’s rookie season where things start to slow down for him. The pace of the game steadies, reads are made quicker, and suddenly the player’s confidence is at a familiar level to him, which usually equals increased production.
Lightning fans are seeing the evolution of Tyler Johnson as an NHLer right before their eyes. Johnson made his debut last season and started this year with Tampa Bay, but only in the last few weeks has he started to look like the real Tyler Johnson – smart, savvy, speedy, and consistently on the scoresheet.
Lightning flip the script in Detroit.
Ben Bishop stopped all 28 shots he faced to get the shutout. That there was some more U of Maine Justice!
3:13 TB Johnson (8), (St Louis, Palat)
9:16 TB Brown (2), (Thompson)
18:45 TB Killorn (7), (Filppula, Brewer)(EN)
Bishop and Tyler Johnson were the game's first and second stars. In many ways, this was a reversal of the game last night in New Jersey. The Lightning were very patient, got their key saves from Bishop, got their greasy goal, and ended up riding the snowball to a 3-0 win. That's good road hockey, to be certain.
Remember when, going into this season, everyone was saying Detroit was going to eat our lunch in this new division? The Lightning improve to 3-0-0 against Detroit so far this year.
Radko Gudas was +1 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 23:56. Add Johan Franzen to his list of victims. He hit Franzen and knocked him out of the game in the Second Period. Gudas doesn't care what your resume says you are, to him you're just another target. I think he really sets the tone for the rest of the youngsters on this team. He's not intimidated by the league, and they shouldn't be either.
Mark Barberio was +1 with 2 blocked shots in 9:23. His harrowing moment of the night was when he got stripped by Pavel Datsyuk trying to carry the puck out from behind his net in the Second Period. Like taking candy from a small child.
Johnson had a goal and was +2 with 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and he was 23% on draws. He forced the turnover that led to his goal and had his stick on the ice and was in proper position to be the beneficiary of it. Nice play. You make your own luck.
Alex Killorn had a goal and was +1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 16:33. He was awarded the empty netter when he was hooked on the shot attempt. Even if the call had not been made, Teddy Purcell knocked in the rebound off the end boards. Hopefully that opens the flood gates.
Ondrej Palat had a helper and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 2 hits in 18:46. He made the pass that led to the key goal and had at least one amazing back checking play defensively.
J.T. Brown had the big insurance goal and was +1 with 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:41. Good things happen when you go to the net. Hopefully that opens the floodgates for J.T., too.
Matt Taormina had 1 shot and 2 blocked shots in 10:21.
Nikita Kucherov was +1 with 2 shots in 13:39. He set up Panik on a ten bell opportunity in the First Period and had a breakaway in the Third Period. He's a dangerous offensive player, needless to say.
Andrej Sustr had 3 shots and 1 hit in 13:24.
Richard Panik had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 13:24. That was a pretty good response coming off of the suspension.
Typical game against New Jersey.
Anders Lindback allowed 3 goals on 19 shots for the loss. He absolutely deserved better. The goals he allowed were on a breakaway, a tap in from a horrible turnover behind his net, and a rebound after he denied an immortal, Jagr, 1-on-1. He also made multiple breakaway saves to keep the Lightning in the game before the dam finally gave way in the Third Period. I feel bad for him. The Lightning just refuse to give this young man any goal support. It's frustrating.
15:37 NJ Brunner (7), (Gelinas, Fayne)
6:44 NJ Zubrus (6), (Jagr)
9:36 NJ Zubrus (7), (Jagr, Zidlicky)
Tampa Bay outshot the Devils 33-19. It didn't matter. This was a prototypical Devils win and they've been doing this to teams for years. They let Martin Brodeur hold them in games with key saves, wait for you to make a mistake, and then let you press and make more mistakes that they subsequently capitalize on. The Lightning dominated the Devils at 5-on-5, for the most part. It was ultimately irrelevant. If you can't get a lead on these guys, you're in deep trouble. That's the way it's always been. If there's one thing I can say the Lightning need to improve upon, though, it's a ridiculously feckless power play that seemed to nullify any momentum the Lightning built up at even strength. It's really, really bad right now, and the Lightning coaching staff really needs to look at shuffling around their strategy with that unit, because they've been awful for almost the entire time since Stamkos was injured.
Radko Gudas was -1 with 4 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 25:14. He was unfortunate to be on the pairing that made the mistake that led to Brunner's breakaway goal and the game devolving into a typical Devils game. More concerning, he left the ice late in the Third Period with what appeared to be an upper body injury. Hopefully he's good to go tomorrow and moving forward.
Tyler Johnson was -1 with 1 shot, 2 blocked shots, and he was 31% on draws. It was another somewhat lackluster night for his line.
Alex Killorn was -1 in 19:49. He and his line were legitimately dangerous and he hit a post that would've staked the Lightning to the all-important 1-0 lead on New Jersey. He just couldn't finish it off.
Ondrej Palat was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 19:10.
J.T. Brown was -1 with 4 shots and 1 hit in 11:50. He had chances working well on a line with Kucherov, but he's just snake bitten as a finisher right now.
Matt Taormina had a clean sheet in 16:47. He looked pretty solid after getting the vote of confidence being made a top 6 d-man over Barberio for this game.
Nikita Kucherov was -1 with 3 shots in 12:30. I understand the fear of playing Kucherov in a game against a veteran team that plays the style of hockey New Jersey plays. But, Kucherov was the Lightning's most dynamic offensive player tonight. New Jersey struggled mightily to get the puck off Kucherov's stick, and from the moment he set Nate Thompson up for a good chance on his first shift in the First Period to the moment he absolutely dominated the Devils all over the ice en route to setting Brown up on a glorious chance in the Third Period, it was clear he was as dangerous a forward as the Lightning had. In games like these where the Lightning struggle offensively, I'm sorry, he's got to play more.
Andrej Sustr was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 17:27. He had one pretty bad turnover that I detected, but otherwise was quiet, which is good for a rookie d-man against New Jersey.
Pierre-Cedric Labrie played 5:37.