Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning outlast Caps in a track meet.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 38 shots for the victory. You could make a very strong argument he was the difference tonight, slamming the door in the Third Period once the Lightning scored their 4th, and ultimately decisive, goal.
6:06 TB Callahan (4), (Boyle)
12:59 WSH Johansson (4), (Ovechkin, Kuznetsov)
2:11 WSH Fehr (1), (Chimera, Carlson)
9:29 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Johnson)
12:12 TB Kucherov (5), (Brewer, Johnson)
19:01 WSH Brouwer (3), (Johansson, Backstrom)(PP)
2:27 TB Garrison (2), (Stamkos)
Nikita Kucherov, Tyler Johnson, and Bishop were the game's three stars. If you ask me what the biggest difference between Kucherov last year and Kucherov this year is, you might be surprised by my answer. I think where Nikita has excelled is at going to the high traffic areas where goals are created and money is made. Last year I think he was more of a perimeter/rush player, or waiting in the high slot as the third man high. He still does that sometimes, but you look at his goal and his assist tonight: tip deflection driving through the low slot and then a misdirection centering feed from behind the cage. He's going where the rent is expensive but the rewards can be lavish. That's the biggest difference between this year's Kucherov and last year's, in my opinion.
At the risk of jinxing it, I thought Mark Barberio had a very efficient game tonight filling in for the injured Andrej Sustr. They got a solid 17:30 out of Mark tonight, where they've gotten a Jello-like consistency of play from Sustr this season. With that in mind, I'd leave Barberio in a few more games.
That Stamkos line needs the Old Yeller treatment, Jon Cooper. Please. It's a mangey old dog with rabies right now. Do what you have to do and move on. Put one of the young kids (Drouin or Namestnikov) up with your superstar, because it's not sustainable in the long run for 91 to flounder like this at even strength.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -1 with 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 10:34 and also 50% on draws. He was also on the ice for the Fehr goal where Carle waved his bright rouge cape to the delight of the onlooking tourists... from Washington. I'd almost lean toward putting Namestnikov up with Stamkos before Drouin because of the explosive speed/pace he can provide.
Solid, if unspectacular effort gets the W.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 27 shots for the victory. It wasn't his best effort, but wasn't bad. Pretty much in line with the overall effort of the team tonight.
3:29 TB Namestnikov (3), (Stralman, Drouin)
12:43 PHI Simmonds (6), (Bellemare, Schenn)
19:14 TB Stamkos (7), (Garrison, Filppula)(PP)
5:30 TB Stamkos (8), (Filppula, Killorn)
6:38 PHI Voracek (3), (Manning, Giroux)
16:48 TB Garrison (1), (Stamkos, Filppula)(PP)
19:06 PHI Raffl (6), (Voracek, Giroux)
Kind of a strange game. You never got the feeling the Lightning were in danger of losing this contest tonight. They were clearly the more talented team on the ice, and the shot totals were pretty well slanted toward them up until the very tail end of the game when the Flyers went into desperation mode. Still, nothing the Lightning did tonight really made you ready to shoot fireworks off from about 10 minutes into the game on. They came out hard and looked sharp early, but once the Flyers got a greasy goal the game started to drone on a bit with the Flyers having plenty of possession but few shots or chances to show for it. Then the Flyers started taking penalties, and a number of Lightning skill players that looked lackluster at 5-on-5 did their thing on the PP and the rest his history. Elite teams win games like this, and it makes you excited to think they can sleepwalk through wins like this without Hedman and Callahan, but I'm not exactly ready to lead the parade over this victory either.
Andrej Sustr was injured early in the Third Period and we'll see what impact that has on the Lightning roster in the upcoming couple of games.
Cedric Paquette was +1 with 1 hit in 7:46. The Drouin/Paquette/Namestnikov line did not play much in this game, but they were effective when they did.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper with 4 shots and 1 hit in 9:58. His line combination with Namestnikov really works because Vladislav's speed seems to create time and space for Drouin to do his thing. With that said, given how poor Stamkos' line has looked at even strength, I feel like sooner or later Cooper needs to move Drouin or Namestnikov up to play with #91. It's got to happen.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a goal and was +1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot. He got his goal on a tip, but it was his speed that was causing the Flyers all kinds of problems, opening ice for his linemates and drawing penalties. I thought he was the straw that stirred the drink on that line tonight.
Kucherov line steals the show in homecoming game.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 25 shots for the victory. He just wallowed in the cool glorious waters of goal supportage all night long tonight.
7:46 TB Kucherov (2), (Gudas, Johnson)
12:18 TB Filppula (2), (Killorn, Stamkos)
3:20 TB Kucherov (3), (Johnson, Palat)
14:07 ARI Doan (1), (Stone, Vermette)
17:32 TB Boyle (2), (unassisted)
18:52 ARI Erat (3), (Hanzal, Gagner)
8:23 TB Kucherov (4), (Johnson, Brewer)
9:26 TB Boyle (3), (Brown, Stralman)
12:43 ARI Crombeen (1), (Vitale, Ekman-Larsson)
18:15 TB Carle (1), (Johnson, Sustr)(PP)
I've said it before, but that Palat/Johnson/Kucherov line has been a revelation. That line, I suspect, is your second line from now until the end of the season. The chemistry and speed of Johnson and Palat have unlocked the time and space necessary to let Kucherov apply his finishing skills, and those three are lethal together. Great game by Boyle and old man Morrow tonight, too, as well as Radko Gudas, who should've had a goal that was waved off on a way too quick whistle on a rebound chance Gudas snuck through Mike Smith's gaping five-hole.
As I recall, last season, the Coyotes really kicked the Lightning in the teeth in Arizona and their announcers and fans were far too giddy about the rude treatment the Lightning were given. I may be over-romanticizing this, but given the way the Lightning woodshedded Montreal earlier this season and the way Gudas decapitated Squirt Bottle Bandit Upshall, one might conclude this team is becoming very good at making others pay up on old debts. Very good. Intmidatingly good.
The victory gives the Lightning 13 points in the first 10 game segment of the season, clearing the 12 point minimum and giving them an insurance point to put in the bank. For those who didn't read Bolt Prospects last season, the 12/10 formula is pretty simple. 96 points should deliver you a playoff spot comfortably, based on past historical performance. Earning 12 points every 10 games will get you to 96 points with 2 games left to play around with. So, for every 10 game segment of the year, if your team can get at least 12 points, you're golden. The Lightning didn't get 12 points in every 10 game segment last season, but they accrued enough bonus points along the way that at no time last year did they fall behind schedule to get 96 points, eventually topping triple digits on their way to the playoffs. We're wheeling the formula out again this season because it's a fairly straightforward way of judging how the season is progressing. 12/10 is the magic ratio.
Now we ask the team to clean the slate and say, 12/10: do it again.
Cedric Paquette had his first NHL fight, 3 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 9:53. A very Dump Truck-ulent stat line, to be sure.
Jonathan Drouin had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 11:50. After his play in the previous game, he got busted down to the 4th line tonight, where he was invisible for 2 periods before coming alive with Namestnikov and Paquette in garbage time in the final frame. With Killorn coming back and looking decent in the First Period with Stamkos, it looked like it might be a longer term demotion for Drouin in the offing, but given how ineffective the Stamkos line was the final 40 minutes of the game I suspect Drouin will get a chance to get back up there sooner rather than later. As it was, I thought some of his Third Period work was quite entertaining.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 3 shots and 1 blocked shot in 14:08. I thought he was really good tonight, showing great speed and getting in on some dangerous chances. He just happened to be the odd man out for a scoring line with everybody else clicking, and Arizona was only getting offense off faceoffs where Namesy was 0-for-3 tonight, so that may have factored in the decision, as well. Still, I liked what I saw and he should've had a helper on Gudas' disallowed goal.
Bad goaltending and bad habits come home to roost.
Evgeni Nabokov allowed 4 goals on 8 shots for the loss before giving way to Ben Bishop, who allowed 3 on 14 shots the rest of the way. Nabby allowed 2 short-side softies and and small, weak effort on a player swinging in wide from the wing before being lifted. Terrible.
7:37 MIN Scandella (1), (Pominville, Parise)
8:16 MIN Koivu (1), (Vanek)
11:04 TB Stralman (1), (Brewer, Johnson)
12:41 MIN Haula (1), (Niederreiter)
17:15 MIN Zucker (3), (Cooke, Carter)
2:11 MIN Parise (3), (Pominville, Suter)
11:12 MIN Spurgeon (2), (Vanek, Coyle)
16:50 TB Kucherov (1), (Stralman)
13:44 MIN Zucker (4), (Scandella)(SH)
The deck was pretty well stacked against the Lightning to start with playing at the end of a grueling road trip on a back-to-back against a quality opponent with a makeshift lineup due to multiple injuries. When Nabby gave up what I would consider to be 2.5 soft goals, those were the straws that broke the camel's back. Your veteran backup's got to be better than that. He doesn't have to win the game for you, but he's got to allow you to keep contact and give your team a chance to manufacture a point or two. Minnesota didn't exactly light the world on fire with a 22 shot effort, and once Nabby was lifted, 2 of their goals came off plays where the Lightning were taking chances because the score was so lopsided. In other words, it would've been a very different game if Nabby had made the stops in the First Period he was supposed to.
The Lightning return home for the final game of this first 10 game segment of the season needing 1 more point to hit the 12 you want them to get from each segment.
Cedric Paquette was -1 with 1 blocked shot and he was 75% on draws in 13:57.
Jonathan Drouin was -2 in 19:10. Ineffective, and he might've worn the second largest set of goat horns in the game on a weak turnover behind the Lightning net that killed the team's momentum after closing the game to 2-1 and Gudas nearly tying it with a point shot off the post. Drouin's turnover ends up behind Nabby and it's 3-1 Wild. The rest was history.
Jonathan Marchessault was -1 with 1 shot in 12:33.
Vladislav Namestnikov was -2 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 12:27. He was also 25% on draws and took an elbow to the mush that cost him a few shifts. Rough night, although I can't fault him for the two minuses he was on the ice for.
Lightning best the Jest.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 42 shots for the victory. How he didn't get a star in this game, I don't know.
4:41 TB Stamkos (6), (Drouin, Filppula)
4:45 TB Drouin (1), (Kucherov, Johnson)
5:33 WPG Little (4), (Enstrom, Ladd)(PP)
12:52 TB Namestnikov (2), (Palat, Kucherov)(PP)
18:02 TB Palat (3), (Johnson, Kucherov)
10:19 WPG Wheeler (3), (Perreault, Enstrom)
Jonathan Drouin and Ondrej Palat were the game's first and second stars. Complete homer move by the Winnipeg media to give a Jet a star tonight. That team's a dumpster fire, and Kucherov and Bishop would've been far more meritorious choices.
One silver lining of the injuries to Killorn and Callahan is that it's forced Cooper to tinker with some combinations that were outside his original thinking, and I believe he's found two really good combos with Filppula/Stamkos/Drouin and Palat/Johnson/Kucherov. The latter line is particularly fun to watch. The former line? I suspect you could put a sack of potatoes with the other two guys and they'd rack up assists.
Overall, that game was inartful and were I a coach I'd load the game film up in a cannon and shoot it to the moon. The Lightning should hardly be proud of their performance, particularly defensively in allowing 42 shots on goal. Tonight, though, I'll grant them a bit of a pass considering they were playing in a game that was officiated at a minor league level and against an opponent that might as well be a minor league team. Throw the newest injuries (J.T. Brown and Brett Connolly) on top of that, and I'll issue a full pardon for the night's play.
It's amazing to me that Winnipeg has not improved an iota since moving from Atlanta. None. They're awful. The Lightning played down to their level in indulging the Jets in a structure-free pond hockey exhibition and still absolutely smashed them because their skill level is just that much higher. I hate to see that too much, because I think it reinforces bad habits when teams get a payoff despite bad play. But, still, that's sink mangy animal up there in Winnipeg that needed to be put down tonight. J-E-S-T, jest, jest, jest. They're a joke.
Cedric Paquette had 3 shots and 2 hits in 14:14 in his first game back from recall, sporting #13 this time around. My compliments to his tailor.
Drouin had his first NHL goal, which was put on a tee for him by Nikita Kucherov, and a far more impressive helper on Stamkos' goal to go with a +1 rating, 2 shots, and 2 blocked shots. His hands are irrationally quick, both with and without the puck. 99% of players don't get that puck over to Stamkos in tight on that 2-on-1, and he pick-pocketed Winnipeg players repeatedly throughout the course of the game in both the offensive and defensive thirds.
Vladislav Namestinikov had a goal and 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 10:48. He got a whisp of a deflection on a Palat shot on the PP, and that was all it took to get his name on the sheet for his 2nd of the season. He remains nicely active offensively, although clearly the coaching staff has to be careful not to put him in perilous situations defensively and in the faceoff circles.