Tampa Bay Lightning
Deck a little too stacked.
Evgeny Nabokov allowed 5 goals on 36 shots for the loss. He actually performed better than his last couple of starts, but the Clutterbuck shorthanded goal was from a less than prime angle and was the turning point of the game. Soft.
11:53 TB Killorn (4), (Garrison, Drouin)
0:39 NYI Clutterbuck (2), (unassisted)(SH)
12:23 NYI Grabovski (4), (Nielsen, Okposo)
13:26 NYI Strome (3), (de Haan)
0:36 NYI Visnovsky (2), (Nielsen, Tavares)(PP)
2:14 TB Palat (5), (Carle, Kucherov)
8:55 NYI Cizikas (2), (Okposo, Nelson)
This was just one of those nights. The Lightning weren't super flat, but certain players like Callahan who've been lights out lately were clearly not in their best form after the emotional tilt with the Rangers last night. You couple that with the fact the Islanders have basically been off for a week before this game and throw in a pinch of Nabby in net and two dashes of some puck luck for the Isles and this one got out of hand.
Fortunately, the Lightning didn't really desperately need points out of this game. They close the second 10 game segment of the season with 28 points, giving them 4 insurance points heading into segment three of the year. 12 in 10, do it again.
Cedric Paquette had 1 blocked shot and was 50% on draws in 2:40 and left the game with what appeared to be either a foot or ankle injury after blocking a shot. His absence was noticeable.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was -1 in 10:28. He had one amazing pass on the power play to Kucherov that could've easily netted a goal, but Nikita was stunned in amazement that Drouin was even able to thread the puck through and didn't have the reflexes to get it on frame.
Vladislav Namestnikov was 33% on draws in 13:57. He had legs, but looking at the stat sheet reveals nothing was doing.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 16 shots for the victory, and the 1 he allowed was a deflection of a pass off his own defenseman, Garrison. He didn't have a lot of work, but he handled what came his way well.
6:50 TB Kucherov (7), (Johnson, Palat)
14:20 TB Callahan (7), (Stamkos, Filppula)(PP)
0:32 NYR St. Louis (7), (Brassard, Stepan)(PP)
14:08 TB Stamkos (12), (Filppula)
18:42 TB Killorn (3), (Johnson, Palat)
17:09 TB Callahan (8), (Stamkos)
That was an absolute squash of a game. It was a no contest. It was almost unfair to watch the decaying corpse of the Rangers squad picked apart piece by piece by the speed and youth of the Lightning. And the Lightning didn't let up in this one. They made a point tonight. They knew everyone in the league was looking to see how they'd handle their first game against Marty since the trade, and they crushed the Rangers. They broken their damned backs in that game.
Best of all, as of this posting, the Rangers would have a lottery pick and would have the 11th most ping pong balls. That's right, Sather paid Callahan and 2 1st round picks for the privilege of watching his team get pounded like that tonight. Enjoy, Slats.
The Lightning have now banked 4 insurance points with 1 game left to go in the second 10 game set of the season. Things are looking outstanding, thus far, with the Lightning holding the second most points in the NHL right now. They also lead the league in goals by a mile and their +22 goal differential is second only to Pittsburgh's +25.
Cedric Paquette had 3 shots, 2 hits, 1 blocked shot, and was 67% on draws in 16:25 of ice time. He was dangerous offensively and responsible defensively, and 16:25 of ice time is telling me the coaching staff likely doesn't want him going anywhere.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 2 blocked shots and was 33% on draws in 13:51. He got the biggest compliment of all when Phil Esposito told him he plays a lot like Larionov. Impressive.
Lightning postpone the Islanders coronation.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 27 shots for the victory. Light work tonight for Big Ben compared to the huge shot totals he faced against Chicago and San Jose.
7:41 NYI Nelson (8), (Tavares, Okposo)
8:41 TB Callahan (6), (Garrison, Filppula)
11:22 NYI Bailey (3), (Boychuk, Leddy)
13:46 TB Filppula (4), (Stamkos, Garrison)(PP)
15:29 TB Paquette (5), (Namestnikov, Killorn)
1:39 TB Johnson (6), (Palat, Kucherov)
15:34 TB Gudas (1), (Callahan)
Tonight was a pretty stark contrast between "one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference" and the quality of opposition the Lightning faced in their last 2 contests. The Islanders have had a nice year so far, but the Lightning never looked out of control in this game tonight, even in the wild First Period the two teams participated in.
The win gives the Lightning 13 points for the 10 game segment with 2 more games left to go. They have 2 insurance points now in the bank with the opportunity for more against the Rangers. Remember, folks, the Lightning have the Rangers' first round pick, so anything Tampa Bay can do to sink that team will only help the long-term health of the franchise. Kick-em, kick-em hard, and see if you can contribute to them coughing up a lottery pick the Lightning's way.
So, let me reiterate: there is extra incentive to beat the Rangers on Monday, irrespective of anything to do with Marty St. Louis or the number of ex-Rangers on the Lightning squad. Every time Tampa Bay plays the Rangers this year, it's a golden chance to increase the odds they can get another very good player this June and further build up an elite contender for the next decade.
Cedric Paquette had a goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 14:25. He was also 45% on draws. You saw Paquette with the hands on the rebound goal. You saw Paquette creating havoc in goal mouth scrums. You saw Paquette blocking shots on the PK. You saw him mixing it up physically at the end of the game. You saw almost the full array of what he brings to the table, in true Dump Truck fashion. There's a painful decision coming up very soon with Brett Connolly coming off of IR in short order. I don't know how you easily send down a guy who has been one of your best goal scorers over the past couple of weeks.
Vladislav Namestnikov had a helper and was +1 with 1 hit in 13:48. He created Paquette's goal on a sharp angle shot coming out of one of his trademark swoops around the net. That used to be Stamkos' claim to fame, but it's become Namestnikov's this season.
Learning to play against the West's best is a different beast.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 39 shots for the loss. He gave the Lightning a chance in this one, but was outshined by Niemi at the other end of the rink.
5:23SJ Thornton (6), (unassisted)
10:37 SJ Kennedy (1), (Burns, Niemi)
9:35 TB Stamkos (11), (Sustr, Filppula)
Bishop was the game's second star.
The Lightning clearly were a little embarrassed by their effort against Chicago and came out hard tonight, but San Jose quickly answered their intensity and the Lightning are still figuring out how to handle the speed of the top Western Conference teams. They aren't used to playing as much without the puck and what it takes to get the puck back and generate scoring chances with less time and space. It's a learning process.
That little voice in your head right now is Espo proclaiming loudly the team that doesn't convert on a 5-on-3 power play is usually the team that loses. That happened tonight, too.
Jonathan Drouin had 3 shots in 14:19. The attempted Drouin/Namestnikov/Stamkos line was a bust tonight, but Drouin wasn't. Especially in the Third Period, he was creative and dangerous and nearly put one behind Niemi that was swept off the line.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot and was 50% on draws in 13:55. His one shot was a glorious opportunity in the First Period that Niemi held out. Otherwise, he wasn't quite as dangerous as Drouin.
Bishop's big point heist.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 39 shots before allowing 1 of 2 to convert in the penalty shot session for the SO loss. Put simply, without Bishop, the Lightning would've been run out of the barn tonight.
4:35 TB Paquette (4), (Palat, Brewer)(SH)
9:13 CHI Richards (3), (Versteeg, Saad)
1:18 CHI Kruger (2), (Hjalmarsson, Hossa)
9:53 TB Kucherov (6), (Stamkos, Drouin)
Bishop was the game's third star.
Clearly Chicago had circled this game on the calendar to make a statement, and the Lightning skaters were clearly unprepared to match the Blackhawks' intensity early on in the game. That coupled with some, cough, dubiously uneven officiating really tilted possession and shots and put the Lightning on the defensive the bulk of the game. Fortunately, Bishop held the team in the game and they manufactured an opportunistic SH goal by Paquette off a 2-on-1 and a nice little 3-way passing play to get the tying goal and get a point.
The point is the Lightning's 11th in this 10 game segment, which added to the 1 insurance point from the last segment means the Lightning have already hit the minimum point total they needed to be on track by the end of the segment. That means every point they get out of the next 4 games is an insurance point they can bank for the leaner times of the season. And, with Tyler Johnson leaving the game with what may have been cracked ribs on a fairly dirty play by Seabrook, lean times may be coming sooner than they'd like.
Cedric Paquette had the SH goal and was +1 with 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot on goal, 2 hits, and 3 blocked shots in 11:54. He was also 33% on draws. Obviously converting the goal was tremendous, but I really like the way he handled himself physically tonight. Morin challenged Paquette after a nice hit in the neutral zone by Paquette, and Cedric pretty much tackled Morin and was about an eyelash from killing him had not the linesman stepped in. He's not a rookie that will allow liberties to be taken.
Jonathan Drouin had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 11:28. Ho hum. He just happens to be the start of the three way passing play that manufactures the tying goal. If the injury to Johnson is indeed significant, I'd expect Drouin to see more scoring line IT, along with the obvious that it'll secure Paquette's spot in Tampa for a while.
Vladislav Namestnikov had 1 shot in 11:40. He didn't seem to be quite as active as he was in the Wings game, which was probably a product of the Blackhawks being one of the few teams he's seen with players that get on the puck as fast as he does. He had little time and space and like most of the Lightning forwards just seemed to be holding on for dear life most of the night.