Tampa Bay Lightning
Lightning waste inspired performance by young Vasilevskiy.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 37 shots for the OT loss. I feel sick for the kid, because he absolutely deserved the win tonight and had no chance on the two goals he allowed. The good news is that, with back-to-back quality starts, he's starting to answer some questions in the affirmative about his ability to be the starter. And, make no mistake about it, the mere fact he was given back-to-back starts is no coincidence. The Lightning are in full evaluation mode now with the season pretty much out of hand.
9:55 FLA Jokinen (5), (Trocheck, Yandle)(SH)
11:33 TB Kucherov (19), (Drouin, Killorn)(PP)
1:49 FLA Marchessault (14), (Yandle, Jokinen)(PP)
Vasilevskiy was the game's third star. Well deserved.
Prior to the game defenseman Nikita Nesterov was dealt to Montreal for a 23-year old minor league depth defenseman (Jonathan Racine) and a late round draft pick. Moving Nesterov should be viewed as the team giving up on a young defenseman whose anemic offensive production never really balanced out his defensive deficiencies, which simply weren't improving.
As for the game, the Lightning played a pretty emotionless, antiseptic game in the First Period. But, as the Panthers acted like the classless lumberjacks they always do, the intensity level came up and the team played a fairly even game with a reasonable work rate. Still, we're not seeing certain players like the Triplets play as well as you'd like to see them right now in this evaluation period. Tyler Johnson ultimately wore the goat horns for taking a penalty following a terrible turnover in OT. That's not good from one of the guys on this roster who I honestly believe is being scrutinized to determine his long term role (or lack thereof) in the organization.
Jake Dotchin had 4 penalty minutes, 3 shots, and 2 hits in 17:20. Mixed bag. I detected at least one bad turnover and his lack of foot speed and experience probably contributed to his two interference calls. That said, he did make some nice plays in all three zones, too. The issue I have with Dotchin is that, with his skating being what it is (and this probably goes with Witkowski, too), I have a hard time seeing him as more than a Band-aid. Can he be an NHL'er in a 6th/7th defenseman role? Perhaps. But, on an elite club like the Lightning should be?
Gabriel Dumont had 5 penalty minutes, 1 shot, and 1 hit in 7:27. He may be small, but he sure did beat the stuffing out of McKegg tonight.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.
Too little too late?
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 36 shots for the victory. Vasilevskiy needs to string together some quality starts like this to begin to answer the question as to whether he can take over the starting duties from Bishop full time next season. That's one of the big agenda items still to be sorted out this year.
10:23 CHI Toews (9), (Panik, Hartman)
18:35 TB Boyle (12), (Filppula)
1:26 CHI Keith (3), (Panarin, Toews)
2:47 TB Nesterov (3), (Boyle)
6:14 TB Johnson (14), (Killorn, Filppula)
6:44 TB Johnson (15), (Killorn, Vasilevskiy)
17:55 TB Kucherov (18), (unassisted)(EN)
It's a good win against a quality opponent, take nothing away from it as an individual game. But, in the grand scheme of things, barring a crazy 10-game winning streak thrown in somewhere, the standings math is just too dire right now. Sitting on 49 points through 49 games, for the Lightning to get on pace to hit 96 points by game 80 with 2 games left to play, the team would have to get 47 of the next 62 possible points. That's .758 hockey to get on a comfortable playoff pace. Even if you want to gamble the team can get the 4 extra points in games 81 and 82 to get over the finish line and lower the target to 92 points by game 80, that's still .694 hockey and relying on a lot of help/tie breakers to fall the team's way. That's just nearly an impossible ask for this group.
Still, there were some positive developments in this game. I think the Lightning have some hard questions to ask of the three former members of The Triplets as to what degree they ride or die with them in the long run. Palat and Johnson have been inconsistent and Kucherov hasn't fully been himself since returning from injury earlier this season. So, for Johnson to step up and pot a couple of key goals in this game is hopefully the harbinger of a great stretch run the rest of the year.
Jake Dotchin had 2 penalty minutes, 1 shot, 4 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 15:00 even. This was an extended look-see for the Lightning to diagnose what they have in a prospect, no doubt. I expect to see more of these types of cups of coffee the rest of the year with better ice time for young players to show their wares.
Gabriel Dumont had 2 hits and was 86% on 7 draws in 10:56.
Lightning's season dies in the desert.
8:05 ARI Reider (9), (Vrbata, Ekman-Larsson)
10:19 ARI Vrbata (11), (Hanzal, Reider)
18:39 TB Paquette (4), (Dumont, Bournival)
14:56 ARI Stone (1), (Hanzal, Vrbata)(PP)
18:25 ARI Fischer (1), (McGinn, Burmistrov)
19:44 ARI Hanzal (10), (Vrbata, Reider)
9:45 TB Namestnikov (6), (Filppula, Palat)
14:18 TB Palat (10), (Johnson, Nesterov)(PP)
Tampa Bay outshot Arizona by a very significant 48-23 margin, but that only underlines what a mess the team's goaltending has been this season. Bishop allowed two of the softest goals you'll see in your life in the First Period to put his team down 2-0, and lookee there, the team lost the game 5-3. Soft goals, as they often are, turn out to be the margin of error. Unfortunately, the Lightning have had a soft goal or questionable goaltending gaffe in each game of the current road trip, which is horribly demoralizing to a team. When you have to work twice as hard as the other team for a goal because your goaltending is faulty, it robs your team of its spirit. It really does.
The calculus now is pretty much impossible to overcome, to the extent that I'm ready to write the team's eulogy. They'd have to play about .750 hockey the rest of the way to get back on playoff pace, and that seems impossible given all the challenges the team is facing. The goaltending has been disappointing all season long. The center play has been steadily devolving since Steven Stamkos and subsequently Brayden Point got injured earlier in the season. Key forwards like "The Triplets" have suddenly gone missing on the scoresheet over the past several weeks. And, the defense continues to struggle to compensate for the team's inability to consistently play its possession style game and against the counters they routinely face when that style goes off the rails.
The Lightning have an excellent core of their hockey team, in general, and a rebuild is certainly not warranted. But, a serious in-season evaluation and a retooling is definitely in order. Bottom line, this team probably has one goaltending move, two or three moves on the blueline, and three or four moves at forward to make. Not big moves, in all cases, but necessary moves. If done shrewdly, and if the Lightning can get a little more luck with injuries in 2018-2019, there's little to suggest this year won't just be a little bump in the road and not a sinkhole.
Luke Witkowski was +1 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 8:06.
Jake Dotchin was -1 with 4 hits in 11:47 in his NHL debut.
Gabriel Dumont had a helper and was +1 with 5 shots, 6 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 13:53. He was also 71% on 7 draws. His game tonight was the continuation of a fantastic road trip by the line of Paquette/Dumont/Bournival, which along with the play of Jonathan Drouin has been the real bright spot of going out west.
Soft goal and lack of finishing doom promising Lightning performance.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 24 shots for the loss. His soft goal to start the Third Period ultimately became the margin of losing, which soft goals often do. Ben Bishop got away with it against the Kings and managed to salvage a point against the Ducks with questionable mistakes, but it's not sustainable for any team to regularly be spotting teams a free goal.
5:01 SJ Carpenter (2), (Martin, Burns)
6:51 TB Drouin (14), (Boyle, Kucherov)(PP)
0:22 SJ Couture (15), (Labanc, Donskoi)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's second star. His highlight reel goal was the lone bright spot in another frustrating night at the office for the Lightning's finishers. They had some chances, but ultimately 25 shots and a correspondingly low number of overall scoring chances isn't enough. Better play is needed from the likes of Nikita Kucherov and the team's other big guns even as they start to get the defensive side of their game right.
The loss means Tampa Bay will again lose ground on playoff pacing in this 10-game segment of the season. How much? That remains to be seen. The team will be at least 7 points off pace by the end of the segment.
Luke Witkowski had 2 shots, 2 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 12:58.
Gabriel Dumont had 5 hits in 10:17.
Joel Vermin was -2 with 2 hits in 5:17.
Hockey gods unfair to the Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 2 goals on 21 shots for the loss. He played reasonably well, but you can make an argument his first goal allowed on a strange play where he vacated his crease before the whistle could be blown on a mask issue ultimately cost him a shutout and Tampa Bay a second point.
4:36 TB Filppula (7), (Nesterov, Stralman)
4:57 ANH Getzlaf (6), (unassisted)
0:54 ANH Rakell (19), (Kesler)(PP)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's third star. Best player on the ice, and it wasn't even close. Like many of the Lightning's players in the game, he had everything but the finish.
It's unfair really. This was probably the Lightning's best game of the season in all three zones. The attention to detail and hustle over the last couple of games has been amazing, and the Lightning pretty well dominated this game for 60 minutes with only the occasional uprising from Anaheim's top line. It's a shame the Lightning couldn't find one more finish, and it's a shame the Lightning ultimately lost the game on a power play off a penalty Tyler Johnson had to take in OT when he lost an edge pulling up in the offensive zone on a rush. The hockey gods are cruel.
The standings calculus is so dire right now it almost doesn't bear dwelling on. Suffice it to say the Lightning started to turn their game around about two weeks too late, and the margin of error for this segment is that they need to get 7 of 8 remaining points in this 10 game segment just to tread water relative to their position of 6 games ago.
Luke Witkowski had 2 penalty minutes and 3 hits in 9:22.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 1 shot and 3 hits in 8:03. He played a lot with Bournival and Paquette on a checking line that was absolutely fantastic in this contest. They were good against the Kings. They were dominant against guys well above their pay grade in this contest.
Lightning stave off Kings even with Hedman ill.
Ben Bishop just allowed 1 goal on 32 shots for the victory. His puckhandling gaffe turned out to be the only goal he allowed. That's how you overcome a mistake in style: with perfection and a trove of situational saves.
8:33 LAK Clifford (3), (unassisted)
14:33 TB Johnson (13), (Drouin, Witkowski)
18:47 TB Boyle (11), (Filppula, Kucherov)
The Lightning showed a lot of grit under the gun of a lot of adversity when an ill Victor Hedman tapped out of the game in the pregame warmups. The Lightning got big minutes from Andrej Sustr and Nikita Nesterov to try to make up the difference, and they put in an inspired effort with their hustle and tenacity against the bigger, stronger Kings club.
Luke Witkowski had a helper and was +1 with 7 penalty minutes and 3 hits in 10:05. He did his job today setting the tone with a monster hit early in the game and then answering the bell to drop the gloves in an ensuing altercation. He got their minds right for what they needed to do in this game.
Gabriel Dumont had 4 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:56.
Game (and possibly season) slips away from Tampa Bay.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 30 shots for the hard luck loss. He deserved better. He made a good number of timely saves but the Lightning couldn't finish their chances most of the night. It's a shame. A win would've been huge for the team and huge for Vasilevskiy's confidence.
16:18 TB Drouin (13), (Filppula, Palat)
16:40 CBJ Anderson (10), (Savard)
4:29 CBJ Foligno (15), (Werenski, Wennberg)(PP)
18:55 CBJ Jenner (7), (unassisted)(SH)(EN)
Jonathan Drouin was the game's third star.
The Lightning couldn't finish their chances, let Columbus hang around, and eventually the Blue Jackets finished just enough of theirs. It's really simple. The Lightning played a pretty good game overall. They dominated the first 30 minutes of the contest and could've easily built a good sized lead with the scoring chances they had, but they allowed Columbus to hang around. The final 30 minutes of the game the Blue Jackets found some traction with their forecheck and eventually found the tying goal and drew the power play to get the winner. All things being equal, there wouldn't be a whole lot from this game to cry over, but things are not equal right now. The Lightning standings situation is fast becoming desperate and it's getting to the point where every night they fail to earn points puts them closer to an early trip to the golf course.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 3 shots and 1 hit in 9:08. He was also 60% on 5 draws.
Matthew Peca had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 7:46.
Crunch, goaltending tandem, outlast Marlies.
18:15 SYR Taormina (11), (Halmo, Richard)
0:12 SYR Morin (7), (Vermin, Thomas)
4:03 TOR Froese (15), (Leipsic, Lindberg)
7:17 TOR Cameranesi (2), (Corrado, Clune)
13:49 TOR Leipsic (10), (Nielsen, Kapanen)
19:40 SYR Taormina (12), (Richard, Conacher)(PP)
1:10 SYR Gourde (11), (Walcott)
6:33 SYR Richard (8), (Conacher, Taormina)(PP)
10:16 TOR Cameranesi (3), (Moore, Corrado)
Syracuse holds a 1 point lead in the AHL North Division with 3 games in hand on second place Albany.
Box score from TheAHL.com.
Ben Bishop returned from IR and allowed 2 goals on 26 shots for the victory. He was hung out to dry on the first shot of the game after a three week layoff, but pretty well held down the fort with timely saves from there on out, while also helping a shaky d-corps with his ability to conduct traffic with his puckhandling. It was welcome relief.
2:58 BUF Moulson (9), (Girgensons, Fedun)
5:37 TB Palat (8), (Johnson, Drouin)(PP)
5:18 TB Palat (9), (Nesterov, Namestnikov)
12:58 TB Kucherov (17), (Hedman, Palat)
10:30 BUF Kane (11), (Eichel, Falk)
19:42 TB Stralman (2), (Filppula, Boyle)(PP)(EN)
There's an obvious talent gap between Tampa Bay and Buffalo, so I'm not ready to start a parade for the Lightning beating an inferior team. For tonight's effort to matter, they need to keep this going against Columbus tomorrow night.
Gabriel Dumont was -1 with 1 shot an 1 hit in 10:06. He was also 75% on 4 draws.
Matthew Peca had 1 shot in 9:57.
Better effort. Crushing result.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 6 goals on 40 shots for the loss. He actually played really well for the first 40 minutes of this contest, but a guy can only face so many breakaways, odd man rushes, and unmarked defenders with point blank chances. At this point, his confidence looks shot and the Lightning may be unnecessarily toying with the prospect of ruining a young player the hockey world had thought was incapable of being ruined.
2:19 TB Drouin (12), (Filppula, Hedman)
6:44 PIT Sheary (10), (Rust, Crosby)
11:14 PIT Fehr (5), (Cullen)
2:33 PIT Kunitz (4), (Maatta, Bonino)
3:28 PIT Wilson (5), (unassisted)
5:40 TB Namestnikov (5), (Drouin, Stralman)(PP)
7:50 PIT Kessel (13), (Crosby, Sheary)
17:20 PIT Letang (3), (Schultz, Cullen)(PP)
For 40+ minutes tonight was a much more spirited effort than we've seen of late. Imperfect, but the effort level and urgency level was there. Vlad Namestnikov even had a wide open wraparound that looked like a sure goal that would've knotted the game at 2-2 early in the Third Period. He blew the chance and then the wheels came off with the Lightning playing their 3rd in 4 days. This is a team that's played as much hockey as any team in hockey over the last 2.5 years and one that has largely had the same group of guys for that run with very few changes by Steve Yzerman. That probably has contributed to their proneness to injury and it probably explains how mentally, emotionally, and spiritually drained they've looked over this death march through the middle part of the season. Should they not find a way to snap out of it soon, wholesale changes will need to be made in the offseason. Rebuilding? No. But likely a retooling of the defense and lower lines, along with a strategic move or two on the scoring lines to inject something fresh into a stale and struggling group of players that need... something.
Luke Witkowski was -2 with 1 shot, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 10:16.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 blocked shot in 11:10.
Matthew Peca had 1 shot, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 9:08. He was also 55% on 11 draws. I thought he had a small rebound today after two subpar games in a row the last couple of times out.
Adam Erne had 2 shots, 2 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 11:19. His linemates need to get used to how crafty he is passing the puck out of the corners and in behind the attacking cage.