Tampa Bay Lightning
Shaky Lightning crumble under adversity.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 20 shots for the loss before being lifted for Andrei Vasilevskiy, who allowed 1 goal on 10 shots the rest of the way. Bishop had shown signs of returning to his Vezina candidate form last week, but tonight was a tragic disaster. He was nowhere near square to the puck on Vancouver's first goal and he scored an own goal pushing a puck he was attempting to cover into his own net on a shot off the end boards on Vancouver's second tally. Bishop, in previous years, has been rock solid in First Periods and generally reliable when it comes to making timely saves. Not at all the case this year. Nope. And, this team is simply too fragile to be getting poor goaltending right now.
3:50 VAN Skille (1), (Gudbranson)
9:03 VAN Gudbranson (1), (unassisted)
6:01 VAN Megna (2), (Biega, Tryamkin)
11:46 TB Drouin (4), (Filppula, Witkowski)
19:59 VAN Megna (3), (Sedin, Granlund)
13:58 VAN Skille (2), (Gaunce)
After a seemingly marathon stretch where the Lightning barely had more than a day off in between games the weary Lightning finally had 3 days off before this one against a Vancouver team that was not exactly feasting in the standings. The team came out the first handful of shifts in the game and were dominant and looked absolutely the better team, until Jack Skille got matched up 1-on-1 on Nikita Kucherov backing up for a pinching defenseman. Skille turns the corner with a power move and beats Bishop, who was not square to the puck on the shot, and the Lightning momentum was cooked. The ball of yarn starts to unravel. Minutes later Bishop pushes an innocuous shot off the end boards into his own cage to put the Lightning down 2-0, and here we go again. The Lightning are a difficult muddle of self-inflicted mistakes and awful bounces right now, wrapped in a flimsy tattered sheath of inconsistent goaltending. I wanted to say the Lightning had lost their process in this game once adversity hit, but that's not entirely the case. They had 41 shots on goal and outchanced Vancouver. But the mental mistakes that creeped in with turnovers around the opposing blueline and in the neutral zone leading to odd man rushes and the piss poor coverage by backchecking players against the rush revealed that the Lightning have not fully returned to the structure that helped make them an elite club over the last 2+ seasons. The kill shot in this game, which was an awful turnover in the neutral zone to allow a 2-on-1 goal with less than 2 seconds left in the Second Period to put the game out of reach, was the postcard example of a lot of what's wrong outside of the Lightning crease these days.
Where do we go from here? The Lightning will be in a hole at the end of this 10 game segment, when it comes to playoff pacing. Even if they win out over the last 2 games, they'll be at least 2 points in the hole, and the defending Stanley Cup Champions are coming to town. I don't relish seeing what the results of this measuring stick game will be, quite frankly. What needs to change? A goaltender needs to start making some timely saves and help this team find its backbone and its confidence and hope that helps the team play better structure in its own end and manage the puck better coming out of their own end.
Brayden Point was +1 with 5 shots in 15:32. Instincts are good. Skill level is good. Shot isn't NHL caliber yet. His release is plenty quick, but he doesn't have the steam to score on NHL goaltenders consistently. Give him a summer or two to work on it and he'll start putting away 20-30 a season easy, I think.
Luke Witkowski had a helper and 1 hit and 1 blocked shot in 13:45. Congratulations to Witkowski on earning his first NHL point.
Joel Vermin had 2 shots and 1 hit in 12:49.
Lightning grind out a road point before a much needed rest.
Ben Bishop allowed 1 goal on 30 shots for the OT loss. It wasn't a great goal to allow, but he made several fantastic stops in regulation just to make OT possible.
1:26 CAR DiGiuseppe (1), (Stalberg)
Bishop was the game's third star.
The Lightning emptied the tank tonight knowing they have a rare 3 day break coming up before their next game on Thursday night. This is a tired, banged up team that is in the middle of a November/December schedule that is relentless in its pacing. 3 of 4 points on this weekend set may mean the Lightning can't finish with 12 points in this 10 game segment of the year, but they're still alive to stay on playoff pace in the final 3 games of the segment if they can harness the rest they're getting this week to gather themselves and string together some more wins.
Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes, 4 shots, and 1 hit in 15:52.
Luke Witkowski had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 10:55.
Slater Koekkoek had 3 hits and 1 blocked shot in 14:59.
Joel Vermin had 2 shots, 1 hit, and 1 blocked shot in 10:46.
Lightning snap losing streak with unexpected gem against a longtime tormentor.
Ben Bishop allowed just 1 goal on 35 shots before stopping 3 of 4 in the penalty shot session for the SO win. Bishop was, apparently, pretty sore about not getting the start in hometown St. Louis and was out to make a point tonight. He played well and made key saves at key junctures, before making the big stops in the Shootout to secure the second point. That's one area I can say Bishop's looked better in this season: he's sewed up that five hole and looks a lot more competent in the penalty shot skills competition.
12:38 TB Kucherov (13), (Hedman, Drouin)(PP)
6:24 Backstrom (7), (Carlson, Johansson)(PP)
TB- Point, Boyle
Nikita Kucherov and Bishop were the game's first and third stars.
There were signs of life for the Lightning in the second half of their loss on the road in St. Louis, but coming into tonight against a Washington team that they historically struggle against (in the regular season) there wasn't a lot to hang your hat on with the way the team has been playing lately. I didn't get by Blujus recall, as he hurt his groin earlier this week in Syracuse, but the Lightning did scratch the struggling Nikita Nesterov and commit to giving more minutes to Koekkoek and Witkowski. That was a prerequisite for having any chance from the word jump, and I'm glad Cooper went ahead and made that lineup adjustment. What transpired from there was, by in large, the most focused and impressive three zone effort I think I've seen from the Lightning this season. Through about 35 minutes, they played about as clean and crisp a game as possible. They moved the puck out of their zone crisply and cleanly and contested every inch of the ice against a very quality opponent. Gone were the turnovers and odd man rushes that have marred so much of the team's games over the last two weeks. In their place was a singular resolve to win a hockey game that showed up in every single man up and down that bench. They got a little sloppier on the breakouts after Kucherov's power play goal, and didn't stay out of the box as much as they needed to in the Third Period, where Backstrom tied the game. But, in the end, they deserved the two points and they finally got them with the heroics of Point, Boyle, and Bishop in the Shootout.
Brayden Point had 1 hit in 17:13. It doesn't show up in the scoresheet, but I thought he had an incredibly poised effort tonight with the puck for the Lightning. Just made some really good decisions that allowed the Lightning to either continue possession or stay away from trouble. He's been doing it a lot this season, but tonight he did it against one of the higher quality opponents you'll see.
Luke Witkowski had 3 shots, 2 hits, and 2 blocked shots in 11:10. He played well tonight. He doesn't bring you the "upside" that Nesterov has, but there's something to be said of a lower pair defenseman who plays a simple game and doesn't make stupid decisions that get you in trouble. Nolan Pratt has his name on the Stanley Cup and all the love in the world from Lightning fans for just that reason.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 2 hits in 15:04. Just keep feeding him minutes. He can take it athletically. He just needs the experience. Give. It. To. Him. The Lightning will not regret it if they do.
Joel Vermin had 1 shot and 3 hits in 15:43. He played another dynamite game as evidenced by Cooper putting Vermin out for the Overtime session. He looks like a player who, if he keeps it up, has the potential to stick.
How many mistakes by #89 do you need to see before you make a move?
1:39 STL Tarasenko (11), (Parayko)
9:37 STL Tarasenko (12), (Steen, Shattenkirk)(PP)
10:39 TB Paquette (2), (Drouin, Vermin)
13:17 STL Shattenkirk (5), (Steen, Fabbri)(PP)
1:44 STL Shattenkirk (6), (Steen, Tarasenko)(PP)
14:25 TB Johnson (8), (Kucherov, Palat)
1:41 TB Kucherov (12), (Hedman, Boyle)(PP)
8:11 STL Tarasenko (13), (Fabbri, Shattenkirk)
11:56 TB Paquette (3), (Drouin, Vermin)
Cedric Paquette was the game's third star.
Valiant effort by the Lightning who overcame a ton of early mistakes in this game to make it competitive in the Third Period. There were a lot of silver linings in this loss that hopefully the team can build off, presuming they can correct the stupid mistakes that led to all 5 goals, be it the turnovers than yielded 2 of the goals directly or the penalties that yielded the other 3.
With that said, I'm placing the goat horns firmly upon the brow of Nikita Nesterov. He had two turnovers that led to a penalty and a goal in the first case and a goal directly in the second case. When you couple that with the fact that just before the second mistake he had the tying goal on his stick and missed the net, I'll come out and say it: I'm over 89. The whole calculus with an offensive defenseman is he's supposed to give you a possession and skill advantage that cancels out any negatives at the defensive end of the ice. But when a guy stinks this bad at his decision making in the offensive zone, struggles regularly with corralling pucks and moving them, and doesn't put points on the board when the chances come, why should the Lightning waste 17:00 of ice time on him? I'll take Dylan Blujus over that tomorrow. Cripes, I'll take the ghost of Yves Racine over him right now.
Halfway through the third 10-game segment of the season, the Lightning are in significant trouble with 27 points. They need 9 of 10 possible points to close the segment to stay on playoff pace and 10 of 10 if they want to get to the desired 12 for the segment. That seems incredibly unlikely at this hour, so the question of the night may be just how deep the hole will be that the Lightning have to dig out of once the next 5 game stretch concludes.
Brayden Point was -2 with 1 shot and 1 hit in 12:24.
Joel Vermin had 2 helpers and was +2 with 2 shots, 3 hits, and 1 blocked shot in 16:13. He made a definitive statement tonight. He was active and he was dangerous, far more so than fellow call up Bournival. He gave the Lightning exactly what they needed from that transaction. Very impressed.
The desperate search for rock bottom continues.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. One soul destroying softie in garbage time. The rest weren't necessarily his fault.
5:30 CBJ Karlsson (4), (Anderson, Murray)
3:40 CBJ Wennberg (5), (Jones)
16:00 CBJ Anderson (7), (Hartnell, Nutivaara)
1:57 CBJ Hartnell (5), (Savard, Anderson)
12:38 CBJ Gagner (8), (unassisted)
17:10 TB Filppula (5), (Point, Sustr)
You have the intersection of two very bad factors conspiring to make the Lightning an uncompetitive team right now. First, you've got an injury to Anton Stralman forcing certain young defensemen to play above their weight class and, at the moment, they're showing they can't handle it. Second, you've got veteran players who should be your best players making mistakes they simply cannot be making. Victor Hedman's looked terrible the past few games. Jonathan Drouin's picture's been on the side of the milk carton. Even Nikita Kucherov had a horrifically bad turnover in this game that led to a key goal that put Tampa Bay down 2-0.
What's needed? A general commitment to get back to basics and play a simpler, harder working game to get a little more possession and draw a few more penalties. Also, perhaps a minor roster shake up. If the coaching staff's faith in players like Koekkoek and Witkowski is flagging, what's the harm in giving a player like Dylan Blujus a look? You'll lose games 6-1? And what's the harm in letting some of the Lightning's tired, nicked up forwards take a little rest in lieu of some speedy energy players like Joel Vermin or Michael Bournival? A little new blood and enthusiasm wouldn't be a bad thing at this moment.
I could comment on Tim Peel's ridiculous wave off of a goal where Ondrej Palat neither touched Bobrovsky nor shoved Jack Johnson into Bobrovsky. As clownish as that call was, and as damaging as it was in this game, though, the Lightning have more than the referees to be concerned about at this time.
Brayden Point had a helper and was +1 with 1 shot in 15:56.
Luke Witkowski had 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 9:07.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 11:55.
Boston continues to be a house of horrors for the Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 4 goals on 30 shots for the loss. 3 of the 4 goals Bishop allowed were not 10-bell variety opportunities. Soft? No. But, when you need a goaltender to give you a chance in a game, those are 3 stops he needs to make. Let's get real here: the Lightning should be playing the hot hand with Vasilevskiy right now. That's not to say Vasilevskiy's the starter and destined to park Bishop on the bench forever. Remember back in December of 2003-2004 when the Lightning hit a rough patch offensively and eventually dragged Khabibulin down into the rut with them? The Lightning switched to John Grahame as the starter for a little while and eventually broke out of the slump collectively. No one was saying John Grahame was better than Khabibulin at that time, but it was a needed shake up at that time. Same thing here. The Lightning need to ride Vasilevskiy for a week or two, in my honest opinion.
2:24 BOS Moore (6), (Miller, Spooner)
12:30 BOS Backes (5), (Bergeron, Krug)(PP)
17:33 BOS Hayes (1), (Krejci, Schaller)
9:43 BOS Patrnak (13), (Krug, Marchand)
17:21 TB Hedman (5), (Nesterov, Point)
This is where Tampa Bay's sleepy effort against Columbus really hurts. Tampa Bay has never had much success in Boston, and back-to-back losses now put the Lightning in a spot where they need to get at least 9 of the next 14 possible points just to stay on playoff pace (assuming they burn their insurance point they had coming into this 10-game segment of the year). It's an uncomfortable spot to be in when you have .643 hockey just to stay on minimum pace.
Slater Koekkoek was -3 with 1 shot in 13:59. Got caught in no man's land off a faceoff loss on Moore's game opening goal.
Thanksgiving hangover dooms Lightning.
Ben Bishop allowed 5 goals on 38 shots for the loss. You couldn't fault him on the first four goals, but the lack of concentration on Columbus' Third Period insurance marker was... troubling.
3:46 CBJ Wennberg (4), (Saad, Johnson)
8:35 CBJ Foligno (8), (Atkinson, Werenski)
8:33 TB Kucherov (11), (Johnson, Palat)
9:02 CBJ Anderson (6), (Hartnell)
18:28 TB Garrison (1), (Filppula, Witkowski)
3:37 TB Palat (4), (Kucherov, Hedman)
4:34 CBJ Saad (5), (Wennberg)
11:13 CBJ Atkinson (8), (unassisted)(SH)
Nikita Kucherov was the game's third star.
As was the case in Syracuse's game, a Lightning Thanksgiving hangover at home was predictable, but nonetheless unacceptable. Columbus flat out dominated a flat Lightning team in the First Period to stake a 2-0 lead, and with a crossbar and post thrown in, it could've been 4-0. The Lightning showed resiliency to battle back the rest of the game, but their defensemen as a group played the dumbest game they've probably played in years. Some of the turnovers and weak plays along the wall they made were just unbelievable for a group with the experience and pedigree of these players. Ultimately, a soft play in the corner by Garrison led to Saad's eventual game winner and an unbelievable turnover by Hedman on the PP led to Atkinson's insurance goal. Tack that on to about a half dozen idiotic mistakes by Nikita Nesterov and other turnovers by Coburn and Sustr that could've led to goals against versus a more skilled team, and you have a classic example of why I wouldn't be a good coach. Because, simply put, I'd be in jail right now for strangling the whole bloody lot of them. Idiotic. Dumb. Moronish. Brain dead. Imbecilic. Pathetic.
Get well soon, Anton Stralman, because I can't take another night of THAT.
Brayden Point was -1 in 12:42.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with his first NHL assist and 2 penalty minutes in 8:26.
Slater Koekkoek had 1 shot and 1 blocked shot in 15:31. He and Witkowski might've been the only Lightning d-men tonight who didn't make a completely boneheaded mistake at some point.
Lightning eventually lap overmatched Flyers.
Andrei Vasilevskiy allowed 2 goals on 31 shots for the victory. Both the goals he allowed were subpar short side goals and the first one, in particular, was an inexcusable softie. But, he ultimately staunched the bleeding at that second goal and made a spate of timely stops as the night rolled on to eventually give the team the chance to pull out the win.
19:57 TB Hedman (4), (Palat, Point)(PP)
6:06 PHI Weise (2), (VandeVelde, Provorov)
19:05 PHI Provorov (1), (Read, Streit)
13:28 TB Killorn (8), (Koekkoek, Namestnikov)
13:40 TB Callahan (2), (Point, Johnson)
18:45 TB Kucherov (10), (Filppula, Palat)
Really, this was a three act play with the common thread running throughout all of it that the Lightning just have an overall higher talent level than Philly that eventually broke through. The Lightning absolutely dominated the First Period despite a lack of crispness in their passing and handling of the puck. The Flyers looked really loose in the neutral zone and were allowing Tampa Bay a lot of speed and odd man rushes, and it seemed a matter of time before Tampa Bay would start running up the score. Philly allowed a late power play goal in the frame to fall behind 1-0 and really should've counted themselves lucky, because Mason had more than one fortunate save/bounce over the course of the evening. The Lightning got a little too fat/happy with themselves in the Second Period and let off the gas a little which allowed the Flyers to run up a large shot advantage in the middle frame although very few really scoring chances came with those shots. But, the Lightning eventually conceded the lead on the softie off the rush allowed to Weise and later Kucherov losing his man off a faceoff loss late in the period on Provorov's goal. The Third Period then became a reprise of the First Period, with the exception that the Lightning started to bear down and focus on their finishing. Three quick goals later Philly was doubled up and dispirited and Mason's luck had fully run out. It really was a matter of time. The Flyers were a hot mess defensively in the neutral zone all night long, and between that and a lot of turnovers under forechecking duress by their defense, a melt down looked inevitable. That's just a bad hockey team, defensively.
Brayden Point had 2 helpers, 1 shot, and 1 blocked shot in 13:35. Made a really good look to Callahan on the goal on a quick change turnover to give the Lightning the eventual game winner.
Luke Witkowski was -1 with 1 shot and 2 hits in 7:36. Played a rough and tumble game. He took some big hits and he handed out some big hits.
Slater Koekkoek had a helper and was +2 with 1 hit in 7:32. Took a big pop in the First Period that may have contributed to his diminished ice time. Eventually, though, his jumping into the rush was a key part of Killorn's equalizing goal.
Silver linings in road trip ending loss.
Ben Bishop allowed 3 goals on 30 shots for the loss. Things could've gotten out of hand were it not for several quality stops from Ben.
4:25 NSH Arvidsson (6), (Josi, Ellis)
9:55 NSH Subban (4), (Ellis, Ribiero)(PP)
12:35 NSH Subban (5), (Forsberg, Ellis)(PP)
19:10 TB Johnson (7), (Kucherov, Hedman)
It wasn't like Nashville ran the Lightning out of the rink, and with a couple of bounces Tampa Bay could've stolen some points from this one. But, on the 5th game of a road trip with a depleted lineup against a quality team, the Predators obviously carried the balance of the play. They staked themselves to the early lead and controlled pretty much the entire First Period. Tampa Bay made a nice push back in the Second Period, but once they started getting into the box midway through the frame Nashville got the power play goals they needed to put the game away.
All of that was really subtext though for a game that was ultimately marred by some pretty borderline dirty play. I guess that's what they do out in the Western Conference, whether it be slashing guys in the ribs behind the play or crosschecking a guy into the dasher boards to bloody him. You really began to lose track of the number of times Nashville stepped over the line in this game before J.T. Brown finally took the law into his own hands by first destroying Roman Josi with his head down behind the net on one play and later losing his mind and pummeling Ryan Ellis half to death for elbowing him from behind about 4 minutes thereafter. Sprinkle in some big hits from the likes of Cedric Paquette and you can point to, at least, a quality physical response from the team even if they didn't get the result on the scoreboard. That's a teambuilding win, in a way, that you can treat like a silver lining.
Tampa Bay finishes the second 10-game segment of the year at 25 points, meaning they're 1 point ahead of the pace they needed to be on track for the playoffs. On to the next one: 12 in 10, do it again.
Brayden Point had 2 penalty minutes and 1 shot in 10:32.
Slater Koekkoek was -1 with 2 shots and 1 blocked shot in 12:27.
There will be kittens on Graduation Day.
Andrei Vasilevskiy stopped all 32 shots he faced for the shutout in a commanding performance that allowed the Lightning to overcome a 32-18 shot deficit. Vasilevskiy's win was his 41st NHL decision, officially graduating him from prospect status on Bolt Prospects. And, given how well he's played over the past couple of games, we can't help but feel like Andrei's doing a lot to validate our graduation methodology at the moment. He's clearly all grown up now.
14:25 TB Johnson (6), (Killorn, Filppula)(PP)
7:40 TB Palat (3), (Namestnikov)
4:26 TB Drouin (3), (Palat)
It's very heartening to see the Lightning make such a seamless readjustment to their game in light of the injuries to Stralman and Stamkos. They needed to adopt a more low-scoring game that relies in part on goaltending and attention to defensive detail. This road trip has seen a return to a lot of the basics that have made the Lightning successful over the past three years, along with some slump-busting by the likes of Tyler Johnson and Palat and the return of Jonathan Drouin from injury. In other words, a lot of the pieces that would have been prerequisites I would have named off for weathering the storm and being met.
Today's victory clinches a successful second 10-game segment of the season, and the Lightning have already secured 1 insurance point with 1 more game left in the segment. This is good. Without Stamkos, the Lightning likely won't be as consistent in the goal scoring department. So, having insurance points socked away will be important for when the team hits speed bumps along the way to March/April.
Brayden Point had 1 hit in 4:16. The low ice time came from a very nasty cut he took on his lip that required a significant amount of stitches. If women do indeed dig scars, Brayden Point is about to become a stinking matinee idol.
Luke Witkowski had 2 hits and 1 blocked shot in 9:06.
Slater Koekkoek was +1 with 2 hits in 10:45.
Box score and extended statistics from NHL.com.